Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth nutrition, fitness and adventure courses, and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+..
Keeping your nails clean protects them from bacteria and fungi. It’s also important to keep nails neatly filed—always in one direction—to prevent splitting. Keep nails and cuticles from drying and tearing by massaging them with a moisturizer or oil every day.
If you prefer colorful nails, beware conventional polishes made with harmful chemicals that can damage nails. Fortunately, there are natural nail hardeners, polishes, and finishes that are free of these toxins.
A balanced diet is key to healthy nails. Dull, dry, weak nails could mean a nutrient deficiency. Peeling nails can mean a diet lacking B vitamins or vitamin D. A diet low in zinc and/or biotin can cause nails to become thin, brittle, and easily broken. Vertical ridges from the cuticle to the tip of the nail may be totally normal, not a sign of health problems, but of age.
Your nails are made of keratin, the same protein as your hair. The nail plates are composed of dead cells, but the nail beds and cuticles are living cells that require oxygen, peptides, lipids, vitamins, and minerals. You may consider boosting nutrition to your nails with supplements that contain biotin, collagen, keratin, antioxidants, and hyaluronic acid.
Did You Know?
Most nails grow at the rate of 0.1 mm daily, so it takes 4–6 months for a broken fingernail to regrow completely, while toenails take 12–18 months.
1. Fortify and protect nail beds and cuticles
With Earth Therapeutics Nail + Cuticle Care Nutrient Conditioner. Organic sesame oil moisturizes; tea tree oil protects against nail infection; and vitamins D and E, proteins, and calcium nourish nails and cuticles. This cream easily penetrates as it dries, is ideal for treating toenails, and can be applied over nail polish.
2. Polish your nails
With toxin-free Zoya Nail Polish. You won’t find any of the toxins used in conventional nail polish formulas in this nail lacquer. Plus, its rich, resilient pigments are long-lasting in addition to being safe. Created by a classical pianist turned cosmetologist and her chemist husband, Zoya was the first nail polish formulated without toxic ingredients.
3. Repair and condition cuticles and nails
With Derma E 14,000 IU Vitamin E Skin Oil. This fragrance-free, hypoallergenic oil deeply penetrates to soften and rehydrate rough cuticles. Vitamin E helps protect the skin’s fatty acids and fight free radicals. Safflower oil—rich in linoleic and linolenic fatty acids—moisturizes and nourishes dry nails and cuticles.
4. Smooth cuticles and strengthen nails
With Aura Cacia Nurture Essential Oil Blend. This combination of tea tree, coriander, palmarosa, and lavender essential oils kills bacteria and fungi while moisturizing cuticles and nails. Combine with Aura Cacia’s Avocado, Jojoba, or Sweet Almond Oils for DIY nail soaks, salves, and nail and cuticle oils.
5. Strengthen brittle and weak nails
With No Miss New Nails Hardener. Dill seeds strengthen nails, carrageenan from marine plants protects and moisturizes, coffee Arabica seeds and ginseng root stimulate growth, Rosa canina extract protects nails from stress, horsetail contains silica that hardens nails and promotes growth, and cucumber prevents splitting.