Woman picking out of a selection of fake nails

The Ultimate Nail Care Guide

There’s nothing better than gazing down and seeing your freshly buffed nails, polished and looking their best. While the services of a nail tech can certainly help your nails look great, a lovely manicure starts with regular nail care. Keeping your nails healthy and groomed will always make a nail tech’s job easier. Or, if you prefer to keep things simple, with daily nail care, you won’t even need the services of a professional.

If you pride yourself on having healthy nails and enjoy trying out the latest nail art trends, a Nail Technology Course could be a brilliant option.

Read ahead for our ultimate nail care guide – your nails will thank you.

Article contents

  1. What are nails made of?
  2. Signs of unhealthy nails
  3. Keeping healthy nails
  4. Maintaining your nails
  5. How to fix a broken nail

What are nails made of?

Our nails are comprised of keratin layers, a protein similar to hair, that grows from our cuticle base. The nails you actually see are entirely ‘dead’ – they are dead cells that push up through your skin.[i] It would hurt to cut your nails if they weren’t! However, they do have a blood source that helps to feed them. Capillaries (tiny blood vessels) rest under the nail bed and help your nails grow.

Signs of unhealthy nails

Nails are a good indicator of other issues happening within your body, which is why you should pay attention to any noticeable changes. If you have any concerns about your nails, speak with your doctor. Some signs of unhealthy nails are:

  1. Changes in nail shape
  2. Pitting in the nails or horizontal ridges
  3. Pain, swelling or redness around nails
  4. Nails separating from the skin (nail bed)
  5. Brittle, crumbling nails
  6. White marks on nails
  7. Changes in nail colouring


What causes ridges in nails?

Vertical ridges, which can be an aesthetic issue, are harmless, often resulting from dehydration. However, if vertical ridges are accompanied by discolouration or texture changes, they can be a symptom of trachyonychia. If your nails are ridged and spoon-shaped, this can be a sign of anaemia (iron deficiency).[ii]

However, if you see horizontal grooves or ridges in your nails (Beau’s lines), you should seek immediate medical advice. Beau’s lines are caused by mumps, thyroid disease, diabetes, syphilis, or acute kidney disease.


What does nail discolouration mean?

Do you have any white, yellow, orange, or green discolouration in your nails? You might have a fungal infection, which is common for both finger and toenails. The most common nail fungus is Trichophyton rubrum, which infects the skin and gives your nails a green or yellow hue.[iii]

Black or red nail discolouration is usually a symptom of a haematoma, the result of an impact. Some people inherit “yellow nail syndrome,” which causes slowly results in slow-growing yellow nails and is associated with lung diseases. If you have any concerns about discoloured nails, speak with your GP.


What do marks on your nails mean?

Many people experience small white marks on their nails, and it’s a common myth that they are caused by Vitamin E deficiency.[iv] These spots, called punctate leukonychia, are actually caused by minor trauma during the growing and formation period. Thankfully, they will disappear as your nails grow. It usually takes around six months to replace your entire fingernail, so you can soon say farewell to the spots.


Keeping healthy nails

Healthy nails should be smooth (without pits or ridges), and uniform in colour. Signs that your nails are healthy include:

  1. A mauve or pink colour
  2. They don’t break easily
  3. You have cuticles
  4. No horizontal ridges

To keep your nails looking good, you need to look at your general health and wellbeing as well as physically maintaining them.

