We love getting our nails done. Whether you're into fun and colorful nail art or a simple milky manicure, there's a very specific pleasure that sprouts from having your nails well-kept and polished. It's why we spend so much money on getting nail extensions, going to the salon, and on our favorite polish colors so we can paint our nails at home.
And when one breaks, it can feel incredibly frustrating and infuriating.
Thankfully, there are ways to prevent your nails from breaking and several ways to fix a break should it occur. We asked three celebrity nail artists to tell us why nails break in the first place, how to fix them, alternative ways to deal with them until your next trip to the salon, and more.
Here's what they had to say.
What Causes Nails to Break?
Even if you have incredibly strong nails, they can still break if you're rough with them. "Doing the dishes, lifting a box or even tapping my nails the wrong way have caused them to break in the past," shares Rita Remark, essie's Global Lead Educator and Nail Artist. However, she says that what makes nails more prone to breakage is when they're weak or brittle.
"The nail becomes brittle and weak when exposed to harsh chemicals such as acetone, cleaning supplies, gels, or acrylics," explains Jin Soon Choi, an editorial manicurist and founder of her eponymous salon and nail product brand. "They can also become brittle and weak when you have gel or nail polish on your nails for too long — it dehydrates your nails which is usually the main cause of breakage." She adds that reckless removal of dip powder and gel or acrylic nails are another major causes of breakage and peeling.
Brittney Boyce, a celebrity nail artist and founder of NAILS OF LA, says that nails with jagged edges are also more prone to getting snagged somewhere, which would cause tears and breakage. And lastly, she adds that wet nails are more prone to breakage as the water softens and bends them. (This is why we recommend getting waterless manicures.)
How to Fix a Broken Nail
Thankfully, there's not just one way to fix a broken nail.
Option one: Use dip powder. This is the best option for nails that have a true break vs. a small crack.
Begin by cleaning the affected nail with nail polish remover. Then, wait for it to dry.
Then, Choi says to apply nail glue to the broken area.
Dip the nail into the powder. Then, dust off any excess powder.
Add another layer of glue.
Let the glue dry off and then buff until the nails are smooth.
Apply your favorite nail polish to conceal any giveaways.
To streamline the process, Boyce recommends using the ORLY Nail Rescue Kit — it comes with everything you need. If anything, keep it nearby in case of a nail emergency.
Option two: Use a tea bag. This approach works best for small cracks.
Take a dry, mesh tea bag and cut out a little square that'll cover the split. "This will serve as the bandage to the crack," explains Remark.
Clean the broken nail with nail polish remover and wait for it to dry.
Apply nail glue to the broken area.
While glue is still wet, apply the tea bag on top and allow the glue to soak through the tea bag.
Then, Choi recommends an extra layer of glue. "If you don't like harsh glue, use a top coat as an alternative for a temporary solution," she adds.
Once the glue (or top coat) is rock solid and dry, Remark says to file the affected edge and buff the glue area to make it blend seamlessly into the rest of the nail.
Finish by applying your favorite nail polish to conceal the tea bag.
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Are There Other Ways to Conceal a Broken Nail?
Yes! Our three experts recommend using press-on nails in a pinch as they're easy to use and will provide a protective armor to keep your natural nails in place. "You just have to be extra careful when you're removing them," says Boyce, as taking them off carelessly could lead to a full break.
If you have time to go to a salon, Remark says a manicurist can add a tip to the nail with resin, gel, or acrylic to restore length.
How to Prevent Breaking Your Nails
Strong, healthy nails will help prevent breakage. As with anything health-related, there's a process and a waiting period — but it's so worth it once you get there.
Choi says that moisture is key to strong, healthy nails. As such, she recommends applying a cuticle oil, such as the JINsoon Honeysuckle + Primrose Cuticle Oil, even on top of nail polish, gels, or fake nails. "Remember that oil penetrates the fastest, but even a hand lotion will work," she adds. Essentially, keep your hands and nails moisturized.
She and Boyce also note the importance of a healthy diet so that you get all the necessary vitamins to grow strong nails.
"If you have naturally weak or recently damaged nails the best thing you can do is not just 'let them breathe' — if they're weak or damaged, they need protection," says Remark. "Your best bet would be to use a strengthening polish." She suggests using essie's Hard To Resist nail strengthener, which is what she uses in between gel manicures to keep her nails healthy.