Nail Care Secrets for the Winter Months

winter hand and nail care routine for healthy nails

Do you have dry, cracked, splitting brittle fingernails during the winter months?

Have you tried several methods to fix your dry nails with little success?

It's not just your skin that dries out during the winter months; your nails do too! Nails are part of the integumentary system (skin) of your body and they develop from the outer layer of your skin called the epidermis. The exact same cells that form the outer layer of your skin also form your nails. These cells harden more in your nails, but structurally they share many common features and needs.

Natural oils hold together the different layers of your nails, so cold and dry winter months and lots of hand washing with harsh soaps will dry out this natural "glue." It's very similar to the dry skin you experience during the winter months.

winter hand and nail care routine

Your nails need to be enriched with supplemental oils and cared for like any other part of your skin to stay strong and healthy, especially in winter! - Dermatologist Dr. Bailey

In winter, I am often asked by patients how to keep nails, the skin by the fingernails and the hand skin healthy.

I have a simple hand and nail care routine that is particularly important in winter.

Nail and Hand Care Routine for Winter

The same concept to fix dry skin can be used for dry nails, but different products are recommended because of the unique structural properties of your nails. You also need to keep up the good work longer because it takes six months to grow a new nail from cuticle to end. As your nails improve, you will see the changes slowly. 

The best products for a nail and hand care routine to prevent brittle fingernails and keep the skin around your nails healthy in winter include:

healthy winter hand and nail care routine

My Dry Skin Hand Repair Kit that includes Bag Balm nail ointment, the best non-greasy hand cream, a non-drying and easy rinse hand soap, cotton gloves for a deep night hand and nail treatment, and a small file to control fingertip fissures. Each of these items is also available individually on my site.

brittle fingernails in winter

Omega Enriched Booster Oil - this great botanical oil is not just for the face. I apply it directly to my nails after my evening bath and add a few drops to my Dry Skin Hand Lotion to treat my hands. Sometimes I apply it directly to my entire hand skin, layer my Dry Skin Hand Cream on top then put on cotton gloves for a deeply healing night treatment that my hands love. 

how to keep skin healthy by fingernails

My Natural Face and Body Butter Cream enriched with shea butter, avocado oil, jojoba and other botanical oils blended with aloe vera is a wonderful cream for head to toe for winter skin care including hands and nails. 

Doctor's 4 Steps for Winter Hand and Nail Care

Step 1: Moisturize Your Nails with Oil

Apply creams, oils, or ointments to damp nails, especially after washing your hands. (Lotions contain more water and are not rich enough for winter nail and skin care.) Ingredients should include natural oils such as jojoba oil, avocado oil, shea butter, etc. These will aid in locking in moisture to help preserve the cuticle seal and strengthen the nail itself. For splitting and severely brittle nails, use a thick lanolin containing ointment such as Bag Balm applied at night under gloves.

Another option to keep nails and the skin around your fingernails healthy is to use the Omega Enriched Oil directly or by adding a few drops to the Dry Skin Hand Cream or Natural Face and Body Butter Cream at bedtime.  

Fun FAQ about Bag Balm:  it is a product originally used by dairy farmers on their cows' udders. They noticed that their hard-working hand skin healed when they applied Bag Balm to their cows and an iconic American home remedy was born!

Step 2: Use Non-drying Soap and Moisturize Your Hands Often

best winter nail and hand care routine

During the day, use a lighter weight and non-greasy moisturizer such as my Dry Skin Hand Cream. Apply it all over your hands and your nails after washing as often as possible. Keep a tube at your sink or in your purse. This product contains an advanced formula that both hydrates and protects skin from chapping without being greasy.

At night, apply a richer oil to hands under gloves when they are showing early signs of dryness. Again, the Omega Enriched Booster Oil applied directly or a few drops added to your hand cream will do the trick.

Remember, harsh soap pulls out precious oils in nails that protect nail structure. Use only easy-rinse hand soap and rinse all soap residue off. I depend on my fragrance-free Naturally Best Bar Soap for all skin types and keep a bar at every sink.

Step 3: Clip and File Nails While Wet

Clipping dry nails can split and fracture the layered protein structure of brittle nails. To soften that structure and make it pliable, wet your nails before performing any nail modification methods. Filing or buffing wet nails can reduce further nail splitting by removing any rough edges that may catch on things. Always file nails from the sides to the mid-point to prevent splitting.

Step 4: Wear Gloves for Rough Work or When Using Harsh Chemicals

This will protect hand skin and nails from any drying chemicals or physical labor that may compromise the protein and lipid structure.

Additional Nail Care Secrets for Winter Nails

  • top foods to keep nails healthy
    Diet: A diet rich in whole foods helps keep nails and skin healthy. Eat a rainbow of fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, natural oils, and fish. 
  • Vitamin supplements that target nail growth, specifically those that contain biotin may help. A healthy diet that includes these ingredients will achieve the same results, as well as improve your overall health.

Nail Care Practices to Avoid

1. Cutting Your Cuticles

Resist the urge to cut back your cuticles! Instead, push them back. There are even small cuticle file stones that can gently remove the excess cuticle pushed back. 

Why is it bad to cut your cuticles?

The function of cuticles is to be a seal between your nail and your skin to maintain your natural skin barrier. The act of cutting your cuticles compromises this seal and increases your risk for infections; breaking the seal opens a pocket under the cuticle where germs can enter, grow, and thrive. Many of these infections can become severe enough to require surgical intervention. Simply: Don't Cut Your Cuticles!

2. Nail Hardening Products

The alcohols, formaldehyde, and other chemicals found in nail hardening products are counterproductive to their main goals. These very chemicals may initially harden your nails, but over time they will dry out your nail oils and change your nail proteins, causing your nails to become brittle or split.

Also, choose nail polish removers that are alcohol free for this very reason. Today most modern nail polish products are made without the old and damaging chemical ingredients. Throw out your old polish and buy new polish to be safe. 

3. Washing Your Hands with Harsh Soaps

It may seem like a running theme, but the same cause of dry nails comes in a variety of forms, including harsh soaps. Harsh soaps strip the structural oils in both your hand skin and your nails. Most people forget to moisturize their nails when moisturizing their hands. 

The Bottom Line for Nail Care for the Winter Months

  1. Arm yourself with proper moisturizing methods and products.
  2. Avoid harsh chemicals or other practices that dry out your nails.

Your brittle nails can stay healthy and strong through the winter with the right winter nail and hand care routine. - Dr. B

Learn more about my healthy winter hand and nail care routineDry Skin Hand Repair Kit

I created this kit as a healthy hand and nail care routine to prevent and treat brittle nails in winter and all year. It is a dermatologist's routine for healthy nail care. My Omega Enriched Oil and Natural Face and Body Butter Cream give you even more options for your hand and nail care in winter.