'Nail Cycling' Is The Manicure Trend That Keeps Your Nails Healthy

Manicures and pedicures have morphed from a simple luxury into a full-fledged wearable art form. Mani trends range from the sweet and simple "strawberry milk" design that's so hot right now to trippy blooming gel nails in all types of hues. But, many things in life come at a price, and designer nails are no exception. That's because as beautiful as nail art is to the naked eye it can cause quite the sinister situation underneath all of that paint, powder, and whatnot.

For example, gel manicures have amazing lasting power, but leaving all of those layers on nails for weeks on end can cause the nails to become weak and brittle, which can lead to cracking and peeling. Then there's the fact that regular exposure to ultraviolet nail dryers can cause the skin on the hands to show signs of age earlier than it would have otherwise. SNS manicures, also known as dip or glue manicures, can be rough on the nails as well. That's especially so during the acetone-laden removal process, which involves a soak in the strong stuff, not to mention a lot of scraping, electronic buffing, and other such damaging techniques. Still, these and other options look so amazing that they're likely to be around for the long haul. Fortunately, the practice of nail cycling can help to mitigate some of the damage so that gorgeous nails don't come at the expense of their health.

What nail cycling is and why it's helpful

Think of nail cycling as a "breather" of sorts. For pretty much anything that's intense, it's the norm to take a break to reset and recharge. Weightlifters, for example, have days where they simply stretch or don't do any physical activity at all to give their muscles an opportunity to recover. Nail cycling is pretty much the same concept.

So if you love the look and feel of these techniques, but don't want to forsake your nail health in the process, nail and dermatology experts suggest taking a break between the more intense types of manicures, like acrylic, SNS, or gel. Instead, skip the polish altogether for a bit or opt for a regular manicure, which is not nearly so problematic to remove. Celebrity manicurist Deborah Lippman and cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Kunal Malik told PopSugar that breaks should occur every eight to 10 weeks, or so. This gives the nail matrix, which is underneath the cuticle and is where new fingernails generate, the opportunity to rejuvenate. If the nail matrix never gets a break it can cause permanent damage, leading to perpetually cracked, grooved, and brittle nails.

Here's how to accelerate the healing process

It's easy enough to help fingernails heal more quickly if you know what to do. First, apply some sort of moisturizer whenever possible. This can be as easy as making an effort to rub hand lotion into the cuticles or utilizing a specific cuticle cream. Also, be sure to wear rubber gloves any time you clean the house or wash the dishes. The water, solvents, and potential bacteria exposure can wreak havoc on unprotected nails.

There are also some helpful products on the market specifically designed to improve nail health. People with weaker nails might opt to apply a nail hardener to otherwise bare nails. Taking a biotin supplement can also strengthen nails from the inside out, and it'll make your hair healthier at the same time. Once the break is over make sure to only patronize salons that practice excellent hygiene. Although most establishments have greatly improved hygiene over the years, the most recent threat is those little jars of dip powder used for SNS manicures, per Harvard Health Publishing. If the salon has multiple clients dip their fingers into the same jars (instead of using individually-sized containers or clean brushes) back away slowly. Such communal containers can breed all kinds of nasty stuff, like fungi, bacteria, and viruses. The idea is to have healthy, beautiful nails, not ones riddled with disease.