The best thing you can do for your nails is to eat a balanced, healthy diet rich in Omega 6 and 9 fatty acids and Vitamin A. Ensure that your diet includes plenty of fruits, lean protein, salmon and oily fish, leafy greens, beans and legumes, whole grains, eggs, and nuts.[v]

It’s also a great idea to take a supplement specifically designed for healthy nails and hair. These supplements usually include Biotin (a B Vitamin), Vitamin A, silica, and iron, giving your diet a little boost.[vi]


How to stop biting your nails

Are you someone who mindlessly gnaws on your nails when you’re concentrating? You can put an end to this bad habit, which encourages bacterial and fungal growth. The American Academy of Dermatologists Association suggests that you identify your triggers, apply bitter-tasting nail polish, pick up a new habit (such as squeezing a stress ball), and keep your nails clipped short.[vii]


How to get stronger nails

In addition to improving your diet, you should also regularly apply nail oil. By applying an oil to your cuticles, fingers, and nails, you will keep them supple and strong. There are plenty of nail and cuticle oils on the market, and you might appreciate the scents and bijou bottles. However, you don’t need to spend a dime – you can use the oils you already have in your kitchen. Olive oil is one of the best oils for nail health.[viii]


How to grow nails quickly

If you’re after long, strong, and healthy nails, heed the nutritional advice above, and make sure you take a nail supplement. You should also avoid working with your hands – it’s common to break a nail while doing garden work or intensive housework. Finally, make sure you regularly massage a cuticle oil into your cuticles and nails. This will keep your nails well-hydrated and supple, preventing them from snapping.


Maintaining your nails

Have a look down at your nails on a daily basis, and dedicate a few minutes per week to shaping, clipping, and moisturising. Every nail care kit should contain a few essentials, including:

  1. A nail file
  2. A nail buffer
  3. Nail scissors or clippers
  4. Nail polish remover
  5. Moisturising oil/cream
  6. Cuticle pusher

Maintaining your nails is easy when you know how.

  • How to shape your nails – When it comes to shaping your nails, you might be tempted to reach for the clippers first, but resist and grab a nail file and buffing block instead. With these tools, you can gently shape your nails into the specific contour you prefer. Follow this guide to file your nails into oval, almond, square, and round shapes.
  • How to cut your nails properly – We all know how to cut our nails, right? Wrong! You might be making common nail clipping mistakes. According to leading dermatologist Dr Sweta Rai, you should first soak your nails in warm water to soften them.[ix] Next, use a nail clipper to cut your fingernails on a curve (toenails should be cut straight across). Resist the urge to trim your cuticles too much, as they protect you from infection. After you are finished, apply oil to your cuticles and moisturise with hand cream.
  • How to remove nail polish – Removing nail polish is simple, with a whole host of products on the market designed for gentle removal. Gone are the days when harsh acetone was your only option! Simply saturate a cotton pad or cotton ball with acetone-free nail polish remover and swipe it across your nails, with care to get into the edges. Once you’ve removed the polish, massage olive oil or a commercial nail oil into your cuticles and nails.


How to fix a broken nail

Whether you have long acrylic extensions or your own natural claws, it can be upsetting when you break a nail. It’s not just a silly quip – breaking a nail can be painful and unsightly. There are a few ways to fix your broken nail temporarily until you can see your nail technician.

Teabag – It’s easy. Grab a tea bag and discard the tea inside. Rip off a small piece of the paper and place it over the tear. Next, apply some crazy glue or nail glue and allow it to dry. File down the lumpy glue and apply a topcoat. [x]

Glue – Grab your favourite nail glue, very gently buff the surface of your broken nail and apply a couple of coats of nail glue. When this is dry, paint on a thin coat of clear nail polish – top and base coat polishes will do the job.

Silk wrap – This method works for more serious cracks and breaks. Clean the area with nail polish removed and buff away any snags or excess polish to create a smooth surface. Use nail glue to fix the crack and coat with clear polish once dry. Whilst the polish is wet, smooth a piece of silk that is cut to size over the area. Finish up with another layer of gel polish.

Cut it off – If the crack is further towards the end of your nail, your best bet might be to trim it off and cut down the rest of your nails to the same length. This will prevent the breakage getting any worse.


Simple nail care will keep your nails healthy and strong

Not only will daily nail care keep your nails healthy, but just a few minutes of attention will also improve the way they look and feel. You might just find yourself delaying your next manicure while you admire your shining fingertips.


