Having colorful, beautifully manicured nails is great, but the harsh chemicals in many nail salon products can wreak havoc on your hands, leaving you with dry, brittle, peeling, or yellow nails.
The more you try to cover up the damage with polish, press-on nails, gels, and acrylics, the more weakened your natural nails get, creating a self-perpetuating cycle of mangled, imperfect hands.
How can you break the cycle once and for all? Here are a few ways to repair a damaged nail bed and get your natural fingernails back to their happiest, healthiest selves!
How to Repair Damaged Nail Bed After Acrylics and Gels?
Acrylic sets and gel polishes are many women’s salon favorites and for a good reason. They’re excellent ways to achieve long, shiny, colorful nails for long periods of time, without worrying about breakage or chipping. They look great, and they last for weeks before needing a touch-up.
However, getting acrylic or gel treatments removed can seriously damage your nail beds if not done correctly. One of the most popular ways to remove acrylic or gel nail polish is with an acetone bath. This method can be performed at a salon or at home.
As a powerful chemical solvent, acetone is incredibly effective for removing stubborn nail colors, but it also strips your skin of its natural oils. This can lead to the thinning of your nail beds, leaving you with brittle, peeling nails and dry, flaky skin on your hands.
The power of the nail drill
Instead of using acetone, some nail salons prefer to use a specialized nail drill to remove a set of acrylics. Nail drills are a physical nail removal method, not a chemical.
That means that you won’t experience the same dryness and flakiness that acetone creates, but your natural nails still can experience damage. As it removes your acrylics, the drill bit of a nail drill can gouge your natural nail beds, creating damage that mars the appearance of your natural nails.
Keep it Short
If your nails have been damaged by the acrylic removal process, here are a few ways that you can get your nails back to normal as soon as possible! Because acetone and nail drills both tend to thin your nail beds, you’ll likely notice that your natural nails are more prone to breakage after getting acrylics removed.
Although it’s tempting to try to grow your natural nails out long as soon as possible, that can actually cause them to break, crack, or peel.
Professional nail experts recommend that for at least a month after getting your acrylics removed, you keep your natural nail length relatively short, to minimize breakage and allow your nails to grow back to their healthiest state.
Give Yourself a Break
If you’ve regularly worn gel or acrylic nails for long periods of time, you might want to consider switching to regular nail polish for a few months. The actual ingredients that make up regular nail polish, gel nail polish, and acrylic polish are not that different. It’s the process of incorrectly applying and removing these three different treatments that may cause you different levels of damage.
Don’t Forget The Base
Both acrylic and gel nail treatments involve filing down your natural nails, which can thin your nail beds and lead to increased damage when you eventually get the treatments removed. Regular nail polish can be applied straight on top of a base coat or your naked, natural nails, minimizing damage.
Non-Acetone Nail Polish Remover
If you want to track the progress of your nail regrowth, but can’t quite let go of the shine of nail treatments, consider applying clear nail polish or topcoat on top of your natural nails, to give them a manicured, polished look while still being able to see the status of your nails.
If you’re going to remove or switch out your regular nail polish, make sure you use a non-acetone nail polish remover, to prevent any further dryness, brittleness, or peeling.
Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize!
There are also steps you can take to ensure the long-term health of your natural nails as you give them a rest from acrylic and gel treatments and watch them regrow. If you’ve recently used an acetone bath to remove acrylics or gels, and are experiencing dryness and brittleness, you should invest in some quality cuticle oil or hand cream.
Once a day, apply a small amount of cuticle oil to your nail beds and cuticles using a cotton ball. In addition, before you go to sleep, apply a generous amount of hand cream and allow it to soak in overnight.
These treatments will help your nails and skin regain the moisture that they lost due to the acetone removal process. You can also invest in a daily keratin treatment. These treatments come in nail polish bottles and can be applied once a day to help your nails grow faster, stronger, and smoother.
Nutrition is Key
You might also want to consider taking vitamins and eating foods that help your natural nails grow healthier, faster, and longer. Omega-3 fatty acids are great for augmenting nail and hair growth. Trout, salmon, walnuts, and flaxseed oil are all rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Biotin, which is a sub-variety of vitamin B, is also extremely helpful for augmenting nail growth. Eggs, peanuts, avocados, almonds, and sweet potatoes are all rich in biotin. You can also find these vitamins in supplement pills available over the counter at your local drugstore!
The wear and tear of everyday life can also damage your nails. If your nails are relatively healthy and strong already, you may not notice this day-to-day damage. However, if your nails have recently been damaged by the gel or acrylic removal process, this additional daily wear can noticeably affect your already-brittle nails.
While you wash dishes, make sure you always wear rubber gloves. Hot water and the chemicals in dish soap can make your nails even more soft and breakable, undoing all of the hard work you’ve been putting into regrowing them. In addition to wearing gloves, you might want to consider switching to gentler, more natural household cleaners, to further minimize chemical damage to your hands and nails.
How to Repair Damaged Nail Bed After an Injury?
Acrylic and gel treatments aren’t the only way that your nails can get damaged. Injuries can also cause unseemly damage to your nail beds. If you’ve ever accidentally slammed a door on your hand, or cut your finger while cooking, you might have experienced bruising, discoloration, or other damage to your nail beds. This damage can be painful, unattractive, and quite difficult to heal.
In the medical community, a bruise under your fingernail is also known as a subungual hematoma. These might occur if you’ve dropped something heavy on your hand, or endured some other powerful trauma to the nail bed. If the bruise is particularly large, you might want to consider visiting a doctor.
The pressure of a large bruise under the nail can be quite painful and might require medical treatment.
If the bruise is small and relatively painless, then you’re just going to have to wait for it to grow out. Once the affected portion of your nail grows out, there won’t be any lingering sign of the bruise. Until then, you can cover it up with regular nail polish.
The Shorter, the Better
While your injured nail is healing, it’s important to keep it trimmed short and neat. This minimizes the risk of further damage from breakage or brittleness and ensures that the existing damage can grow out as quickly as possible.
Again, you might want to consider taking nail growth vitamins to help speed up the process. Also, if you’re a chronic nail biter, try as hard as you can to resist the urge. Biting or picking at an already-damaged nail can cause even further injury, slowing down the healing process significantly.
Horizontal nail splits are very common after removing acrylics and gels and injuries.
If one of your natural nails has fallen off due to an injury, visit your doctor. Any unattached bits or sharp ends should be clipped or filed away to prevent snagging.
A torn fingernail is common after trauma. In most cases, a new nail will grow back, with no evidence of previous trauma. However, it will take a little while, so you need to be patient.
An entire fingernail that has fallen off might take up to three months to completely grow back. In the meantime, do not bite or pick at your nails. Keep your other nails trimmed nice and short, and don’t apply any polish of any kind.
When your damaged fingernail does completely grow back, usually it’ll look perfectly normal, just the same as it did before. But in some cases especially after an injury, you can suffer from vertical nail splits that are caused after damaging the nail root.
Also, Some discoloration or disproportion of the nail may be a result of an injury.
Unfortunately, no matter what kind of nail damage you’ve sustained, there’s no magical quick fix to get your hands looking perfectly healthy in a matter of minutes. Regrowing your natural nails to their happiest, healthiest state takes a lot of care and patience.
Keep your natural nails short as they regrow. Use regular nail polish instead of gels or acrylics, and switch to a non-acetone nail polish remover. Remember to wear gloves when handling with harsh household chemicals like detergents and dish soaps.
Take your vitamins, wear cuticle oil and hand cream, and invest in a keratin treatment. These steps can help speed up the regrowth and healing process, and get your nails back to normal as quickly as possible!
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