13 Tips for Caring for Your Nails During the Winter Months

Health Writer

The cold weather is coming. You know you need to change your skin care regimen to help protect it from the cold and wind. But, did you know that your nails need special care during the winter as well? Besides the normal culprits: washing dishes, taking hot showers, using alcohol based sanitizers and nail polish removers, the cold, the wind and indoor heating can all dry out your nails, causing them to break, chip and peel.

Your nails need moisture to stay strong. When applying moisturizer after your shower, make sure to include your nails and cuticles. If you are wearing nail polish, rub the moisturizer on your cuticles and on your fingertips behind your nails. As you apply moisturizer after you wash your hands, don't forget to moisturize your nails as well. Look for moisturizers with urea, phospholipids or lactic acid.

Keep moisturizer in different areas. Keep one by your kitchen sink, one by your bathroom sink, one in your bedroom, one at work and one in your purse. No matter where you are, you will be able to apply moisturizer.

Use non-scented moisturizers. These can actually dry your skin and nails. Instead use a fragrance free moisturizer.

Once a week, soak your nails in warm water (not hot) for at the most 10 minutes. Then apply cuticle oil, vaseline or olive oil on your nails and cuticles. Put on a pair of cotton gloves for about an hour (or do this treatment right before bed and wear the cotton gloves to bed) to give your nails time to soak up the oil. If you prefer, put a generous amount of the oil on your nails before getting into the shower and then gently massage it in while you are showering.

Use lip balm when outside to help protect your cuticles. Dry cuticles can peel and split. To help avoid this, apply lip balm around your cuticles to help protect them.

Wear gloves when outdoors. The dry cold air and wind can take the moisture out of your nails. To help prevent this, always wear gloves when outdoors.

Look for a nail polish remover that doesn't dry your nails. Check to make sure your nail polish remover doesn't contain acetone and limit your use to once a week at the most.

Be nice to your nails. Don't bite or peel your nails. Don't use them as tools. Don't pick at your cuticles. All of these damage your nails.

Stay hydrated. You hear this during the warm summer months but it is just as important during the winter months. Your body hydrates itself from the inside. Make sure you are drinking at least eight glasses of water each day.

Allow your nails to breathe. If you consistently wear nail polish, the chemicals in the polish could be weakening your nails. Take a break every few weeks to give your nails a chance to breathe.

Consider short nails. While you might like the look of longer nails, this increases the chance of your nails breaking. Keeping your nails shorter and slightly rounded will look just as good.

Always file your nails in one direction. Filing from both direction can cause your nails to break and chip. Use an emery board and always go in the same direction. Avoid filing your nails after washing your hands or taking a shower as wet nails can break easier.

Wear gloves for household chores. Soaps, detergents and household chemicals can all dry and damage your nails. Use rubber gloves when washing dishes, the floors or doing other household cleaning.

Your diet can also affect the health of your nails. Make sure you are getting enough protein (meat, lentils, beans, eggs) and Vitamin B - biotin (egg yolks, salmon, avocado, pork). These types of foods help strengthen nails.

While the winter weather can be tough on your skin and nails, with some simple preventive measures you can keep your nails strong and healthy throughout the cold season.