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Cold weather can cause all sorts of nail damage from dryness and cracking to breakage. As a lifelong nail polish lover, I’ve tested just about every trick for keeping my nails healthy and beautiful even when temps dip.
If you struggle with lackluster nails in winter, this post shares all my top tips for avoiding damage and maintaining gorgeous manicures when icy winds arrive. Read on for products, routines, and techniques to keep your nails in tip-top shape this season.
Moisturize Nails and Cuticles
The number one rule for winter nail care is moisturize, moisturize, moisturize! Frequent hydration is crucial to counteract the drying effects of cold, wind, and central heat.
Massage nail oil into the nail plate and cuticles 1-2 times per day. Look for oils with nourishing ingredients like vitamin E, argan, and jojoba. Thick balms and butters also provide intense moisture when applied before bed.
Don’t neglect your cuticles either. Keeping them soft prevents painful cracking and hangnails. Gently push back cuticles after bathing, then apply a hydrating cuticle cream packed with shea butter or oils.
Use a Base Coat
A good base coat is the foundation for protecting your nails before polish application. Look for ones infused with moisturizing ingredients. Alternatively, some base coats are formulated to strengthen nails and prevent breakage.
When painting nails, apply base coat first and make sure to cap the free edge. This seals the entire nail to lock in moisture and prevent chips and cracks along the tips. Let the base coat fully dry before adding color.
Skip Acetone Removers
Acetone nail polish remover is incredibly drying, which means it’s off the table for winter! Instead, switch to an acetone-free formula enriched with oils, vitamins, and moisturizers.
These “gentle” removers will dissolve polish without zapping moisture from nails. However, they do require a bit more soaking and scrubbing to remove darker shades. Finish with a nourishing hand cream after taking off old polish.
Use Thick, Hydrating Top Coats
Once color is applied, finish off your mani with a thick, glossy top coat. This seals in moisture and prevents cracks in polish that let water in.
Look for nourishing top coats with oils, silk proteins, or argan. They dry to a slightly flexible, almost rubberized finish that bends rather than chips. Apply top coat all the way to the free edge for the most protection.
Alternate Hands in Cold Water
It’s impossible to avoid washing dishes or hands in winter. But you can minimize exposure to harsh drying water. Whenever possible:
- Wash hands separately rather than together
- Alternate hands in and out of cold water
- Apply cream and gloves after washing
Avoid soaking nails in hot water any longer than necessary. While it may temporarily soften nails, hot water actually dehydrates even more over time.
File Nails Properly
To discourage painful splits and breaks, file nails into a rounded squoval shape. Square corners and edges create stress points. Use a high-quality crystal nail file moving in one direction across the nail.
Always file gently to avoid thinning the nails. Buff shine using short back-and-forth motions rather than sawing side to side to prevent nail damage. Stop filing immediately if you feel any heat.
Let Nails Breathe
As tempting as it is to keep polish on 24/7 in winter, nails need a chance to breathe. Allow 1-2 days per week without color to hydrate and strengthen bare nails. You can still use base and top coats for added protection during polish breaks.
Resist excessive buffing, peeling or picking which will thin nails. If you notice splitting or peeling, clip nails short and let them grow out healthy. Avoid gel manicures which seal in moisture and increase brittleness.
Eat Nail-Healthy Foods
What you eat affects nails as well as skin. Focus on getting plenty of protein, calcium, omega-3s and vitamins through your diet. Eggs, fish, dairy, beans, nuts and leafy greens support strong, fast-growing nails.
Biotin supplements are also great for boosting nail thickness and hardness. Just be sure to take them consistently, as it can take 2-5 months to see improvements in nail growth.
Use Hand Protection Outdoors
Shield your hands whenever heading outside in cold, dry air. Wear mittens instead of gloves to allow nails room. Thin glove liners under mittens add flexibility for tasks that require dexterity.
For added protection, apply a thick hand cream or balm before slipping on gloves or mittens. You want to seal in moisture and create a barrier against the elements.
Don’t forget your trusty pocket hand warmers either! They provide on-the-go relief from winter’s drying effects.
With these nourishing winter nail tips, you can fight seasonal damage and keep your manicures looking salon-fresh. Let me know your go-to products and routines for maintaining beautiful nails once the temperatures drop!