How to get healthy, strong and long nails from home

How to get healthy, strong and long nails from home

This blog post is a two-part post that’s completely focused on caring for your nails.  Now is a great time to focus on nail health, whether that be getting your nails strong or long (or both!).  The first part will focus on the single most damaging thing that many of us do to our nails – improper removal of gel polish (read: peeling off your gel polish) while the second part will provide additional products and general, easy things you can do to promote in-home nail health.


part #1: removing gel polish


Gel polish (commonly referred to as shellac) is great in that it lasts substantially longer than regular polish and it dries instantaneously.  However, we all know too well the struggle of grown out gel polish and the temptation to peel that accompanies it.  Peeling gel polish off of your nails is one of the most damaging things you can do.  It makes them thin, brittle, and much more prone to breakage as it quite literally removes layers of nail.  It’s also completely senseless because it is absolutely possible to remove gel polish at home with simple tools and supplies you likely have lying around your house (if not, all are available at drug and grocery stores on your next run there).


The tools


You’ll need a few things to safely remove your gel polish at home, all of which are pictured below.  First, you’ll need a nail file, 5 cotton balls ripped into two, ten squares of tin foil (about 4 square inches in size), and an acetone-based nail polish remover (most are acetone-based).  Second, you’ll need a cuticle pusher (or an orange stick) and a nail buffer (or you can also just use the nail file if you don’t have one of these).


The process to remove gel nail polish, starting with a nail file, acetone soak and a nail buffer


The steps


The first step is to gently remove the top, clear coat of gel with a nail file.  You’re not trying to file off your gel at this point! It’s all about getting that first layer off so that the acetone can really get to work.  If you’ve ever tried to remove your gel polish from home with no success, it’s likely because you skipped this step. You can see by looking at the index finger in the first photo below what you’re looking to achieve at this step. 


The next step is to thoroughly wet the torn piece of cotton with nail polish remover and place it on top of your nail.  You’ll then wrap it in tin foil to keep it in place.  See photos two and three below.  Now, it becomes a waiting game.  How long it takes for the acetone to do its work depends on the brand of gel on your nails as well as the number of coats.  Typically, the total time required is about 5-10 minutes.  You’ll want to check on your nails periodically until they look like the index finger in photo four below – the polish will clearly begin to look flakey.


Pro tip: It can be very difficult to do both hands at once because as soon as you have one hand complete and covered in tin foil, you lose the dexterity to do your second hand.  We usually do one hand at a time to make things simple.


Next, you will use your cuticle pusher (or orange stick) to gentle push the polish off moving from the nail bed to tip (see photo five below).  If it’s not coming off, don’t force it! Reapply the wet cotton ball and let the nail soak for longer.  You should not require any force at all outside of gentle pressure to get the polish off, it should literally flake! Sometimes the tip can be stubborn, so you may need to let it soak longer or utilize your nail buffer/file.


Removing gel nail polish by soaking a cotton ball with acetone on nail in a tin foil wrao


The final step is to buff the nail. You’ll notice it’s rough prior to doing this, so this step is mandatory.  As mentioned, a nail buffer does this best, but you can also use your nail file.  File gently until the nail becomes smooth again.  Wash your hands, moisturize, and you’re done!



part #2: caring for your nails


Getting your nails to optimal health takes time, but it doesn’t involve a lot of work. Below are the top three things you can do for your nails right at home to promote growth and strength.


Regular maintenance: You should give your nails time in between polish applications even if you’re opting for a regular polish.  But, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing for you to do on a break! Quick self-manicures are required to ensure you’re removing any jagged nails or cuticles that you may be tempted to pick or bite at.  We suggest using a soft file to regularly shape your nails and a buffer to buff their surface.  Removing excess cuticle is also recommended.  You can do this gently by using an orange stick as well as natural alternatives to dissolve the cuticle such as apple cider vinegar, which you can pick up at the grocery store. Simply soak the nails in water in advance, apply your dissolvent for about 15 minutes, and gently push away with the orange stick.  You may also want to consider a daily cuticle oil such as CND’s SolarOil or good, old-fashioned coconut oil, both of which are available at most drug and grocery stores or on Amazon via the links provided.


Pro tip: If you’re using regular polish, opt for an acetone-free nail polish remover.  Acetone, while necessary for removing gel polish, is quite drying to the nail, so avoid it if you can!


Strengtheners: Most of the techs we’ve spoken to recommend using a keratin-based strengthener.  Keratin is naturally found in nails and will help fortify your nails, making them less likely to chip.  Our pick is CND’s RescueRXx, which is a daily formulation that’s usually available at drug and grocery stores but definitely on Amazon via the link provided.


Diet: Just as it is for promoting skin health, diet is important for achieving healthy nails.  Folic acid (vitamin B9) is the first dietary component involved in maintaining nail health and if you’re lacking in this department you’re likely to have bumpy or ridged nails.  Opt for foods like beans and whole grains, which are high in folic acid.  Biotin is also important and foods such as almonds, sweet potato, and spinach are rich in it.  Folic acid and biotin are both available as supplements, but we’re fans of eating a healthy diet to begin with rather than supplementing.


There you have it! That concludes the complete guide to caring for your nails at home with little-to-no tools or effort required, just a bit of time and commitment to getting your nails in top shape!


Questions? Flip them over to!


Photo courtesy of Byrdie Beauty.

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