Two words: moisture loss. “Healthy nails contain 18 percent water on average,” says Erin Gilbert, a New York City dermatologist. “In winter, you’re constantly moving between the hot, dry air indoors and the freezing temperatures outdoors. These extremes can reduce the moisture level in your nails, leaving them dehydrated.” Dried-out nails are more likely to break, split, and chip. Compounding the harsh climate conditions are stressors such as hot showers (water draws moisture from nails as it evaporates from skin) and drying products, like polish removers with acetone, alcohol-based hand sanitizers, and dishwashing liquid. “Washing dishes is just about the worst activity for nails,” says dermatologist Leslie Baumann. Time to break out the rubber gloves.
The Protection Plan
Intense hydration is the name of the game. Nails are made up of flattened dead cells containing keratin, but moisturizers can make them flexible, supple, and less likely to split and break. So when you reach for that rich winter hand cream (which you should apply after every hand washing), get in the habit of slathering your nails, too. If you have polish on, just massage the cream into the cuticles to help stimulate healthy nail growth.