You know the feeling: You’re growing out your nails, and they get to an almost perfect length, right before one splits. The horror! The drama! The tragedy! On the scale of world problems, breaking a nail isn’t exactly a 10, but it can still be frustrating. Your only option, however, isn’t to trim all 10 and start again. As proof, I asked manicurists how to fix a broken nail, so that your manicure can still look pulled together.
“It can be very easy to break a nail, since we use our hands for everything,” says Evelyn Lim, chief educator at Paintbox nail salon. “If nails are dry and brittle, they’re more prone to break, so using a cuticle oil can keep your nail bed hydrated and healthy.” Prevention is the best cure for broken nails, so slather on something like Deborah Lippmann Cuticle Oil ($20), which has jojoba and coconut oils plus vitamin E to keep nails hydrated and strong.
Another preventative measure to help with breakage? Choosing the right shape for your tips and always having a base coat covering them. “As a guideline, you should shape your nail to match the natural shape of the cuticle and base of the nail,” says Lim. “For length, the free edge should not exceed half of the nail bed.” And, since your fingernails are constantly exposed to water and hand soap, it helps to have at least a clear base polish on, says celebrity nail artist Pattie Yankee. “Keeping your nails polished can help to maintain their health and flexibility,” she says. But alas, if a nail breaks anyways, keep these tips on hand for how to mend it.
How to fix a broken nail
1. Mend with glue: According to Yankee, the best quick fix is to use a nail glue. “Lightly buff the surface of the nail and apply a coat or two of a fast-drying, thin viscosity glue like Nail Bliss Brush-on Glue ($7) to hold your nail together until you can get to a salon,” she says. Coat your nail with polish on top of the glue once it’s dried to help keep the crack in place.
2. Use an artificial nail: Another way to deal with breakage is to apply press-on nails to hold your mani over until the broken nail grows out. “I love Dashing Diva Magic Press ($8) as they’re easy on, easy off, and have a pre-adhesive backing that holds up to seven days,” says Yankee, noting that this will make your broken nail look like a professional-looking manicure in an instant. Or you could visit a nail salon to get a tip or an extension for a similar effect, says Lim, which will add length.
3. Tea bag method: Bet you’ve never heard of this one before: You can use a tea bag to fill in nail breakage. “Cut out a small piece of a tea bag and use a thin brush-on glue to secure it to the nail and repair the crack or break for a few days,” says Yankee. That said, she points out that it will require maintenance every few days by applying another coat of glue over the tea bag to make sure it stays strong and durable. “You could also apply nail color over this repair to improve the durability,” she says.
4. Powder fix: It’s helpful to have a fill powder on hand for nail break emergencies, says Yankee, who prefers IBD 5-Second Nail Filler Powder ($4). “Using a fill powder with a thicker viscosity glue is one of the most durable at-home fixes,” she says. Apply your thick nail glue (like Nail Bliss Wonder Bond, $11) over the break and sprinkle the filler powder over the glue, or place the powder in a small dish and dip your nail in to adhere it to the glue. Repeat this glue and powder application to create two or three layers depending on how bad the nail crack is. “When finished, I like to apply a bit of glue dry spray to set the glue and powder before lightly buffing with a fine grit buffing block,” she says.
5. File or cut down: The easiest way to fix a broken nail? Cut down the nail in question to even things out. “I consider this the easiest and most permanent fix,” says Yankee. “No matter how good the repair, a difficult and deep crack or break will always seem to sneak its way back through the repair.” If the break is in a convenient spot that can be cut down, trim the rest of your nails to match once you adjust the cracked one. Once you’re done, Yankee recommends applying a nourishing and protecting coat of polish to the top, like the OPI Nail Envy Nail Strengthener ($18) and you’re good to go.
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