Perfectly manicured nails. Who doesn’t love the look of the perfect length, shape and color you can get by going to the nail salon every two weeks and “getting your nails done” with acrylics, a gel or powders? But what happens when you try to go back to your natural nails? All of these methods damage your nails in some way, leaving them dry, brittle, thin and splitting. That’s why so many women go back to the artificial nails. It seems like if you don’t, you’ll never have “nice” nails again. But there is hope and I have found a way. Here’s how to restore damaged nails after gel, acrylic or powder manicures.
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Why I Wanted to Restore My Nails After Gel Manicures
I love the perfectly shaped nails that didn’t chip, cuticles with no hangnails and long lasting color that I got from my artificial nails. Over the last 15 years, I’ve tried them all – acrylics, gel and powder.
At first, getting my nails done every two weeks was a luxury. When I started these regular appointments in my 40’s, I had just been promoted to a management position at the nonprofit where I was working. I was making a little money. My boss got her nails done. After years as a stay at home mom with no extra money in the budget for such a luxury, I was ready to treat myself. And for a while, it was great. Until it wasn’t.
At some point, I got tired of sitting in the manicurist’s chair for an hour every two weeks. And I had other things I wanted to spend my money on. So I decided to go back to my natural nails. Except they weren’t the nails that I used to have. They were thin, dry, splitting and brittle. And after a few weeks of looking like that, I just couldn’t stand it anymore, so headed back to the salon to get the artificial ones again. I continued this cycle for 15 years.
A few months ago, I decided once again to try and go “natural”, but before doing so, I asked ladies in my Facebook group who had done this HOW they achieved healthy natural nails again. They encouraged me that it could be done. I also did some research online and came up with this plan that restored my nails to their strong and healthy original state in 8 weeks.
What I Did to Restore My Nails After Gel Manicures
I had the gels removed at the salon, had my nails trimmed short and got a regular manicure. Here’s how my nails looked on that day. You can see they are thin, ridged and uneven.
My restore my nails regimen started with applying one coat of nail strengthener daily. I did this for seven days. On the seventh day I removed the nail strengthener and started again.
After the nail strengthener dried, I applied cuticle oil to my nails and skin around them twice a day. I followed this with a heavy duty hand cream. Why use both an oil and a cream? The oil absorbs into the nail bed better and the cream creates a barrier so that the moisture doesn’t escape.
I left my cuticles alone. I didn’t trim or pick at them because the cuticles are there to protect the new nail growth that is occurring underneath.
If I needed to file my nails for any reason I used a glass nail file. Why? Because a glass nail file smooths and seals the freshly filed edges, reduces the nails susceptibility to splits and breakages. It does this by sealing the keratin layers at the edge of the nail together, preventing peeling and chipping. A glass nail file is inexpensive and the best investment you can make in restoring your fragile nails.
Other reasons to invest in a glass nail file?
- They do not dull over time.
- They are more efficient than emery boards of steel nail files because they file and smooth the nails in one quick motion.
- They can be washed in hot, soapy water and even sterilized making them more hygenic.
- Glass nail files will not wear down, corrode or rot.
I went for a manicure every 3 weeks. At that time, I did allow my manicurist to trim my cuticles, but only then. I also had her apply nail strengthen rather than traditional nail polish.
I took a Biotin supplement every day.
Here is how my nails looked at my first manicure, four weeks after removing my gels. Still weak, but looking better.
I followed my regimen RELIGIOULSY and after 8 weeks, here is what my nails look like.
I am so pleased with the results! I’m sure I’ll be sporting my natural nails from now on! Yes, you CAN have healthy, natural nails after gel, acrylic or powder manicures!
Do you have your natural nails or do you “get them done”? Have you ever gone natural after having artificial nails? Let me know in the comments!
Wow Cathy! What a difference. My hubby has nails of steel. very thick and they get long. No matter how much milk I drink or yogurt I eat, my nails are not strong. I use Gel nails that I do at home, but do notice that they can be thin after removing the gel. Yours looks great after the strengthening polish. I may try that!
Jess – it’s Nailtiques 2 – a nail protein. Not thick like a hard as nails product. Click the link and it will go to that product. It really helped.
They look beautiful. But I still didn’t find the products you used
Patsy – under the picture in the section called What I Did To Restore My Nails After Gel Manicures, the products I used are underlined – nail strengthener, cuticle oil, heavy moisturizing hand and nail cream. All of those underlined words are links to the products. Click those words and you will be directed to the products!
Perhaps you could change the font color to blue?
You have such wonderfully shaped nails, Cathy. I’m one of those that used to paint my own….back before dental school and such.
After living in latex gloves for forever, I gave up on my fingernails, and have let them go since. In fact, I thought when I retired, I’d finally get to paint them again. But now all this typing kills them too!!
