Nails may seem like a small detail, but when they look rough you can make a negative impression on peers, supervisors and others you encounter throughout the day. Well-groomed fingernails, on the other hand, demonstrate your attention to hygiene and a heightened level of professionalism. Glossy, polished nails can even make an outfit pop or tie your whole look together.
"We speak a lot with our hands," said Willow Jarosh, co-owner of C&J Nutrition and a contributing nutrition editor for "SELF" magazine. "Healthy nails are a reflection of inner health and paint a picture of who you are at initial meetings."
You can easily achieve nails that dazzle by maintaining a proper diet, applying inexpensive topical treatments and perfecting your polishing skills.
"Healthy nails are a reflection of inner health and paint a picture of who you are at initial meetings."
Willow Jarosh, co-owner of C&J Nutrition and a contributing nutrition editor for "SELF" magazine
Eating Your Way to Healthy Nails
In the same way you need vitamins and nutrients to ward off disease and fight signs of aging, you also need to do the same to maintain robust nails.
"Nails and hair are both comprised mainly of a hardened protein called keratin," Jarosh explained. "Therefore, the same foods that contain nutrients that yield healthy hair also help nails stay strong and healthy."
One vitamin you want to make sure you get every day is zinc, according to the Life Extension website. This nutrient is critical for nail growth and also repairs damaged tissue. You can find it in peanut butter, nuts, yogurt, wheat germ and garbanzo beans.
Get your daily requirement of iron to ensure that you have a high count of red blood cells and that they are carrying oxygen throughout your body -- including your nails. You can find the mineral in meats such as chicken, turkey, beef, pork and shrimp as well as tofu, lentils, asparagus and dark, leafy greens.
Also, make sure you're getting plenty of vitamin C by eating lots of citrus and green vegetables such as bell peppers, broccoli and kale.
"Vitamin C helps your body use veggie sources of iron better," Jarosh said. "It also helps our bodies make collagen, which is necessary to maintain structure and optimal growth of nail tissue."
If you're already getting all the nutrients you need, adding more than what your body requires won't do any good.
Topical Treatments for Gleaming Nails
In addition to eating your way to strong, lustrous nails, you should also apply topical treatments on and around them. Buy treatments at stores or create your own by raiding your pantry shelves.
When it comes to hands and nails, keep them well-moisturized. Moisturizers keep nails glossy and prevent breakage. They can even fend off dreaded hangnails. Moist hands also keep cuticles from fraying.
Always apply moisturizer after a shower and whenever you wash your hands. Keep a small bottle in your purse or car -- especially during dry, winter months -- and apply religiously. Alternatively, apply a drop of olive or jojoba oil on your nails and massage it into the nails and skin around them.
Vegan guru Melisser Elliott, author of "The Vegan Girl's Guide to Life," suggests crafting your own supercharged moisturizing treat to combat dryness.
"Take a tablespoon of coarse sugar and add it to a few tablespoons of olive oil to make a paste," Elliott said. "Rub this onto your hands and allow the oil to soak a bit. Then, rinse and dry for silky, smooth skin."
If you're not into DIY, buy moisturizer and other nail products in stores. If you suffer from dry cuticles, brittle nails or other nail-related ailments, purchase a problem-specific product to attack the issue. These are available in beauty stores, pharmacies, online and supermarkets.
Perfecting Your Polishing Skills
Now that you know how to grow resilient nails and keep them that way, it's time to become proficient in maintenance and polishing. Even if you're not a fan of nail polish, having one clear coat can add extra strength to your nails. This prevents breaks, tears, snags and hangnails. Before you even think of polishing, though, you'll want to create a nice canvas to work on.
First, trim your nails to a manageable length. A good rule of thumb is to aim for nails that peek slightly over the tip of your finger. Next, file nails so they're all a consistent shape. Go for a shape that's round, squared or somewhere in between. As for cuticles, Jarosh warns that you should never cut them. Instead, gently push them back with a cuticle tool.
Lastly, buffer nails to smooth the surface, add some shine and help nail polish go on smoothly.
Now, you're officially ready to polish.
"Start with a clear base coat followed by one coat of color," said Lauren Rose Lazaro-Gulino, makeup artist to celebrities like Taylor Swift, Kelly Ripa and Ivanka Trump. "One coat of color will dry quicker than two and makes for less smudges. Always start the brush as close to the cuticle without touching it. There is nothing worse than painting nails outside the natural lines."
Allow your polish to dry, and then finish with a clear top coat.
By eating the nutrients you need, keeping your hands and nails well-moisturized, and protecting your nails with a layer of polish, people will see that you have the best nails on the block.
Stop Nail Abuse Now
Nails are often the victim of harsh treatment that leaves them looking frayed and unsightly. Even if you've eaten all the right vitamins, applied all the right treatments and polished your nails perfectly, treating them badly can ruin all your efforts.
One such nail abomination is using them as tools. Instead, use a utensil to open your soda, a knife to open taped packages and a sponge to remove residue. Also, never stick your nails in your mouth. Chewed nails are a fashion crime.
Another nail no-no? Faux acrylics. Although they look nice in the short term, they require expensive upkeep, and the aftermath creates a nail crime scene. Before applying acrylics, manicurists must literally destroy your nail. It can take months -- and sometimes longer -- for your nails to recover.
If you do end up with a snag, break or nail polish chip, train yourself not to pick at it. If you don't trust yourself, wrap the nail in an adhesive bandage.