5 Common Nail Myths That The Experts Say Aren't True

Seriously, they don’t need to breathe.

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The goal: strong, healthy nails. The problem? There’s a lot of misinformation about what it takes (and doesn’t take) to achieve that. Not to downplay Mom’s sage beauty advice (seriously, you probably have her to thank for your dedication to SPF), but when it comes to nails, some things you’ve likely been taught to believe just aren’t true. From white spots indicating a calcium deficiency to gel manicures damaging nails, TZR is debunking five of the biggest nail-related myths heard over the years — with the help of a few trusted nail experts to back them up, of course. Keep scrolling to learn what’s fact and what’s fiction.

Read more: Are Powder Dip Nails Harmful? Pros Weigh In

Nail Myth #1: White Dots Indicate A Calcium Deficiency

Those white spots on your nails you were told mean you need to up your calcium intake? They’re nothing but a bruise on your nail caused by nail trauma, according to Dr. Dana Stern, a board-certified dermatologist and nail specialist. The nail matrix (aka the half moon on the bottom part of your nail) is what produces the hard nail plate, and any trauma to it can potentially produce a small white defect in the nail.

“Overly aggressive cuticle manipulation (such as pushing back, scraping, or cutting) as well as nail biting can result in white spots,” Dr. Stern tells TZR. “These spots are especially common in children not because they have a calcium deficiency, but because they tend to be trauma-prone, and their nail plates are thinner and less protective.” Oh. So that’s why you were told to drink more milk as kids. The good news? These spots will grow out with the typical growth rate of the nails, which is around six months according to Dr. Stern.

Nail Myth #2: Your Nails Need To Breathe

Many need a polish break every now and then (especially when they’re tired of DIY’ing), but in reality, you don’t need to. “This is one of the most common misconceptions,” explains Stacey Steinmetz, cosmetic biochemist and creator of StimuNail. “Nails do not need to breathe. They receive all of the oxygen, vitamins, and blood supply they require from the nail bed beneath, so there is no harm in continually wearing nail polish if your nails are generally healthy.” In fact, Steinmetz explains that wearing nail polish can actually serve as a barrier and prevent the natural oils that keep your nails flexible from being stripped away when you wash your hands with soap or use cleaning products. The more you know.

Nail Myth #3: Gels And Acrylics Are Damaging

If you swore off gel and acrylic nails because you thought they’d cause damage, there’s some information that says otherwise. Just like hair, once your nail is visible, it’s already dead, so there’s no harm in rocking gel, acrylic, and even polish. But that doesn’t mean they are completely without risk.

“Most often, the damage from gels and acrylics is caused by poor removal techniques,” notes Steinmetz. “Many clients will pick their polish off, or some overzealous nail technicians may file down too aggressively, removing protective nail layers and sometimes causing redness and burning.” Nail polish remover is another culprit, as they significantly dry out the nails, leading to brittleness, splitting, peeling, and breakage, says Dr. Stern.

The only time to be concerned? If your nails have become discolored, weak, thin, or peel or break easily, it’s time to take a break with your polish.

Nail Myth #4: Soaking Nails Pre-Manicure Can Help Hydrate Them

Although soaking your nails before a manicure may soften up the cuticle, it actually causes more harm than good. “Water does not hydrate the nail; it actually does the opposite. By soaking your hand in water, your nails can become waterlogged, like a sponge,” Steinmetz tells TZR. “This removes the vital oils from your nail that keep it supple and prevent it from becoming brittle.” What’s more, one of the worst times to soak your nails in water is right before you apply polish, as the water will be trapped under the nail polish and can cause fungus — or cause your nail polish to lift and peel prematurely. Oops.

Nail Myth #5: Drinking Gelatin Will Strengthen Nails

Nails are made of protein (keratin to be exact), and since drinking or eating gelatin is an inexpensive source of protein, this myth has gained traction as a boost to your overall nail health. Sadly, both experts say this won’t make your nails grow stronger. Instead, the best way to help your nail health (and encourage them to grow faster) is to keep them hydrated, preferably with a cuticle oil. “This will prevent them from breaking so you can achieve a larger length,” says Steinmetz. “Also, be sure to buff away any rough edges that could possibly tear your nail and all its growth.”

Read on if you’re looking for a few new products to supplement your nail care routine.

We only include products that have been independently selected by TZR's editorial team. However, we may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.

You won’t find acetone in these felt nail pads — instead, vitamin E nourishes and cleans the nail beds.

If your nails grow at a snail’s pace, cop StimuNail, a chemical-free alternative to nail growth that, upon popping your fingers inside, stimulates keratin cells and increases blood flow, both of which are important components to developing nail cells.

Make dry, brittle nails a thing of the past with this Biotin-infused nail treatment. Wear it on its own or layered with your latest polish purchase to be on your nail A-game.

Whoever said hand creams are only for your hands hasn’t met this hydrating pick from Nooni, which not only works to combat dry hands with shea butter, but harnesses the power of vitamin E and Biotin to moisturize cuticles and promote nail growth.

Deborah Lippmann’s cure for cuticles delivers on all fronts: It moisturizes, softens, and protects, all in a portable, travel-friendly pen.

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