How to Strengthen Nails Naturally: 11 Solutions to Try Today

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If your nails are weak and prone to breakage, you might have been tempted to rely on gel manicures to hide their imperfections. Instead of doing this, there are many ways that you can encourage them to grow back stronger.

From adapting your diet to using nourishing homemade hand lotions or avoiding harsh chemical polishes, we've rounded up 11 ways to start strengthening your nails naturally and easily at home.

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Make a DIY Cuticle Oil

Nail care.
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Hemp oil contains magnesium and vitamin E, both of which can help strengthen your nails and keep your cuticles soft.

Massage a few drops of hemp oil into your nails and cuticles or create your own DIY cuticle oil: Blend one tablespoon each of hemp oil, jojoba oil, and apricot kernel oil with a quarter teaspoon of vitamin E oil.

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File Your Nails in One Direction Only

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Many of us file our nails by moving the nail file back and forth across the whole face of the nail, but this could weaken your nails. Instead, file from one outside corner towards the center, and then repeat on the opposite side. Use smooth and long strokes.

Softer nail files are better for your nails, too. Choose a file with a high grit number, or if a number isn't listed, select a file that doesn't feel too coarse. Using a softer nail file may take longer, but it will help maintain the integrity of your nails.

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Keep Your Nails Short

African American man clipping fingernails
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Longer nails will naturally be more likely to catch and break, so if you're working on increasing your nail strength, keep them short. Reducing the length of your nails can help keep them as protected as possible while you work on making them stronger.

Once you feel like your nails are less breakable, you can gradually increase their length.

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Use Hand Lotion or Oil on Your Nails

Person pumping hand cream out of a dispenser

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Moisturizing your nails and cuticles with a good-quality hand cream can help improve their strength over time. Make sure to massage the lotion into and around your nails as you apply it to your hands.

Avoid commercial hand creams that can contain synthetic thickening agents and polyethylene glycol (PEG) which may not help your nails. Instead, a more natural alternative is to choose a DIY body oil or a luscious homemade lotion with all-natural ingredients.

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Choose Non-Toxic Nail Polish

close up hands of an adult woman doing manicure at home

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The best option when trying to strengthen your nails is to leave them bare, but if you love a pop of color, make sure to choose a non-toxic nail polish. The ingredients in some polishes can have harmful effects, and we don't know enough about how these may impact us in the longer term.

Try to avoid using nail polish all the time and give your nails a break between applications. Constantly using nail polish can weaken your nails over time, so start your new nail-strengthening routine with a month off the polish.

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Avoid Nail Polish Remover Containing Acetone

removal of nail polish with acetone and cotton

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Nail polish removers that contain acetone can dehydrate your nails and decrease nail strength after long-term use. Avoid acetone-based removers and instead choose an acetone-free version. While these aren't quite as effective, they're gentler and won't dry your nails out as much.

Unfortunately, there are no truly non-toxic nail polish removers, as they all need to use solvents to break down the polish. If you can, give your nails a break between applications of polish and apply plenty of hydrating oil or lotion before your next manicure or pedicure.

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Add Biotin to Your Diet

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Biotin, also known as vitamin H or B7, is essential for the metabolism of proteins. As a water-soluble vitamin, it's not stored in our bodies, and if your diet doesn't contain enough biotin, you may notice your nails becoming brittle. Biotin can help improve nail strength, thickness, and firmness.

Biotin can be found in legumes, sardines, and cooked eggs. You can also take biotin supplements, but be sure to ask your healthcare provider before adding any new supplements to your diet.

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Add Collagen to Your Diet

Bone Broth in a mason jar


Collagen is also linked to faster nail growth and less breakage. As we age, our bodies naturally produce less collagen, so it's important to increase our collagen intake. Some foods that are rich in collagen include:

  • Bone broth
  • Chicken, fish, and shellfish
  • Egg whites
  • Berries
  • Leafy greens
  • Cashews
  • Red and yellow vegetables
  • White tea

You can also buy collagen supplements, but speak to your healthcare provider before adding these to your daily regime.

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Eat for Strength

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As well as adding more foods that are rich in biotin and collagen, consider evaluating your nutrition as a whole. Making sure you're eating a range of vitamins and minerals gives your nails the best chance to grow strong from the inside out.

Nuts and seeds are an excellent source of many nutrients and can easily be added to many different dishes. Microgreens can be bought in health food stores or grown at home, and contain between 4 and 40 times the nutrient levels as full-grown leaves.

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Stay Hydrated

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One of the first things to do when aiming to strengthen your nails is to make sure you're drinking plenty of water.

The commonly accepted advice is to drink eight glasses of water per day, or around two quarts, but more general guidance says to drink when you're thirsty and add more liquids when it's hot or you've been exercising.

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Avoid Soaking Your Nails in Water

Hands in Water Doing Dishes

Jonathan Knowles

This advice might seem counterintuitive after we recommended staying hydrated to maintain nail strength, but soaking your nails in water can actually weaken them. In general, soaking in water for a long time reduces the water content in our bodies, including our nails.

When washing dishes, wear gloves when possible, and avoid leaving your hands in your bath water for extended periods of time. If you can't avoid soaking your nails, then be sure to moisturize them afterward with a rich hand lotion or oil.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • Do gel manicures or acrylics damage nails?

    The process of applying and removing gel manicures and acrylic nails includes harmful materials such as acetone, UV light, and chemical adhesives. Further damage is minimal as long as the nail treatment is applied correctly. Most harm occurs due to improper removal, so it is important to follow the guidance of your nail technician at this stage.

  • What vitamins are good for nails?

    Biotin (Vitamin B7) is most important for encouraging strong nails. The minerals magnesium and iron are also essential to nail health.

View Article Sources
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  2. Lipner, Sheri R., and Richard K. Scher. "Biotin for the Treatment of Nail Disease: What Is the Evidence?" Journal of Dermatological Treatment, vol. 29, no. 4, 2018, pp. 411-414., doi:10.1080/09546634.2017.1395799

  3. Hexsel, Doris, et al. "Oral Supplementation With Specific Bioactive Collagen Peptides Improves Nail Growth and Reduces Symptoms of Brittle Nails." Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, vol. 16, no. 4, 2017, pp. 520-526., doi:10.1111/jocd.12393

  4. Reilly, David M., and Jennifer Lozano. "Skin Collagen Through the Lifestages: Importance for Skin Health and Beauty." Plastic and Aesthetic Research, vol. 8, no. 2, 2021., doi:10.20517/2347-9264.2020.153

  5. Binder, Graham. "Mighty Microgreens." University of Maryland College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, 2012.

  6. Sakar, Pascal, et al. "Regional Brain Responses Associated With Drinking Water During Thirst and After Its Satiation." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 111, no. 14, 2014, pp. 5379-5384., doi:10.1073/pnas.1403382111