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Grow Stronger, Healthier Nails

Q My nails are a mess: They're splitting and are full of ridges. Does this mean I'm deficient in nutrients?

A Most likely, the reason your nails are in poor shape is how you're treating them -- not what you're eating. But, with that said, adding more biotin-rich foods to your diet (like eggs and whole grains) can help keep your nails healthy. Read on to get your nails in top form.

Massage in nail oil. Blame everyday hand washing and household chores for splitting nails. "Water rinses natural oils away, leaving nails dry and brittle," says Nia Terezakis, M.D., a New Orleans-based dermatologist. Truly, there's only so much you can do to minimize contact with water (like wearing rubber gloves while washing dishes), but you can prevent brittleness with regular moisturizing. Several times a day, rub in a nail oil such as Carolyn New York Lavender Cuticle Oil ($14; carolynny.com), which is made with jojoba, apricot and vitamin-E oils. Also helpful is nail polish or a clear strengthener. We like Barielle Rebuilding Nail Repair ($17; barielle.com) with calcium and fluoride to help fortify weak and frail nails.

Smooth ridges with a buffing block. Bumpy surfaces on nails develop as you age and can be genetic. Though there's no way to stop ridges from forming, using gentle back-and-forth buffing motions on bare nails can smooth the surface over time. Or coat nails with a ridge-filling base coat like OPI Ridge Filler ($7.50; opi.com), which contains protein to fill in crevices.

Use a fine-grade emery board to prevent peeling. Sawing back and forth with a rough file can fray nail tips, making them more prone to shredding. Instead, file in one direction with a gentle side-to-center sweeping motion, suggests Dana Caruso, director of the Long Island Nail and Skin Care Institute in Levittown, N.Y. Glass or ceramic files also work well; try Essie Crystal File ($14; essie.com) or La Cross Crystal Nail File ($7.50; at drugstores). Both are washable and reusable.

Treat your nails gently. White spots are usually the result of trauma, such as slamming your nail in a drawer. While you can't erase these spots, you can cover them with polish. But know that they do eventually grow out.

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