- Think of your nails as jewels, not tools! This is one of the best tips I learned. Start treating your nails as if they were precious jewels at the ends of your fingers, don't use them as tools to open soda cans, scratch off stickers from your purchases, or wedge them in between things. Be aware of how you use your fingers for your daily tasks, use the flat part of your fingers to push against surfaces; try to avoid using the nails. Use a butter knife to open soda cans, don't ruin a nail due to your soda craving! If you need a sharp tool to scratch or scrape something, don't use your nails! Try not to bang your nails against sharp edges or corners, this is one of the most frequent instances of breakage. Use rubber gloves to protect your nails when doing any kind of household chores where your hands are strongly required. If you have to do a chore that requires force from your hands, get someone else to do it (haha!) This may all sound incredibly prissy but reducing the amount of stress on your nails ultimately results in stronger nails with less breakage. If you complain that your nails always break, try to think of what kind of strain you are putting your nails under on a daily basis and minimize or altogether avoid it. I've definitely made a few changes in how I operate my hands to reduce stress and impact on my nails.
- Always wear something on your nails. Bare nails are just begging to be bashed against something and break or chip. Always use a nail strengthener (I like NailTek Foundation II) and if you don't like to wear color, use a clear top coat. Nailpolishes create a hard extra layer on your nails once dry and this can also prevent breakage if you bang them against something. As soon as I remove my nailpolish, I put another one on. Even a day with completely bare nails usually results in a split, crack or break.
- Don't soak your nails in water. Try to reduce the amount of time that your nails are exposed to water; nails are permeable and will soak up water, which will make them more malleable. Obviously washing your hands, showering and bathing are a necessity, but use rubber gloves to wash your dishes! The harsh soapy water can do a world of damage to your nails, and also dry out your cuticles. After washing your hands, apply hand cream to moisturize your cuticles and restore oils to your nails.
- Eat a balanced diet. Eat plenty of lean protein, fish, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Make sure to get enough calcium and healthy fats. Some people have noticed improved hair and nails upon taking biotin and silica supplements regularly. (I've tried out silica supplements but didn't notice much difference.) Your nails are an organic part of your body; if you fuel yourself with crap, it's unlikely that your nails will look good because you probably lack vital nutrients for healthy growth.
- Don't pick at your nails. This one's pretty obvious. Don't chew, lick or play with your nails. If you feel like your nails are rough or uneven, use a crystal nail file to smooth them out again. Reversely, don't over-buff them, buffing the nail too much will actually remove too many layers and make them weak and thin.
Hope that helped! Happy nail growing. Got any other general tips on maintaining long nails? Add them in the comments below.