Whether your nails are flakey, brittle or weak, we've got the remedy

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Since lockdown began we've been in involuntary nail rehab - no gels, no infills, nada. If you're like me, you'll have removed your own gels  right at the start, with varying degrees of success. Or maybe you've just let your mani grow out, like Katy Perry who shared a snap of her very grown out polka dot mani.

Since lockdown began there's been a surge in sales for nail maintenance products, reports Superdrug; nail care and implements have seen an 11 per cent rise in sales while nail essentials such as gel nail removal wraps, nail files and strengthening treatments have all seen an uplift.

If you removed your own gels you might have noticed your nails aren't in the best shape, but don't blame the gel itself. "It's actually the removal of gel rather than wearing gel polish that causes damage to the nails," explains Lynn Grey of nail care brand Mavala . "The natural nail is made up of three visible layers of skeletal cells that are glued together with oil and moisture within the nail plate. When you use acetone to remove gels and acrylics the nail can become very dehydrated weakening them and causing them to flake.

"During removal you may even have had layers of the nail plate come away leaving pits in the surface, thus making them weak and vulnerable to breakage," Lynn continues.

If you picked or peeled of your gel mani (we know it's tempting) you're likely to see flakey, sad nails below, but again this isn't the fault of your mani but of your removing method. "Gel polish is bonded into the top layers of your nail, when you pick or peel off the product you'll be taking some of those layers which then results in nail plate thinning and damage," warns celebrity and session manicurist Michelle Humphries .

After a not-so professional home removal of gels and acrylics it's as good a time as any to give your nails some TLC - and maybe rediscover some long forgotten favourite polishes.

How to feed your nails

The first step in restoring your nails to their former glory is using a cuticle oil. Adding yet another step to your beauty regime might seem arduous but cuticle oil is key to nail health ; they moisturise both the nail and the cuticle and applying it can also increase the circulation around your nails which stimulates nail growth - key if you want to get your nails back in top condition. We put some of the best cuticle oils to the test  to see which made a difference.

How to repair nails

It takes nails three to five months to fully grow out, but while you're waiting for fresh flawless talons to grow there's plenty you can do to help them along the way.

"Post gel polish, your nails need some TLC; they need to be hydrated, strengthened and protected while they repair themselves," says Lynn. "I recommend applying a nail serum once or twice a week to remoisturise the layers and help bond them back together. Hand creams and moisturisers are good but won't work in the same way to rehydrate the nail."

A thin layer of nail serum can be applied to polished or unpolished nails, just make sure to cover the whole nail and cuticle area; we love Margaret Dabbs' Nourishing Nail and Cuticle Serum , £12.  It’s infused with emu and tea tree oils to help maintain strong, conditioned and shiny nails - it softens cuticles while the antibacterial ingredients help protect against irritation, hang nails and breakages

How to strengthen the nail plate

Removal of gel polish leaves the nail plate damaged; restore strength with a penetrating nail hardener which will give instant strength to the nail plate and free edge (the white bit of your nail at the top that isn't attached to the nail bed).

"Protect your nails at all times with a fortifying clear treatment or nail strengthener with added nylon fibres that will shield and give extra physical protection while the nail repairs itself," says Lynn.

Sally Hansen's Hard as Nails Strengthener  has seen an 11 per cent increase in sales year on year since the start of lockdown, so seems a good place to start.

How to fix a split nail

If you have cracked or split your nail and you don't want to chop them down, nail industry pro Leighton Denny  has a trick that can help the split grow out.

"Gently buff over the crack/split then apply a small amount of nail adhesive over the area. Place a little bit of tissue/or tea bag mesh over the crack and let the nail glue set. Once dry, gently buff and apply another coat of nail adhesive over the repair and let dry. Then gently buff again and apply base coat and colour to hide the repair. It should hold the crack until it grows out!”

The best nail strengtheners

Best nail strengtheners for flaking weak nails

Mavala Scientifique K, £16.50

This little blue bottle strengthens and hardens the nail bed by bonding together the layers of the nail, creating smooth and strong nails that don't split easily.

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Nails Inc Back to Life, £15

Not only do the five reviving oils in this two-in-one base coat and recovery treatment deliver relief to damaged nails, the hint of colour gives them a natural glow making them appear healthy why you nurse them back to perfection.

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OPI Nail Envy Nail Strengthener, £18.65

This formula is rich in calcium and hydrolysed protein to stop the nail splitting, while helping to speed up the natural growth process.

Those with sensitive skin know that some nail polishes irritate them and OPI have kept this in mind with the sensitive edition of their iconic Nail Envy . Formulated without formaldehyde which can irritate sensitive skin, the sensitive version is rich in vitamin E and kukai nut oil and aloe vera to soothe the skin and encourage nail growth.

Buy it now

MORE GLOSS: Nail polish for sensitive skin

Best nail strengthener for brittle nails

Flexitol Nail Revitaliser Gel, £8.99

Condition and treat discoloured and thickened nails that have become brittle with this triple action formula. It contains brightener to remove discolouration, urea to soften thickened nails and keratin to condition and restore nail quality.

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Mava-Flex, £16.95

Made from urea, hyaluronic acid, calcium, lemon essential oil and vitamin B5, this creates moisture in the nails to restore and maintain flexibility to the nail plate. It also reinforces the structure of the nails.

Buy it now

Best for nails with ridges

Sally Hansen Hard as Nails Strengthener, £5.99

This best-seller strengthens the nails while filling in ridges thanks to a nylon formula that fortifies fragile nails and prevents peeling. Omega 3 and soy work hard to diminish the look of ridges.

Superdrug 3in1 Base Coat, Ridge filler & Growth Enhancer, £2.99

If your nails are very ridged it can be difficult to apply polish smoothly; a few coats of this before your polish of choice will sort you right out.

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Best nail strengthener for weak and bendy nails

Mava-Strong, £16.80

Tea tree essential oil, vitamin E, hydrolysed keratin and arginine club together to strengthen bendy nails by reinforcing the structure, making them more resistant and thicker,

Buy it now

MORE GLOSS: We put cuticle oils to the test so you don't have to