Maintaining strong fingernails and toenails may not seem like a top priority to most people, but doing so is important to a person’s overall health. In addition to strengthening your nails and keeping them looking their best, proper care and maintenance can help minimize your risk of nail damage, such as nail weakness, brittle nails, fragile nails and nail splitting.1

In this WebMD article, three top dermatologists outline the following recommendations for maintaining strong, healthy nails:

6 Tips for Strengthening Your Nails

Leave your cuticles alone1

Dana Stern, MD – a dermatologist at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City – says her top recommendation is to avoid manipulating your cuticles in any way. Stern explains that the nail cuticle provides a natural barrier to keep bacteria and fungus out of the nail bed – once that barrier is breached, the cuticle’s protection is lost.

Read more: 5 Ways to Protect Your Cuticles

Keep the cuticle properly moisturized1

Moisturizing the cuticle can help reduce the chance of damage caused by lack of moisture.

Cut down on professional manicures (or give them up altogether)

Many dermatologists warn their patients of the hazards of getting manicures. A study completed by Dr. Stern showed that individuals who get regular manicures are more likely to suffer from dry, brittle nails. The opinion of some medical experts is that the harsh chemicals used by professional manicurists, as well as some nail salons’ insufficient tool sanitation practices, are key contributing factors to nail damage caused by professional manicures.

Read more: How to Repair Your Nails After a Gel Manicure

Don’t use rough emery boards1

Emery boards can be hard on nails, and may create small fissures and cracks that can develop into more serious nail splitting and breakage. Instead of an emery board, many dermatologists recommend using a smooth, fine nail file – filing slowly and evenly in one direction to minimize the risk of breakage.

Don’t wash your hands too often, and minimize contact with harsh chemicals.1

Regular hand washing is essential for overall health and hygiene, but washing your hands too frequently may actually be detrimental to the health of your nails. To help keep your nails from drying out, dermatologists recommend avoiding excessive hand washing, as well as applying moisturizer to your cuticles between washes.

In addition, many dermatologists recommend avoiding contact with harsh chemicals, such as household cleaners. To protect your skin and nails, it’s recommended that you wear rubber gloves when working with harsh chemicals.

Check the ingredients of your shampoo1

Believe it or not, your shampoo may be harming your nails. Dr. Stern says that detergent shampoos – marketed for people with oily hair / scalps – may also strip natural oils from your nails. If you feel like your nails are becoming dry or brittle, it may be time to switch shampoo.

Read more: 5 Simple Home Nail Care Tips



1 – WebMD (December 16, 2006). A Dozen Tips for More Beautiful Nails [Healthy Beauty: Nails]. Retrieved November 5, 2015 from