Have you ever gotten a manicure and noticed a split nail form a day or two later? Or that the skin surrounding your cuticles has become dry and flaky? Though you could easily fix these issues in a matter of minutes with a nail or cuticle clipper, they are signs of poor nail health that shouldn't be taken lightly.
So we asked Deborah Lippmann, founder and creative director of the eponymous luxury beauty line, and Dr. Ava Shamban, dermatologist and author, to share their top tips on growing healthier and stronger nails.
1. Don't cut your cuticles. Lippmann is a big believer that cutting the cuticles is not the way to go. "Your skin is your body's largest organ and your cuticles are the end of the skin -- they are meant to be there to act as a barrier for bacteria," she said.
A safer alternative is to push cuticles back using an exfoliating and waterless treatment like Deborah Lippmann Cuticle Remover. Apply the product liberally to all nails where the skin meets the nail and use a cuticle pusher to gently push back.
"You must go around the cuticle area several times to get a clean cuticle," explained Lippmann. Wipe clean with a piece of cotton. Any remaining lifted pieces of skin are hangnails. Carefully nip only these dead pieces of skin. "Never cut all the way around the cuticle because that will cause the skin to become ragged and tear, opening the body to bacteria," said Lippmann.
2. Don't saw nails back and forth. Nail shape trends are constantly evolving -- from oval to square to stiletto. However, the best shape is the one that looks best on you. And according to Lippmann, the shape of the nail can help to elongate one's hands and improve the overall hand appearance. Remember to look at your hands from every angle and to file from each outside edge toward the center of the nail. Never saw back and forth on the tip of the nail, as this will weaken nails.
3. Don't use nails as tools. When a pair of scissors aren't within reach, you may use a nail or two to open up a letter or box. This is a bad idea because you risk bending the nail back, among many other things. "The white area, referred to as the stress area, will eventually weaken and break. So make a conscious effort to pay close attention to how you use nails," said Lippmann.
4. Do eat a well-balanced diet. Diet plays a huge role in all functions of the body. To attain strong and healthy nails, Dr. Shamban suggests eating plenty of protein. "Nails are made out of protein, so the first thing you can try is adding more to your diet. Eat lean poultry, fish, beef and pork, as well as spinach and other vegetables that contain protein," she explained.
Genes also play a big part in having brittle nails, according to Lippman. A biotin supplement is a great way to strengthen nails and promote growth. "Products, both treatment and lacquer, that include biotin are also very helpful so that you can apply it directly on the nail," she said. Drinking lots of water is also important to keep nails and cuticles hydrated.
5. Don't peel off old nail polish. Picking away at old or chipped nail polish will aggravate the nail bed and lead to damage. Using too much lacquer causes polish to peel. "If you apply very thin coats, letting the polish dry in between each layer so that the solvents evaporate, it will wear better and last longer," said Lippmann. She recommends waiting at least a minute or two between each coat, and never skip base or top coat. Wearing gloves when working with any kind of cleaning supplies will also extend your manicure.
6. Do get manicures. A weekly manicure (even for short nails ) is key. "Grooming your nails will make any shade look great, whether you do it at home or go to the salon," said Lippmann. "The most important thing is to start with a proper manicure so that the nails are the same length and shape, and cuticles are pushed back."
7. Do keep nails and hands moisturized. Unless you suffer from severely dry skin, you may not hydrate nearly as much as you should. But your nails would look a lot better if you did. "Moisturize your hands with hand cream or cuticle oil every time you wash your hands," said Lippmann.
A few of the editors here at HuffPost Style keep cuticle oil handy on our office desk to keep our nails hydrated throughout the day. Dr. Shamban adds, "Coconut oil also works well to soften cuticles, moisturize hands and prevent hangnails."
8. Don't overdo it with the hand sanitizer. With all the germs we come in contact with on a daily basis, slathering on hand sanitizer has become second nature for many people. But the germ-fighting solution could be doing more harm then good.
"You should apply it on the skin, but be careful not to put it on the nails," said Lippmann. "Don’t overuse it because it’ll really dry out the hands and the nails if you’re not careful when applying. Soap is also drying to some degree, so when putting anything on your hands just be careful of your nails and cuticles."
9. Do be cautious of chemicals in nail products. That pretty shade of pink or red nail polish that's sitting on the shelf at the nail salon may be loaded with hazardous materials or chemicals. Dr. Shamban recommends using a chemical-free nail polish. She adds, "Today, there are many lines that are vegan and chemical-free, SpaRitual is a great line. Rejuvacote is a repairing polish that builds and restores the nail."
Lippman's nail polish formula is 5-free, which means that it is free of formaldehyde, toluene, dibutyl phthalates, camphor and formaldehyde resin. "Some brands use formaldehyde resin, and can say they are formaldehyde free. The resin is a lesser strength, but it’s still formaldehyde -- look at the label and really make sure that the product is free of chemicals," said Lippmann.
