After months of uninterrupted gel manicures or the sudden swing in temperature toward the excessively hot, you might find that your nails are looking less than ideal. The dry office air-conditioning has dehydrated cuticles, slowing growth, and despite attempting to cover them with the season’s brightest shades of neoprene pink and acid orange, chipping is inevitable—evidence that a problem may lie beneath. Luckily, “there is a healthy way to grow out your nails and reverse any previous damage,” says Sarah Gibson Tuttle, the Los Angeles–based founder of Olive & June. Fortunately, sticking to three simple manicure rules can help.
“One of the main reasons our nails become damaged is due to improper removal when taking off gel or acrylics,” notes Gibson Tuttle, who recommends a full 15 minutes of acetone soaking to correctly remove color during a polish change. Less time can result in the stripping of enamel, since technicians will often buff or scrape away the residual color.
Step two involves committing to a few extra minutes of maintenance each day with a hefty dose of cuticle oil and hand lotion. “We expect our nails to cooperate, but a weekly manicure simply isn’t enough,” explains Gibson Tuttle. She suggests slathering the entire nail area with a hydrating oil, like CND’s classic SolarOil, three times a day, which, after two weeks of constant application, “will improve the overall texture dramatically.”
Those with excessive damage, peeling, or weakness may need true nail detox in the form of a brief break from polish altogether. “[Lacquer] dries out your nails,” explains Gibson Tuttle. “Taking a week or two off will rehab the enamel, promoting healthy growth.” During that time, switch to a growth elixir containing antioxidants or keratin (like OPI’s nail growth treatment) or a strong base coat (like Sally Hansen’s Nail Rehab, which is formulated with an almost invisible sheer pink tint, optical brighteners, and fillers to soften the appearance of ridges in the nail bed). Finally, to keep nails strong in between salon visits and prevent future damage, Gibson Tuttle advises clients to apply a clear topcoat every other day