**Please note that research for this guide has been taken from the third-party external sources cited below. If you experience changes to your nails health you should always consult your doctor for advice**


Reference list

Conrad Stöppler, MD, M. (2018). Nail Discoloration: Symptoms, Signs, Causes & Treatment. [online] MedicineNet. Available at: https://www.medicinenet.com/nail_discoloration/symptoms.htm [Accessed 2 Feb. 2021].

Kaviliga, K. (2012). 7 Different Nail Shapes: How To Shape Your Nails Perfectly? [online] STYLECRAZE. Available at: https://www.stylecraze.com/articles/the-perfect-nail-shape/ [Accessed 2 Feb. 2021].

Norris, I. (2020). The Best Hair, Skin and Nails Vitamins Australia 2021 Guide. [online] Fabulous and Fun Life. Available at: https://www.fabulousandfunlife.com.au/best-hair-skin-nails-vitamins/ [Accessed 2 Feb. 2021].

Pawlowski, A. (2020). 7 fingernail symptoms you shouldn’t ignore. [online] TODAY.com. Available at: https://www.today.com/health/7-nail-symptoms-explained-signs-you-shouldn-t-ignore-t105511 [Accessed 2 Feb. 2021].

Price, D. (2020). 12 Cuticle Oils to Help Nails Grow Super Long, Fast. [online] Good Housekeeping. Available at: https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/beauty/nails/g32174058/best-cuticle-oils/ [Accessed 2 Feb. 2021].

Roland, J. (2017). Ridges in Fingernails: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments. [online] Healthline. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/ridges-in-fingernails#causes-and-symptoms [Accessed 2 Feb. 2021].

Saner, E. (2019). How to cut and look after your nails correctly. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/mar/24/how-to-cut-and-look-after-your-nails-correctly [Accessed 2 Feb. 2021].

Simmons, S. (2016). How To Fix A Broken Acrylic Nail At Home So You Can Keep Your Money For Your Next Mani. [online] Bustle. Available at: https://www.bustle.com/articles/170000-how-to-fix-a-broken-acrylic-nail-at-home-so-you-can-keep-your-money-for [Accessed 2 Feb. 2021].

The Mayo Clinic Staff (2019). Fingernail dos and don’ts. [online] Mayo Clinic. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/nails/art-20044954 [Accessed 2 Feb. 2021].

Tschinkel, A. (2018). 11 foods you should eat for stronger nails. [online] Insider. Available at: https://www.insider.com/foods-that-are-good-for-your-nails-2018-4#:~:text=Plenty%20of%20nutrients%20in%20food [Accessed 2 Feb. 2021].



[i] https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/nails/art-20044954

[ii] https://www.healthline.com/health/ridges-in-fingernails#causes-and-symptoms

[iii] https://www.medicinenet.com/nail_discoloration/symptoms.htm

[iv] https://www.today.com/health/7-nail-symptoms-explained-signs-you-shouldn-t-ignore-t105511

[v] https://www.insider.com/foods-that-are-good-for-your-nails-2018-4#:~:text=Plenty%20of%20nutrients%20in%20food,%2C%20nuts%2C%20and%20whole%20grains.

[vi] https://www.cosmopolitan.com/style-beauty/beauty/a25292638/best-vitamin-supplements-for-nails/

[vii] https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/nail-care-secrets/basics/stop-biting-nails

[viii] https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/beauty/nails/g32174058/best-cuticle-oils/

[ix] https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/mar/24/how-to-cut-and-look-after-your-nails-correctly

[x] https://www.bustle.com/articles/170000-how-to-fix-a-broken-acrylic-nail-at-home-so-you-can-keep-your-money-for


Karen Harrington started Beauty Courses Online in 2008 and has decades of experience in the beauty industry. Karen has owned multiple beauty salons, aswell as a conventional beauty school. Thousands of students have begun a career in the beauty industry from studying courses provided by Karen.