How I Stopped My Nails From Splitting & Breaking All The Time

I recently took a look at my fragile nails and decided that they deserved as much attention as I give my hair. After six weeks of weekly treatments and some minor changes in my nail routine, I'm happy to say that, finally, my nails are experiencing the same level of happiness as my hair, thanks to these seven things I did to make my nails stronger and ridge-free.

I had given up on my nail beds and everything that came with them decades ago. It seemed my nails were destined for a life of pesky horizontal ridges that kept my nails permanently dipped in polish to protect the eyes of anyone staring directly into the horror. There are plenty of causes for nail-breakage: Hormones, poor care routines, missing nutrients in your diet, and stress can all lead to a case of the splits. Being a vegetarian, it didn't surprise me that the resulting anemia could lead to weak nails because when I first stopped eating meat it affected me mentally and physically. My nails took an unhealthy plunge over 20 years ago and never fully recovered despite my otherwise clean bill of health. My nail beds have the familiar light pink color of healthy blood flow, so it was clear this wasn't an underlying health issue: This was about straight-up poor nail maintenance.

My nails were dehydrated and I was the only one to blame, but I didn't need to look beyond my splitting, dry nail beds to figure that out. The good news is I didn't have to go too far outside my regular nail care routine to finally have smooth nail beds. Here are seven ways I mended my broken nail beds — who knows, they might come in handy for you too.

1. Shortened The Lifespan Of My Nail Polish

In a measly attempt to justify my own laziness, I convinced myself that I found chipped polish very attractive. Not only was that false (though, it has its time and place IMO), but it was also getting in the way of strong nail beds. Nails can become dry under long stretches of polish which weakens the nail and can lead to breakage. As dermatologist Dr. Debra Jaliman told, the longer you leave on your polish the more likely to experience discoloration. Judging from my newfound nail health, this seems true: Keeping my nails in old polish was certainly not improving their health.

2. Going Without Polish

Speaking of getting some breathing room from your polish, giving my nails a break from nail polish was one of the hardest yet most beneficial things I did for my beds. I knew removing old polish and immediately applying new polish kept my nails dry, uneven, and chipped, but I couldn't help painting over my nails as fast as possible. Just like the hair on our heads, nails are made of keratin and they are technically dead, but, also just like the hair on our heads, they're still prone to dryness. One nail guru, Kim D’Amato, told StyleCaster that wearing nail polish every day can weaken the nails. While nails don't require oxygen to "breathe," I certainly noticed that leaving my nails naked in between color changes paid off.

3. Keeping My Nails Hydrated

One thing I never even thought about in the past was moisturizing my nails. Odd, when you consider how obsessed I am with keeping my hair and my skin quenched at all times. No matter how enriched my base coat claimed to be, nothing compared to applying a deeply, penetrating oil to prevent my nails from becoming dry and brittle. As CND’s ­resident chemist, Dr. Dave Valia, explained to NAILS magazine, oils rich in vitamin E can benefit your cuticles and prevent hangnails. I applied avocado oil, which contains vitamin E, to my nails a few times each week, whether my nails were polished or bare. I found keeping up with moisturizing my nails when painted actually decreased the appearance of dryness.

4. Making A Nail & Cuticle Oil

I had made my own blend of nail-strengthening oil to help me along my journey and it quickly became a staple in my nail routine. I used my blend weekly and eventually moved on to using Aura Cacia's blend of essential oils to nurture my beds. I noticed improvement in the circulation of my nail beds immediately and slowly began to see my nails evening out on their own. I use essential oils in addition to fatty oils because they penetrate the nails, skin, and hair more quickly for a variety of reasons, including the viscosity of the oil. I now use my nail care blend weekly when I take off my nail polish for breathing.

5. Treating All My Nails From Cuticle To Tip

My main concern was alleviating the recurring ridges and chips along the tip of my nails, but I knew I had to treat my cuticles with a lot more respect to end the cycle of weak nails for good. Cuticles play an important role by protecting your nail from bacteria. I kept my cuticles moisturized with my nails and more importantly, I stopped pushing my cuticles back with sharp metal objects.

6. Wearing Gloves Indoors & Outdoors

My hands will become dry upon contact with cold temperatures, but I hadn't considered the impact of the cold could be felt on my nail beds too. I started keeping my fingernails protected by wearing gloves outside and indoors when I'm washing dishes. Even gentle, non-toxic dish soap makes my hands dry so I know my nails are feeling the effects as well. According to sources at Livestrong, too much moisture from repeatedly wetting your hands can weaken the nails and cause peeling, something I've vowed to put behind me.

7. Keeping Myself Hydrated

Even though most of my newfound nail health can be attributed to my nail routine, I had to admit that I started keeping track of my water intake once I found dehydration can lead to weaker nails. According to sources at Huffington Post, drinking plenty of water can keep your nails and cuticles hydrated from within.

My nails started to show improvement after a few weeks of these minor changes in my nail routine, but after six weeks my nails started glowing again so there was no way I was going back to the weak nails of my past. Since I work with my hands often, this nail care routine went from experiment to way of life.

Images: Andrew Zaeh/Bustle; Kristin Collins Jackson (7)