7 Nail Habits You Need To Break & How To Break Them

When I was first learning about nail care, back in the dark ages before social media, the best advice was to soak your nails in gelatin and to try not to get polish on your skin. There weren't many nail habits you needed to break, except maybe not to bite them. Now there's a nail art explosion happening, and no shortage of advice on how to keep your nails healthy, long, and strong.

Unfortunately, that might mean you're guilty of some serious nail care no-nos. And with all this abundant information available, there's also an abundance of terrible advice. Like buffing your nails smooth (it causes so much damage!) And there's also conflicting advice. For example, some nail care experts have tutorials on how to whiten your nails, while other experts advise against it because of potential damage. Who's right? Depends on you and your nails.

Sure, we all like to do things our own way, and we all have things that work for us that don't work for other people, but as a general rule, the following list of bad nail habits are a great way to transform sad hands and cuticles into happy, but also fierce, manicures. So try to make a few changes, and see if you get closer to #nailgoals. Because life is better with awesome nails, right?

1. Picking Your Cuticles

Oh, it's so tempting. There's that hangnail, and it hurts, and the little flap of skin is telling you, "Just peel me off and I will stop snagging on things! And I will not hurt anymore!" But that skin lies to you. Instead, what you'll be doing is peeling the hangnail deeper, taking off healthy skin, making your cuticles bleed, and prolonging the healing process. Not to mention, you're opening yourself up to infection. Google how many bacteria live on the average hand. I'd tell you, but then I'd have to freak out with you for a minute.

What to do instead: Use a cuticle nipper to cut away only the dead skin that's poking out and getting caught on things. If you can't resist picking, wear a bandage around your finger. Keep your cuticles moisturized by wearing hand lotion daily and using cuticle oil after your manicures. This will help prevent hangnails from forming in the first place.

2. Using Your Nails As Tools

Nails are basically tools. But when you're trying to grow them out, or just keep them looking gorgeous, you have to train yourself to stop using them as tools. When I first started doing this, I even had to change the way I opened doors (especially car doors, which seems to be the way I break all my nails). Even if you don't break your nails when you use them as tools, you could still be damaging them, which will make them weaker and more prone to breakage.

What to do instead: Open soda cans with a spoon. Remove staples with a staple remover. Peel stickers with an orange stick. Basically, if you use your nails to do it, find another way. Oh, and learn to type with your fingertips, not your nails.

3. Biting Your Nails

My cousin has gorgeous nails. He has been only biting them to maintain them since childhood. It's kind of a miraculous thing to witness. You are not my cousin, so you shouldn't bite your nails. In fact, my cousin shouldn't even bite his nails, now that I think about it. Biting doesn't create a clean edge. The ragged edge it leaves behind is a weakness. Each of those tiny tears is a place where your nails can crack, peel, or break. Plus teeth aren't really precise. You could end up cutting your nails too short, which is painful.

What to do instead: File for length. Nail clippers can cause similar problems as teeth. Filing, in one direction, creates a smoother edge that is less prone to breakage. Once you've gotten your desired length, file a couple times per week to keep that edge smooth.

4. Peeling Off Your Polish

This is my favorite thing to do, especially with gel polish. There's something so satisfying about peeling off nail polish. But when you do this, you take off the top layers of your nail, and strip it of some of its natural moisture. Now, as your nails grow out, you'll have uneven layers, which will chip, peel, crack, and possibly break. Plus the nail you're using as a tool to peel off the polish takes a beating.

What To Do Instead: Use a remover that contains acetone. Even though acetone dries your nails and skin, it's strong and works quickly, so in the long run, your nails are less exposed to chemicals then if you were scrubbing at them with a weaker remover. Once you're done, wash your hands and then moisturize with cuticle oil or a good hand lotion.

5. Chewing Off Your Acrylics

When you chew or peel off your acrylics, it's basically game over for your nails for weeks, or even months, until the damaged parts grow out. The extensions are firmly attached to your nails, so you risk taking of half or more of your natural nail. The weak nails that are left will look rough and ragged, and they'll be so weak, you'll barely be able to scratch an itch with them. It takes time and patience to remove fake nails (or have them removed) but it's a must.

What to do instead: Depending on what type of nails you have, you'll either have to soak them off or file them off. Acrylics can usually be soaked off in acetone. Some gels need buffed off. If you don't know what kind of nails you have or how to remove them, go to a salon to get them taken off. It will save you months of heartache.

6. Swimming & Showering Naked

When you swim or shower or do any kind of water activity, your nails take on water. The layers bloat, and push out the oils we need to maintain strong and flexible nails. If you're wearing polish, the bloated nail expansion could break the bond between your nail and your polish, ruining your mani. Water is the enemy of your nails.

What to do instead: Wear gloves when you wash dishes, garden, or clean. If you're going to the beach, taking a bath, showering, or doing other water-based activities where you can't wear gloves, protect your nails and your mani by sealing out as much water as you can. That means applying top coat to the top, edge and underside of your nails.

7. Skipping Base Coat

Do you also go out in the snow with no coat on? And shower at the gym without sandals on? Gasp! OK, that's a bit dramatic, but base coat really is an essential part of your manicure. It doesn't just make your polish last longer. It protects your nails from the harsh chemicals in polish that can stain and weaken your nails. It keeps some water from getting absorbed into your nails, which also weakens your nails. Basically, it's the bread of a mani sandwich. Without it, you just have meat and cheese, and no matter what people tell you, that's not a sandwich.

What to do instead: Use a base coat! There are even base coats designed to solve certain nail problems. You can get ridge-filling base coats to make your nails look smooth if they have little dents and lines. You can get peel-off base coats, which make removing glitter polishes a breeze. You can even get sticky base coats, which will help your favorite polishes that happen to chip a lot to stay put.

Now you have enough nail knowledge to officially make yourself smug. Own it!

Images: Pixabay; Giphy (7)