At one point in time, my nails were so weak, that as soon as it started growing over the free edge, they would break, I hated that because each finger would have a different length and that looked weird. I am a licensed nail tech so whenever I would tell someone I do nails,they automatically look down to my nails, so keeping them in good shape is important to me. (I will not go to a hair dresser with jacked up hair, so no one should go to a nail tech with jacked up nails!)Many people have weak/damaged nails and struggle to get them stronger. Most people, including myself, rather have healthy natural nails. So on that note, my first tip will be about nail hardeners, this topic is very long but I will try and keep it as short and informative as I can.
1)Use nail hardeners in moderation. Hardeners provide a protecting coating over the nail and penetrats the protein in the nail plate with the chemicals to create a harder nail plate. Formaldehyde is the most important ingredient in nail hardeners, that is what makes the nails tougher. However, excessive use of hardeners causes nails to become dry and brittle. It should only be applied to the damaged area of the nail. As normal nails grow out, they usually grow out perfectly healthy, so applying hardeners to that perfectly normal growth area, damages it since its penetrating into a normal healthy part of the nail which needs no hardener. So be careful with nail polish that contain nail hardeners.
2) Use cuticle oil in moderation. It is a deep moisturizer for not only cuticles but also the surrounding skin and nails. It is absorbed quickly into the nail/skin for emergency moisturizing as it is very potent. If using excessively, the skin and nails will adapt to having cuticle oils applied to them, and if you slow down usage, the skin/ nail will be more prone to drying and cracking, since it would have gotten dependent on it. I recommend using normal hand and nail moisturizing creams during the day time (several times if needed) but use cuticle oil daily before bedtime (since it moisturizes while asleep) and prior to polish removal since acetone drys up skin, nails and cuticles.
3) Buff nails once a month to remove ridges. Buffing your nails more than a month thins out the nail plate. When buffing, layers are actually being filed off to even out ridges. As stated before, once nails grow out from under the skin, it is dead tissue, so it will not be able to build back the layers which was buffed off.
4) Always use a base coat. Many nail polishes can stain nails due to its high pigmented formula, a base coat provides a shield of protection to the nail to prevent such staining from occurring. Base coats also provides a smoother, more receptive surface for polish to adhere to, helping polish last longer. I like China Glaze Strong adhesion base coat.
5) Beware of moisturizers that contain alcohol. Many hand and nail creams and moisturizers do contain alcohol. Alcohol dries nails and skin. Nails should never be dry or brittle.
6) Push back cuticles once a week. Once the surrounding skin is wet, it usually becomes softer and can be gently pushed back with a pusher or a wet rag in the shower. Some people have more abundant cuticle growth, if not pushed back and removed, it will grow unto the nail plate creating an un-even surface.
7) Use body scrubs to exfoliate and condition hands. Store bought scrubs are awesome, but an awesome home remedy is using 1 tbsp warm olive oil mixed with 2 tbsp sugar. It forms a paste and can be scrubbed into hands or feet for about 2 minutes then rinse off with warm water. Skin would feel oily at first but it soon absorbs into the skin. Massage with lotion after and you will be left with silky smooth skin which compliments well polished nails.
8) My last tip for today is to eat healthy. Eating healthy not only benefits your nails but your whole body in general.If you notice that your nails are brittle, or have developed vertical ridges, your body may be lacking iron intake. Other nail problems are sometimes a sign of protein deficiency, so if you have cracking or breaking, you could be lacking adequate protein sources. Combining both iron and protein in your meals is a great tactic to help grow stronger, healthier nails.