To save a ripped nail from completely breaking off, start by gently pulling up the nail at the tear. Then, slip a toothpick with one drop of nail glue underneath — try IBD 5-Second Professional Nail Glue ($2, ) — and press down to bring the two sides together. Finally, file over your nail surface to get rid of stickiness, sugggests Nia Terezakis, M.D., a clinical professor of dermatology at Tulane University, in New Orleans.
You may think a paint-on hardener is the way to go, but "no topical agents have been proven to strengthen nails," says Vic A. Narurkar, M.D., an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at UC Davis Medical School, in Sacramento, California. Plus, most purported "strengtheners" contain formaldehyde, which can irritate skin and, some experts theorize, make nails so hard that they become brittle and breakage-prone. Instead, take a daily supplement containing the vitamin biotin: There's convincing research, says Dr. Terezakis, that it will help maintain strong, healthy nails. Try Your Vitamins Healthy Hair, Skin & Nails ($14 for 50 capsules, ).
3. Splitting and peeling
"The cells on your nails grow in a slanted direction, from the cuticle to the tip, like the scales of a fish," says Dr. Terezakis. Pushing them in the wrong direction thins the protective top layers, causing the nail to fissure as it grows out. To remove the uppermost peeling layer, trim nails, then use a file to lightly buff the surface in one direction. To prevent future splitting, avoid anything that presses against your nail from the tip down (such as repeatedly reaching into your purse with the same hand). And, keep the area hydrated: After bathing, while skin is still damp, rub oil into and under nails to seal in moisture. Dry off, then top with a lotion containing alpha hydroxy acids to help normalize your cells' barrier layer.
4. Exposed skin
If your nail has completely ripped off below the skin line, don't attempt to fix it with fakes — putting glue that close to your skin can be irritating. Instead, suggests Dr. Terezakis, cut paper tape called Micropore ($7, ) to the shape of another, similar-size nail; press on, hold for ten-to-20 seconds, and polish. It'll actually look like the real thing.