How to Keep Your Nails Looking Nice Without a Manicure

Life without lacquer

Maybe your nails are at a breaking point from getting back-to-back gels. Or maybe you’re strapped for cash and time. Whatever your reason, taking a break from manicures means less hassle, yes, but not less maintenance. Here are seven tips for keeping your digits primed and polished--figuratively, that is.

The Real Reason Your Nails Keep Splitting

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Eat more eggs
And chicken and fish and beef. Basically up your protein intake altogether to give brittle or weakened nails a strengthening boost.

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Make them brighter
Mix together a tablespoon of baking soda and a generous squeeze of lemon juice. Gently scrub the paste onto your nail beds with a toothbrush, let it sit for a few minutes and rinse to reveal whiter tips.

Keep them short and round
So they’re less likely to snag (which is often the case with squared-off shapes) or break (which happens when they’re longer). After clipping them to your desired length, file from either side of the nail toward the center--rather than sawing back and forth across the entire tip of the nail, which weakens them.

Use the right tools
Get thee a four-sided nail buffer, which has a different surface of varying grit on each side. All of the sides are marked in the order of how you should use them, so follow accordingly for a smooth, shiny finish. Note: You’ll probably be tempted to bust out your buffer daily (it makes your tips super glossy), but don’t use it more than once a week as too much buffing can thin out your nails.

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Limit water exposure
Water is usually a good thing--especially when it comes to staying hydrated. But water on your hands is actually very drying to the nails and cuticles. Limit exposure by wearing gloves during household chores like washing the dishes, and if you’re taking a bath, make sure to keep your hands out of the tub.

But soak them in oil often
Dip your fingertips into a small bowl of olive oil, making sure to cover the entire nail and cuticle area. Let them soak for ten minutes (now is the time to listen to a short podcast and massage the remaining oil in before sealing everything off with hand cream.

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And if you still miss polish
Try topping off your nails with a lightly tinted nail treatment instead. It will neutralize any discoloration and help disguise any bumps or ridges without the harsh chemicals that are in many polishes.

Jenny Jin Headshot Vertical 2023

Beauty Director

Jenny Jin is PureWow’s Beauty Director and is currently based in Los Angeles. Since beginning her journalism career at Real Simple magazine, she has become a human encyclopedia of...