Are Your Nails Always Breaking? Here's Why—and How to Stop It

All of us experience an annoying broken nail from time to time, but if your nails are always breaking, it might not be for the reasons you suspect.

A number of factors weigh into your nail health, from how you treat your body, to what you do with your hands, to how often you head to the salon for a fresh mani. That's why we asked Patricia Boland, skin specialist at Colorescience, all about the seven main culprits when it comes to broken nails.

1. Low-Quality Nail Polish Removers

Sweety High: When it comes to removing nail polish, what hints do you have for protecting our nails?

Patricia Boland: It is wise to use a non-acetone remover to take off your polish. If you are a regular user of gels or acrylics, then it is best to make appointments with professionals to ensure the acetone has the least exposure to your nails. A great tip is to add cuticle oil to your acetone and mix it with non-acetone so it's not too harsh on your skin.


SH: What is it about acetone that is so drying and damaging to nails?

PB: Acetone is a liquid solvent, which is used to remove nail polish, paint or glue. Acetone is a paint stripper, and if your nails are dry and damaged, then your nails will only become drier and more brittle after they have been soaked in acetone. Nails that are lifted from the nail bed shouldn't be exposed to a lot of acetone, as the solvent will be immersed into the exposed nail bed, which causes irritation and further separation.


SH: Are there any nail polish remover brands that you swear by?

PB: The Zoya Remove Plus 3-in 1 Formula is unlike other nail polish removers. Many formulas tend to strip your nails of nutrients, which leaves them vulnerable and brittle. The Zoya formula leaves your nails healthier, as it wipes away the polish whilst restoring moisture and nutrients.


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2. Lack of Iron

PB: Weak nails can be caused by low levels of iron or anemia. Iron helps form hemoglobin, a molecule that shuttles red blood cells loaded with oxygen directly into your nail. Without this, your nails will suffer from stunted growth. It's best to load up on foods which are rich in irons, such as spinach, dark chocolate and white beans.


3. Dehydration

PB: If you're not drinking enough water, your entire body will suffer— including your nails. Not drinking enough water is, in fact, a major factor in many cases of brittle nails, so it's best to drink the correct amount a day, which is around nine cups.


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4. Lack of Moisturizer

SH: What kinds of moisturizers do you recommend for keeping hands and nails soft and hydrated?

PB: The Barrier Balm from Glo Skin Beauty UK is a great product for keeping hands and nails soft and hydrated. The balm is multi-use and helps to shield skin against water loss as well as conditioning and strengthening the skin. It is perfect for lips, cuticles and other dry spots on the body that need to be protected and hydrated.

SH: Are there any specific ingredients that are particularly good for nails? Any ingredients you'd specifically avoid?

PB: Coconut oil is a very hydrating ingredient, which can help strengthen your nails and soften your cuticles. It has an added benefit of anti-fungal properties, which is great for fighting off nail infections. Ingredients to avoid are chemical substances, such as Camphor. It is used in nail polishes to give a shiny finish, but experts have stated these can cause severe allergic reactions and can cause your nails to become weak and brittle.


5. Excessive Water

PB: By this, I mean the water that meets your hands, and not the water you drink. Doing the washing up, for example, can take a big toll on your nails, as soaps and solvents from the liquid can have a drying effect on your nails. A simple solution to this household chore side effect is to pop on a pair of gloves, which will protect your nails from the bad chemicals and keep them from drying out.


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6. Too Many Manicures

SH: What is it about gel nails and acrylics that can be so damaging to nail beds? Why does this happen, and is there anything we can do to speed up that strengthening process?

PB: Gel and acrylic nails cause nail thinning. If you are applying your manicures back to back, then the nail plate will get extremely suffocated. This can lead to nail dehydration and eventually breakage, so ensure you give your nails a break in between manicures. To speed up the strengthening process, it's important to have a professional nail technician assess the health of your nails between applications to see if your nails can use a large break from treatments.


SH: What advice do you have for girls to keep their nails looking great if they're used to manicures a couple of times a month, but want to cut down?

PB: It's important to remove your gel manicures after two to three weeks to avoid damage to nail beds and cuticle damage. It can be tempting to leave them on longer, and they can last forever without chips, but that will only allow harmful bacteria to enter your nails. The more often you remove your manicure and wait a few weeks in between the next, the healthier your nails will be. Also, it's key to never remove your gel or acrylic on your own, as this can really damage your nail health for the long term.


7. Picking Off Your Nail Polish

PB: Peeling off your polish (gel or traditional) doesn't just remove your coat of nail polish. It also removes part of the top layer of your nails, which causes your nails to thin. It can be easy to do—especially as your manicure starts to chip—but if you do this an excessive amount, it can take months for them to grow back in a healthy condition. If you see your nails have started to chip away, take them off with remover as soon as you can so the temptation isn't there.


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Looking for other ways to boost your mani game? Click HERE for more tips for growing longer, healthier nails.