Nailed it! How to Revive Brittle and Weak Nails

Whip your claws into shape with these daily practices

By Taylor Stephan Aug 25, 2015 10:49 PMTags
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Gel-ous of celeb-status manis?

Buff addicts like Demi Lovato and Shay Mitchell know the importance of perfectly polished digits, but oftentimes those standing appointments—particularly those of the gel and acrylic variety—can wreak havoc on sensitive nails. Sure, nail art-adorned talon claws are fierce, but if your nails are more paper thin and tattered than thick and smooth, it's high time to reconsider your nail-care routine.

To get the scoop on proper nail care and to help you whip your abused nails back into fighting shape, we consulted Olive & June owner Sarah Gibson Tuttle and celebrity manicurist Stephanie Stone.

Recognize when to take a break. Healthy nails are "strong, smooth and with an even color tone," described Sarah. If your nails are looking and feeling rigid, dry and inflamed, hit the pause button on UV or LED light treatments like gels and acrylics in order to get your nails to bounce back. 

Leave it to the professionals. When you do take a timeout, "the most important thing to prevent long-term damage to the nail is letting a professional technician remove gels or acrylics," urged Stephanie.

Brittle nails are dehydrated nails. Bet you didn't know that you should be using cuticle oil every day? Both experts agree that nourishing oil is essential to healthy, snag-free nails the same way that moisture is to supple skin. For a surge of moisture, Stephanie always carries a travel-size lotion and a cuticle oil in her purse for anytime touchups. 


Nail masks are a thing. In addition to daily drops of cuticle oil, it's imperative that you develop a longstanding ritual for nails—especially if you plan on continued visits to the salon. For less brittle and faster growing nails, Sarah recommended weekly paraffin treatments and DIY nails masks. If you're looking to remove stains, she mixes up an at-home version with lemon juice and baking powder. If you're in the market for a surge of moisture, Stephanie's trick is applying a generous amount of lotion to your nails, wrapping them in saran wrap and letting them sit for 10-15 minutes. 

Give it time. Sarah recommended not putting a time limit on your gel break, "allowing the healing process to take its course and only going back when your nails are actually at a healthier point." For a lower maintenance, but still manicured look, Sarah loves a classic buffing with a layer of clear polish

Make it last. Now that you're a nail care expert, you may be like Stephanie and decide that old-fashioned paint manicures are the way to go most of the time. To prevent bleeding, start with a matifying basecoat, which creates an extra smooth surface. Stephanie recommended a base duo of NCLA's Get Even and First Base. For chip-free polish that lasts the whole week, use a gel-like topcoat like Sarah's favorite Sally Hansen Miracle Gel Top Coat.