12 everyday things you're doing that can ruin your nails

A healthy set of nails can make you feel put together and glamorous, but there’s nothing like a bad nail day to really dampen those good vibes.

It turns out that some of your daily habits and style choices could be secretly wrecking your nails. From torn cuticles to brittle tips and everything in between, there’s a chance you’re unknowingly causing all sorts of damage to your digits.

Here are a few ways you might be ruining your nails without even realising.


You wash the dishes without using gloves.

A3pfamily/ShutterstockWashing detergent can dry out your nails and nail-bed.

Remembering to wear protection definitely applies to cleaning up around the house if you want to keep your nails looking great.

“Washing detergent can really dry out every single part of your hands and reduce the life of your nail polish,” celebrity manicurist Jin Soon Choi told TODAY.

Nails also swell up in water, which can lead to cracking and damaged nail beds. Resist the urge to tackle that pile of dishes until after you don a sturdy pair of gloves.


You use nail polish remover.

Sasa Prudkov/ShutterstockNail polish remover strips away natural oils.

If you change your polish like you change your clothes, chances are that you’re pretty familiar with the harsh smell and drying nature of acetone.

As Self explained, this solvent is really effective at breaking down the resins and colour pigments in polish. Unfortunately, it also can strip away the natural oils from your skin and nails. This might leave your nails looking and feeling brittle.

One way to keep indulging in your love for nail polish is to use a non-acetone remover. These typically contain gentle solvents such as ethyl acetate, isopropyl alcohol and propylene carbonate. These types of removers don’t work as quickly as acetone, but they’re less damaging to your nails.


You absentmindedly pick off your polish.

teacupsandbrine/iStockPicking off your nail polish also removes the important top layer of your nails.

OK, so if nail polish remover is actually damaging to our nails, surely manually chipping away at that polish is better?

Nope. It turns out that the top layer of a human nail is composed of cells called onychocytes. These little cells are stacked together like fish scales and help keep the nail strong.

As dermatologist Robyn Gmyrek explained to Cosmopolitan, picking off your nail polish also removes part of this upper layer of cells. This can cause your nail to become thin and cracked.


You use hairspray or perfume regularly.

Ollyy/ShutterstockHairspray, lemon juice and perfume break down nail polish.

If you’ve noticed that your nails look especially sad after you’ve doused your ‘do in hairspray, it’s not your imagination.

Bustle pointed out that products like hairspray, lemon juice, and perfumes can all break down nail polish and mess up your manicure. The alcohol in hairspray and perfume is also quite drying, which can make even natural nails more brittle.

Of course, if you’re pressed for time and just want to do away with some chipped polish, spraying a bit of hairspray on your fingers and rubbing it off with a cotton pad is a handy trick. Be sure to wash your hands afterward though to prevent the aforementioned drying effect.


You use your nails as tools.

Juta/ShutterstockUse the proper tools to make sure that your nails don’t get damaged.

We’re all guilty of using our nails to pry open a key ring, scrape off a price sticker, or puncture the plastic wrapping on a store-bought lunch. However, using your nails as tools puts them in danger of snapping or tearing.

The solution? Spend a few moments looking for an alternative to attacking a problem with your precious nails.

“I suggest taking the time to open cans, jars, boxes, etc., with scissors or a tool,” beauty expert Katie June Hughes told TODAY. “You will save your manicure if you do!”


You remove your cuticles.

NatalieMaro/ShutterstockCompletely removing your cuticles can leave your nails vulnerable for bacteria and fungus.

Even though your nail technician might swear that your manicure won’t be the same without clipped cuticles, removing that little ring of skin at the base of your nails is actually a pretty bad idea.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, removing the cuticle can damage a nail. That’s because the cuticle is a barrier that protects the nail against things like bacteria, fungus, and yeast. By clipping it away or dissolving it with chemical removers, you’re leaving the nail bed exposed.

Instead of removing your cuticle completely, try pushing them back gently with a washcloth after you’ve taken a hot shower.


You bite your nails.

Focus and Blur / ShutterstockBiting your nails can lead to ingrown nails and infected cuticles.

This one is probably obvious, but gnawing at your fingertips isn’t working wonders for your nails. Besides leading to a ragged-looking manicure, biting your nails could lead to irreversible damage.

According to Nails magazine, chomping on your nails can lead to ingrown nails and infected cuticles. One study even found that chronic nail biting can even lead to permanent shortening of the fingernails.

In fact, the Mayo Clinic warned that long-term nail biting can actually damage your teeth and increase the risk of colds and other infections by transferring germs from your hands to your mouth. Just a few more reasons to break the habit.


You keep your nails long.

@smartwater on InstagramLong nails might break and can get dirty.

Though you might enjoy sporting lengthy talons, keeping your nails long exposes them to more damage than trimming them short.

When your nails are long, they’re more likely to break and snap. That can leave you with a painful wound if the nail tears on the nail bed. Long nails are also prone to getting dirty and stained by everyday substances like ink or fruit juice.

Dermatologist Dana Stern also told Refinery29 that “the more surface area, the more subungual (meaning, under your nails) debris can get lodged under there. It’s definitely more sanitary to have shorter nails.”


You spend a lot of time at the beach or pool.

Netfalls Remy Musser/ShutterstockChemical sunscreens dull nail polish.

Kicking back by the water might be the ultimate in self-care, but it can have disastrous effects on your nails.

According to Allure, the ingredients in chemical sunscreens can dull nail polish. Even if you’re not wearing polish, the chlorine in pool water can dry out your skin, hair, and nails, making them all more susceptible to damage. The drying and scraping action of salty sand might also be contributing to dull and brittle nails.

In order to keep your hands and toes looking photo-ready by the water, keep your nails moisturized and pay special attention to your cuticles after coming home from the pool or beach.


You don’t pay attention to your diet.

Shutterstock/Jacek ChabraszewskiFoods with omega-3 fatty acids are essential for keeping your nails strong and healthy.

What you put in your mouth has an effect on your entire body and your nails are no exception. Besides the health implications, surviving on junk food and coffee isn’t doing your nails any favours.

Stern advised Refinery29 that diet is really key to keeping your nails strong and healthy. She recommended getting plenty of iron-rich protein and biotin from sources like cold-water fish, nuts, eggs, and avocado.

Munching on foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids like fish, spinach, broccoli, and flaxseed oil can also help give your nails a boost.


You leave your nail polish on for weeks.

mauro_grigollo/ShutterstockLeaving your nail polish on for too long can make your nails dry.

Life is busy and we all have places to be. Sometimes it doesn’t seem like there’s a spare minute in the day for fishing out a bottle of nail polish remover, but letting your manicure linger for too long can spell trouble for your nails.

“It’s going to dry out your nails,” Choi told TODAY. “When you remove nail polish that’s been left on too long, you’ll often see white spots, which means your nails are too dry.”

To keep your nails from drying out under all that colour, remove it all when it first starts to chip or after about a week. Pedicures should be removed after two to three weeks.


You wear ill-fitting shoes.

Chelsea Lauren/Getty ImagesWearing shoes that are too tight can create lines in your toenails or separate the nail from the nail-bed.

It’s true – wearing the wrong size shoe can really mess up your toenails. According to Podiatry Today, wearing tight or ill-fitting shoes can cause everything from lines across your toenails to separation of the nail from the nail bed. Scary.

In order to prevent these unpleasant conditions, make sure that your shoes don’t press too hard on your toenails or jam the tips of them back towards your foot.

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