What's your secret to growing healthier and stronger nails?
These beauty recipes will do your body good:
"Carrots have a high amount of beta-carotene, the precursor for vitamin A, among the common vegetables," says Snyder. "Vitamin A is necessary for shiny, well-moisturized head of hair, as well as promoting a healthy scalp, which is essential for healthy hair growth."
"Your hair’s healthy growth depends on the overall health of your body and the nutrients you’re putting into it," says Snyder. "When there are limited nutrients to go around, your hair will inevitably suffer, because your hair isn’t an organ the body deems necessary for survival, you’ll be left with dull, brittle, hair."
Extra credit: "Try beauty foods like pumpkin seeds, which are an excellent source of zinc, sulfur and vitamin A," notes Snyder. "These three compounds, taken together, are particularly helpful in building strong hair. They also contain B vitamins, which include biotin, an essential nutrient for strengthening hair, helping prevent thin and brittle hair, and increasing hair growth."
"Your nails indicate how mineralized your body is," says Snyder. "Weak or ridged nails indicate mineral deficiencies. In ancient Eastern philosophy, some cultures believe that lack of a white half moon in each nail bed indicates low circulation and vitality in the body."
"Be sure to eat beauty foods high in silica, which include leafy green vegetables, as well as a wide range of plant foods high in minerals and vitamins to grow strong, healthy nails," says Snyder.
Extra credit: Whole grains (preferably gluten-free), like millet, are also an excellent option, advises Snyder.
"Eat lots of potassium," says Snyder. "Potassium is integral in balancing pH levels, maintaining proper fluid levels and the balancing of other minerals, like sodium -- which in excess amounts can dry out your skin or make it look puffy. Potassium-rich foods are important for good health because healthy levels of potassium encourage responsible waste elimination from the body and the assimilation of glucose for muscle energy."
"Drink coconut water, it is one of the best natural hydrators," says Snyder. "Dehydration can make the skin look dried out, withered and leathery, and may lead to signs of premature aging. The key nutrients contained in coconut water include lauric acid, iron, potassium, magnesium and calcium."
"Dull skin may indicate congestion by way of a blocked, toxin-filled colon and/or gallbladder," says Snyder. "This usually means someone is consuming a lot of dairy or cooked animal or vegetable oils, or has a good diet, but is not cleansing as efficiently as they should be to keep up with the toxicity that their diet is kicking up."
"To reverse this, add more fiber to your diet with the Glowing Green Smoothie (which includes spinach, romaine, celery, apples and bananas)," says Snyder. "Cut out or minimize dairy consumption, as dairy is extremely acid forming and cook with vegetable broth or bake instead of always cooking with oils (even olive oil), as oil is dense and too much can congest your system. You can get enough good fats in your diet from small amounts of avocados and other whole plant foods, but oils are always processed as they are not found naturally in nature."
"Pineapple is excellent in promoting efficient digestion, which is what soft beautiful skin is dependent on," says Snyder. "Pineapple is also high in vitamin C, which helps in the formation of collagen, a protein that helps grow new skin and blood vessels."
"Flaxseeds offer vital omega-2 fatty acids that supply the right ratio of essential fatty acids to your body, ensuring peak functioning," says Snyder. "Omega-3 fatty acids also help prevent inflammation, which can lead to dry damaged skin."
"The liver filters toxins and pushes the waste to the colon," says Snyder. "But when these organs become overloaded with waste and toxins (from food), the toxins have to be pushed out through the skin, another eliminative organ, creating those ugly pimples called acne."
"Try beauty foods like coconut yogurt, which contains beneficial bacteria (probiotics), and can help keep your system clean," says Snyder. "It is dairy-free, as dairy is difficult for many to digest and has been to shown to be a potential problematic trigger for acne. "
Extra Credit: "Raw apple cider vinegar is a strong digestive aid, helping to cure constipation and stimulating stomach acid, which aids in digestion and can help flush out toxins," says Snyder.
Extra Credit: "Onions contain flavonoids that stimulate the production of glutathione, which is the most important antioxidant the liver uses for detoxification," says Snyder.
"The balanced levels of potassium and sodium can flush out excess bodily fluids, which can help reduce puffiness throughout the whole body and the delicate under-eye area," says Snyder. "A potent detoxifier, celery can help make the skin around the eyes (and the skin in general) look healthier."
"Lack of beauty sleep is a big contributor to dark under-eye circles, and bananas are rich in vitamin B6, which helps ward off irritability and insomnia, as well as magnesium, which promotes better sleep patterns," says Snyder.
Want more HuffPost Style beauty content? Check us out on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram at @HuffPostBeauty. (For everything else check out our main HuffPost Style Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram @HuffPostStyle.)
Do you have a beauty story idea or tip? Email us at email@example.com. (PR pitches sent to this address will be ignored.)