If you, like myself, dabbled with gel nails and extensions in the past, you will know the pain involved in trying to get your nails back to even half of what they were before.

I had gel nails extensions for almost 2 full years continuously and they left my hand nails in such a bad way. They were thin, flaking and weak, dry and brittle, definitely not a good look.

I regret having them on my nails for so long, the nail undeneath the gel was so weak. I was amazed and surprised they held up for so long!

In the post I will give you all my best tips and tricks to recover your damaged nails. The things I feature in this post I did for a good 6+ months to recover my nails. I hope you find it helpful.


I decided to take the plunge and got my gel nails removed professionally, firstly soaking off the gel to remove the build up on the nail surface and gentle buffing to smooth the nail plate. I think you are generally better off having salon gel nail extensions removed where you had them done, just for ease of removal.

I arrived home and thought what next? The transformation from long lovelies to short stubby fingers made me cry a little inside, but I knew that for the health of my nails it was for the best.

Like a breakup with a bad boyfriend, you tend to remember all the good things and overlook the annoyances and bad aspects you had in the whole affair. Time to move on!


For the overall health of your nails, cut down your nails to remove as much damage as possible. The length of your nails around the free edge will more than likely be thin, damaged and weakened from all the filing and buffing you had in your gel extensions.

Try and keep your nails short for a few months after gel removal, to help grow out the damaged surface of the nail. I regularly cut my own nails as soon as there was any amount of growth.

If you observe and look closely will see and feel the difference in texture and strength of the old and new nail. So out with the old and in with the new!


In the few months after initial removal, try and add extra nutrients into your diet via food or supplements, or even take a supplement designed for your nails.

This will improve your chances of having healthy, strong and long nails. Also try and eat a wide and varied diet, full of all the good stuff and you will see the difference in your hair and skin too.

I have a post coming up on suitable supplements and good nutrients for nails to incorporate in your diet, so stay tuned for that.


After having gel or acrylic nails your cuticles will have some damage, so take care to feed your nails with added moisture.

Healthy nails need good levels of moisture and with plentiful use of good natural nut oils or cuticle oils, rehydrate as often as you can.

A bedside nail oil is a must, along with weekly hydration treatments and regular use of hand creams and cuticle balms are key to good hydration levels.

Try and invest in a travel sized cuticle oil pen, pop in your handbag and apply on the go or whenever you remember to do it like me!

Even just popping a nourishing hand cream can help if cuticles are looking a little dry.

For more information about nourishing nails look to my manicure series for cuticle oils and moisturisers.


Nail treatments also are a very good idea, all the nail polish brands have products geared up for strengthening and growth, so depending on your own nail concerns try and pick one up and apply as directed.

Classic’s like OPI’s Nail Envy or Sally Hansen’s Hard as Nails would be good places to start for general growth and nail strength. Essie’s Grow Stronger worked well for me and their All in One formula for day to day strength.

My current favourite base/nail strengthener is Nails Inc’s Nailkale Superfood Basecoat. Used for both purposes, gives my nails all the strength and durability I need.

Using one of these for the foreseeable future will kick start nail growth and prevent any future damage to your already weakened nails.


For general nail maintenance, I would advise to minimise filing and buffing, doing it as required, very occasionally. The same with cuticle work, only as necessary to allow time for healing and natural repair.

I would also advise buying a non acetone nail polish remover to use in your manicures, this will prevent stripping the nails of moisture and all that lovely cuticle oil you have been applying.

Continue using polish on your nails to protect your nails from the elements and keeps moisture and oils in the nail plate. The polish will act as a barrier from any other damage to the nail plate and help with the growth of your nails.

After a couple of months by incorporating all these steps and generally looking after your nails you will be on the road to recovery.



There are so many gel like polishes out there on the market, you can still get reasonable longevity and finish without the damage and cost of gels and acrylics.

If you are yet to try these gel type polishes I can honestly say they mostly do work quite well.

Please see my previous post on Gel Effect Polishes for more information on this topic.

These polishes will not have the same strength or longevity of a gel extension or acrylic, but they are much healthier for your nails in the long term.


My biggest no no would be to apply gel nails back onto weakened nails! Give your nails a long break from gel extensions and only have them done once your nails are back to square one.

I totally understand what it is like to go from having lovely long nails to practically no nail and it is hard to get used to. But it for the best for your nails and they will grow back in time. A good opportunity to get out bold deep shades, perfect for shorter nails!

If you decide to have gel extensions back on your nails, give long breaks in between applications, to build up nail strength and prevent any long term damage.

So there we have it guys, rehab for nails!

Any tips for getting your nails back to their best?

Let me know in the comments.