Winter nail care tips

Moisturize your nails during the winter to keep them healthy.

Story highlights

  • It's a good idea to have a weatherproofing plan right at your fingertips
  • Moisture loss in the wintertime is damaging to nails
  • Use hand cream on your nails to keep them healthy and moisturized
Slipping on mittens is one way to shield your nails from the ravages of winter. But it's not the only solution. Keep yours strong, healthy, and pretty with this handy guide.
Seasonal Pointers
Cold temperatures bring snowball fights, hot chocolate -- and, quite often, craggy nails and cuticles. Since winter's dry air is especially rough on hands, it's a good idea to have a weatherproofing plan right at your fingertips.
Why Nails Hate Winter
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 Miami dermatologist Leslie Baumann. Time to break out the rubber gloves.
The Protection Plan
Intense hydration is the name of the game, says Shari Gottesman, the founder of Perfect Formula, a nail-care and color brand in New York City. 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, says Baumann. (For polish recommendations, see Nail Color Picks.) Look for lotions that contain urea—a humectant that helps hold moisture in the skin, says Gilbert. At night, rub on cuticle oil (in a pinch, olive oil also works). And once a week, step things up with an intensive treatment. Gilbert recommends soaking nails in lukewarm water for no more than 10 minutes, then coating them with cuticle oil and slipping on cotton gloves for at least an hour. (For product recommendations, see Nail Care Tools.)
Winter Nail Color Picks
Looking for a great winter shade? Icy silvers, blues, and reds will keep your fingertips looking polished. Try these on for winter:
-- Essie Nail Polish in School of Hard Rocks: A pale, almost grayish blue that looks pretty on fair skin tones.
-- Le Métier de Beauté Nail Lacquer in Bodacious Bordeaux: This classic blue-based red actually does suit everyone.
--Opi Nail Lacquer in French Quarter for Your Thoughts: The slightly pearly nude is the ideal everyday shade.
-- MAC Cosmetics Posh Paradise Nail Lacquer in Rain of Flowers: This rich berry is as versatile as any neutral.
-- Sonia Kashuk Nail Colour in Blank Slate: A silvery gray that stands out beautifully on darker skin tones.
-- Dior Vernis Nail Polish in Tuxedo: An update on last year's racy blacks: a sparkly, sophisticated navy blue.