Just like you’d never intentionally eat a 500-calorie cupcake (or even if you would; we’ve all been there), you’d never do anything to purposefully destroy your nails. Because who likes brittle, chipped and sickly-looking nail beds? Nobody, that’s who.
But like the caloric content of your favorite sweet treats, your regular nail habits may be packed with a few surprising pitfalls. And it doesn’t matter if you’re a regular at the nail salon or save your mani maintenance for at-home, because even the most skilled manicurist can’t save you from making some of these unknowing mistakes if you don’t even realize you’re doing them.
Me? I learned the hard way on most of these—just like I learned that my favorite Sprinkles red velvet cupcake sets me back 500 calories a pop. So please, learn from my mistakes and make your nails worthy of a $2,000 manicure.
- You clip your cuticles back on the reg.
STOP IT! Stop it right this instant. Your cuticles are the O-ring of your nail beds, as in it’s there to block out harmful germs and bacteria that can cause a gnarly nail infection (like those puffy red nail beds you’ll sometimes see post-mani). Instead of just living with overgrown cuticles, push them back. The most effective way to do this is to soak your nails in warm water and use a cuticle pusher (or in a pinch, the edge of a nail file) to set the cuticle to the base of the nail.
- Picking your chipped nail polish off? No biggie.
Wrong again. When you sit there and pick at your chipping nail polish (something my OCD self is certainly guilty of), you’re also picking off the top layer of your actual nail. Ouch. Just refrain from the chipping until you can get home, soak your nails in some warm water for a few minutes and then gently remove polish with a non-acetone nail polish remover.
- Moisturizing your hands and nails is not a priority… or something you do at all.
You know those gross, painful hangnails? And flaky cuticles that hurt like a mother when pulled? Those can both be avoided simply by moisturizing every night. Yep, it’s as simple as that. Oh, and hands are known to be one of the most telling spots of age on your body, which makes your moisturizing routine that much more important. Use a hand lotion every night, and also apply coconut or castor oil to the bed and cuticle for added nail strength and resilience.
- Your nail polish shades change more quickly than Kylie Jenner’s hairdos.
Apply nail polish, apply nail polish remover. Repeat—over and over and over again. Just like you couldn’t dye your hair every day without some serious repercussions (and likely bald spots), you can’t subject your nails to too many polish changes at once without stripping away at them. Limited your polish swaps to once a week max, making sure to use strengthening base and top coats to prevent chipping. Again, please pick a non-acetone nail polish remover, as acetone formulas are well-known nail killers.
- You have a better idea of what’s in Bush’s Baked Bean’s secret recipe than in your nail polish.
You don’t need to be a scientist to know that things like formaldehydes are terrible for your nails. And if you didn’t know that before, well, consider yourself educated now. Other culprits include ibutyl phthalate, toluene, formaldehyde resin and camphor. In the past few years, there’s been a big movement for “five-free” nail polishes, which are free of the above harmful ingredients. Julep, Butter London, Deborah Lipmann, Zoya, Jin Soon, Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics and RGB are all brands with incredible five-free options.