First world problems, eh??
I am definitely going to try this. My nails are a mess from all the weddings and events this year.
Regan – it is a process, but these products really do help speed the healing process along and gives you beautiful natural nails!
Your nails look great. I did the same thing you did, got my nails done regularly. At first it was a luxury but eventually I got sick of it. When I stopped, my nails were a mess. Sure wish I had your regime back then, it seems like it took forever before they looked better. Going to try some of your suggestions now.
Karen, I tried to go back to natural nails many times over the years and gave up. The products I discovered this time really helped move the process along. I was like you – sick of having to go to an appointment every two weeks!
Great job Cathy! As a manicurist I know this isn’t easy. I stopped doing traditional gels on my own nails 10 years ago. There’s really no shortcut for growing them out and you did it perfectly!
Paula, I had no idea you are a manicurist! The products I found to use made the transition as painless as possible. I never thought I’d have nice natural nails again and am so pleased with the results!
This is definitely inspiring me to start a nail regime. My nails are SO slow to grow and almost always look awful. 🙁 The only thing I can’t (won’t) do is the glass nail file. I’ve tried but omgoodness the sound of it…eeks. Like nails on a chalkboard for me!
Amber – try that Nailtiques nail protein and the other products in the post. You don’t have to do the glass nail file. Your nails will be healthy and beautiful in no time!
Your nails are beautiful. I tried acrylic nails a couple of times in my 20s but could not do a thing with them. I thought they were too long and in the way, so my nails have been natural ever since.
Fonda – I think going natural and keeping them that way is the best way to have healthy nails. You were smarter than me!
I too tried the “fake” nails. Very hard to transition away from them! As a hairdresser my hand are in water ALOT! I do really well with the oil,I use OPI brush on oil. but havent tried the nail strengthner. Thanks for that tip!
Wanda – so glad you found the post helpful Let me know how the nail strengthener works for you. And using that Juara Hand and Nail cream was a game changer for me!
Thank you so much for this information. I have been wearing gel for many years, my manicurist recently told me that I need to give my nails a break, I will be having the gel removed this week when I go for my pedicure and start the regimen you posted. If it works out I will go natural—recently went natural with my hair and have embraced my natural curly hair and loving it. I’ll be a total naturalista!
Once you get through the hard part – you’ll love it!
I tried this nail regime and it WORKED! SAME story….full time job, got nails done all the time, got tired of how long it took and it HURT when then roughed up my nailbeds. Stopped in January, bought all the products you recommended and in 6-8 weeks, my nails have never looked so good. THANK YOU so much for this valuable post!!
So glad it worked for you! You made my day!
I could probably do all of this regiment except the nail strengthener. I am lucky if nail polish stays on for longer than one day. And my thumb nails crack on the left side (both of them) and then they break.
Thanks for such great tips, Cathy!
Thanks Kathy for this amazing post .. I too got tired of my UV gel nails . I have been doing this for past 2 years . Finally yesterday I got them removed and was worried to see my naturals nails become brittle n thin .. was wondering how do I get them back to their original state.. saw your post n felt relieved. Will definitely follow the routine . Thanks a ton!!
Yea! Glad you found it helpful! Hang in there!
Hi Cathy, I found your article after googling nail damage from dipped manicures. I started getting manicures after a friend suggested that I treat myself, and I had a wedding coming up. I was excited at first. I loved having pretty fingernails and felt like I was doing something nice for myself. But after a few months, I now have very thin, brittle, fingernails. It actually makes me nervous to even look at them without polish on them now. They are so vulnerable. All the sanding and grinding done to prep my nails for the dip Manicure has destroyed them,… Read more »
I have always had paper thin nails that bend, split and brake. I treated myself for a year getting nail dips done. Now my nails are thinner than they usually are and have ridges from the sanding of the nail bed prior to getting the dip done. I have the glass nail file and use a nail oil, and Badger Balm at night. But have always had an issue with any nail polish staying on my nails for more than 10-12 hours. This includes a strengthaner. I have tried everything from soaking my nails in vinegar, or acetone. Nothing helps… Read more »
I went and had acrylic tips put on and got the cateye polish and kept them up for several months until it was just a hassle every other week to go and sit for 2 hours. I went and had them removed at the salon and they literally destroyed my nails !! They were cut so short and then they started cracking down into the quick of my nail. I’ve tried nails hardener, strengthener, hair nail and skin vitamins and nothing is working. They aren’t even hardly growing and it’s been over 2 weeks. . I have to keep bandaids… Read more »
Thank you! I’m going to try this.
Cathy, thanks so much for this! My former gel nails are brittle and horrible. I used Nailtiques YEARS ago when I quit doing acrylics and the protein looks like a great new product. Thanks for all the tips! Stay safe.
