The Summer Activity That May Be Ruining Your Nail Health

Summer has a sort of magical air about it. We take things a little slower, allowing ourselves moments of pause to revel in the long, sunny days. Perhaps we take a little time off work, hit the beach, or congregate around the pool. And, like many others, when we spend time outside we always try to take precautions. We lather ourselves up with sunscreen, keep our eyes shaded from the sun, and spray our hair with hydrating oils just to show it a little extra love. But what are we doing to protect our nails during all this fun in the water and sun?

Unless you're a swim instructor, you likely haven't been faced with the drawbacks that come with putting your hands in water all day long. But, as it turns out, all that extra time we spend in the pool or ocean during the summer can wreak havoc on our nails. This is because our nails are 1,000 times more absorptive of water than our skin, dermatologist and nail expert Dana Stern told Well+Good. When our nails are exposed to water often enough, it can weaken them, leading to brittleness, peeling, and breakage. Let's take a closer look at why this happens and what we can do to protect our nails moving forward.

How to prevent nail damage

Our nails are like sponges, explains Well+Good. When they come into contact with water, they absorb it, the cells that make up our nails expand, and the nails soften as a result. Once our hands are out of the water, the cells contract again in an attempt to restore their former state. This is a rather tiring process, and the added strain can make nails brittle and more susceptible to wear and tear. While can happen any time we wash our hands or shower, dermatologist, Naana Boakye, explains that the risk of damage increases in the summer when we're likely to spend more time in the water.

But, fear not. Just like we take preventative measures to protect our skin before and after taking a dip in the pool, we can do the same for our nails. It starts with tiny alterations to our daily routine, like wearing gloves when we wash the dishes and making sure our hands stay out of the water when we soak in the bathtub (per Healthline). Dr. Dana Stern recommends keeping your nails short, hydrating your cuticles throughout the year – paying special attention before and after water exposure– and using acetone-free nail polish removers (per Well+Good). She also notes that if you spend a lot of time in the water during the summer, it's actually beneficial to keep your nails painted, as a way to reinforce the bond between the cells within the nail (per Nails Magazine).