I had my nails done with gel for about 6 years now but do to the coronavirus the nail shops are closed so back to natural nails I go.
Thanks for this information. Since I can’t go to the nail salon right now my nails are terrible. You have given me hope. I had to take the powder polish off my self and it took me almost two hours. I did put nail strengthening polish on but are still breaking and cracking. I will stay diligent on you plan. Can you get a glass file at the drug stores?
I don’t know about the drugstore. Probably. I got mine at Amazon. I linked to it in the blog post.
Hi Cathy! So glad I found what you posted! Because of the closed nail salons, I wound up with nails that hadn’t been done with acrylics in 9 weeks. Unfortunately, several came off and underneath was a black nail !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I would like to eventually have natural nails just like yours. Do you, or any of your readers, know how I can speed up healing my 2 black fungus nails?
Ugh! That’s terrible. I don’t know how to get rid of nail fungus!
Finally advice that worked! I’ve had gel/dip on my nails for years, and finally got tired of going to the salon. What was left of my nails was an awful mess. I followed all your advice, and after 9 weeks it’s working! If you follow ALL the steps, and have patience you can succeed. Thank you for a healthy way to have my own pretty nails again!
(I had one nail that was split down the middle, my advice for that is to use the tea bag method to help give it support.)
Hi Cathy, You have inspired me … I have had powder nails for years and before that everything else from gels to Acrylic. I am over 50, and no longer have a job. I tried doing the powder myself to save money, it’s not working! I want to try going natural, but I can’t afford having a manicure every couple of weeks. Is that a necessary part of the renewal?
Carole – you don’t have to get a manicure every week. If you do it every 3 or 4 weeks, it will help keep your cuticles in shape. That was a real issue for me when I went natural. My cuticles were a mess! good luck!
My nails always split and break. Will this also strengthen my natural nails? I love the length your nails are in the “after” pic, but can’t grow them on my own.
Thank you ~
In my experience, applying that nail protein daily strengthened my nails over time. But it has to be nail protein – not just clear polish.
Hi I got my nails done with Gel three times but after the third time I wanted to go back to natural nails. Because of the Covid 19 Pandemic and restrictions, I could not go to the Nail Technician and get them taken off. I tried to let them grow out on their own but caused me problems. My natural nails underneath the gel were splitting so needed to cut them back as much as I could. But the gel on my Thumbs were extremely thick and the nail clippers were not strong enough to cut the gel. Eventually the… Read more »
I was able to get my nails strong and to quit splitting by following the directions outlined in this post. But it took about 8 weeks. You have to be consistent. Some people find a Biotin supplement helpful. Good luck!
I normally have thick strong nails, but after one “dip” and the manicurist sanding them after soaking off the polish, they are so thin and painful that I can barely stand it..seriously I am physically in pain. Never again! Natural nails for me from now on.
I never had trouble growing and keeping natural nails when young. But in the 80s, acrylic was the “it” thing to do. After yrs of this, and a move to new state, I gave up acrylics, but it took a good 6mos b4 my nails to recover to the strong, long nails I’d had. Now at 71, they’re not as good, so I decided to get acrylics for the holidays. Bad idea, I could not wait for to have them removed and am now waiting for a new nail bed to grow out! I’m doing many of the things u… Read more »
I’ve had gel, powder, they both fall off. I going for natural that I used for 70 years.
Oh thank you for sharing this. I needed this advice.
I would like to have step by step to restore my nails from Gel polish.
I was excited to get a gel manicure a month or so ago for a wedding! But wow, my nails are a DISASTER now. I rarely did polish and pretty much Ch never gel on my hands. I need to take it off my toes…any at home suggestions? Getting it off my fingers was a terrible process!
I’m so going to try all your steps.
What is Biotin?
I don’t have any at-home suggestions – I’d bit the bullet and pay to get it done at the salon. Biotin is an over the counter supplement that strengthens hair and nails.
Love reading this blog and it is doable! I’m getting them off tomorrow and beginning my journey too of sporting my natural nails. Then off to learning piano and pottery classes. Thanks for the inspiration!!!!
You are welcome! Hope it goes well for you! Hang in there!
Thank you for this advice! I’m starting it today! My nails look exactly like your “before” picture.
Hang in there! It takes a while, but you are going to love the freedom of not getting your nails done all the time and how great your natural nails will look!
I took Biotin for years to help strengthen my nails. However, after a doctor told me to get my routine blood work done, results came back that my thyroid levels were off and that I had Hashimotos. I did some reading of material next to the result, and it stated that biotin can affect the thyroid. I stopped using biotin immediately and by six months, my levels were back to normal. Please be aware of this potential and take care of yourself. Your advice on re-growing healthy nails has inspired me.