What I’ve Been Using to Rehabilitate My Nails After Quitting Gel Manicures

Published in: Guest Post, Nails

help nails gel manicures

Clockwise from the top: Lauren B Beauty Polishing Handscrub ($20, 2 oz.), SpaNature Hand and Body Lotion ($11.55, 28 oz.), Ciate London Mini Nail Treatment in Knight in Shining Armour and Nail Gym ($10.50, 0.17 oz.), and Nail Magic Hardener and Conditioner ($6.50, 0.25 oz.)

As some of you might remember, not too long ago, I wrote a short piece about trying to quit gel manicures. Well, shortly after, I did it! I took them off myself at home…and it was terrible, and I don’t mean terrible in terms of how my nails were feeling before I took them off. I mean terrible in terms of “My nails actually hurt for several days afterward, and it has taken over a month for them to show any visible signs of improvement.”

To recap, here’s a (rather bad, admittedly) photo of what my nails looked like immediately after I removed my gels about a month ago.

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Be warned, it isn’t pretty.

help nails gel manicures

A picture from the same night I removed my gel nails; I was left with brittle, paper thin, aching nails.

Since that fateful night, I’ve tried to take good care of my nails to help them recover. I was in Sally Beauty Supply just after removing the gels and asked an employee to recommend a product to rehab nails after removing gels, and she recommended Nail Magic Hardener and Conditioner.

She told me to use it for two full weeks with nothing else on my nails, and then after that to keep using it as a base coat, which I’ve done.

After the initial two weeks, my nails weren’t feeling all that much better, so I also added some other products to my gel manicure repair arsenal, including these mini treatments from Ciate London below…

help nails gel manicure

Ciate London Knight in Shining Armour (left), Ciate London Nail Gym (right), and Nail Magic Hardener and Conditioner (top)

The Ciate minis have helped the most, I think. I’ve been using Nail Gym and Knight In Shining Armour. Nail Gym works like a personal trainer for weak nails, while Knight in Shining Armour is enriched with marula oil for brighter, more hydrated nails.

As well as using the Ciate London treatments, I’ve been taking special care to keep my hands and cuticles well hydrated.

My current fave lotion has been the olive-scented one above from SpaNature, which I received as a Christmas gift from the salon I went to when I was still getting manicures.

The olive oil base is the perfect hydrator, and the olive scent isn’t too overpowering. It’s a great lotion to put on after using the Lauren B. Beauty Hand Polishing Scrub, which has been another new addition to my collection.

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help nails gel manicures

The super-fine beads make for an excellent hand massage…

The Lauren B. Beauty scrub contains a blend of fine oil beads, amino acids, Vitamin E, and sunflower and aloe oils, and I usually give my hands a good scrub with it after my shower because it restores a good amount of moisture.

My nails still have a LONG way to go before they’re where I want them to be (meaning, back to not peeling and without the awful rivets in them), but for reference, here’s what my nails look like today.

help nails gel manicures

My nails today: still discolored and with some grooves in them, but they’re getting better! — and they’ve started to grow again.

They’ve made progress, but I’m afraid they’re still a bit discolored and weak. But at least they aren’t breaking off at the drop of a hat anymore!

Do you guys have any suggestions for products or things to do to rahabilitate your nails after wearing acrylics/gels for a long time? Any holy grail nail treatments? Please let me know if you do!


Marcella Yakalis


Marcella Yakalis is a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn, New York, with two cats, one snake, and one very patient boyfriend. She writes about family, relationships, and oppressive retail culture. She can also be found on Twitter and Instagram.

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  1. Tracy says:

    Yikes! I just stopped doing gel too after about 2 yrs straight of it but my nails aren’t doing too badly (it’s been about 2 weeks now). Have you tried taking biotin (vitamin)?

    • Nivedita says:

      Yes. Biotin along with multi vitamin supplements should help a lot. Once you have let the damaged nails grow out, I hope things would get better. If I am getting my nails back in health, apart from biotin and multi vitamins, I would keep them completely free of anything on top… you may say, i would let it ‘air’ and use hand creams and nail creams. My nails love that.
      Nivedita recently posted … L’Oreal Paris Infallible Collection ICANnes 2016

  2. Uh! That will help me to never ever get a gel manicure! My nails are brittle without that already.
    Do you take any supplements like zinc or biotin?
    LindaLibraLoca recently posted … Glam Glow Supermud Clearing Treatment – Pickup lines

  3. Baby steps! You’ll get there! Your current routine definitely sounds like it’s working.

  4. Twyla Munden says:

    When I gave up my gel nails, my nails were brittle. I kept them short as to help with breakage/splitting. I buffed them and used an OPI Nail Envy. Cuticle oil helps too at night with gloves..

  5. MonicaP says:

    I really like the Perfect Formula Pink Gel Coat (not a gel polish, a nail strengthener) from Sephora. I seem to reach for this nail product the most as I have issues with splitting nails and this seems to work well. I also just started rubbing in jojoba oil into and around my nails at night before bed. Just started so not sure this is doing anything for my nails, but it’s definitely helping to keep my skin soft.

    Monica.
    MonicaP recently posted … My first order from FYTSO, Athletic Clothing

  6. karigold says:

    My go to for nail strength & growth is Quimica Alemana Nail Hardener Strengthener Polish Treatment (available via Amazon or Ebay) I also take Biotin & use cuticle oil & nail balms daily. Good luck!

  7. Lulle says:

    I remember when the first UV gel manicures were first launched and the brands pretended they don’t damage your nails, unlike acrylic… yeah right! I got ONE gel mani in my life and my nails basically looked like yours, super damaged and peeling. I never did it again!
    What I did was massage oil on the nail bed every day, use a nail hardener and take supplements for hair and nails, but to be honest they only looked better when they grew back and I cut the last part of damaged nail off.
    Lulle recently posted … Summer Beauty Haul!

  8. kellly says:

    I would leave them ALONE completely; no more polishes or treatments that cover them up and don’t allow them contact with the air. Put cuticle oils on and leave any polishes off until they grow out.

  9. Lisa Foster says:

    Nail Magic has done wonders for my nails, they used to break and split all the time and now I have to file them down. Just give it some time.

  10. Jane says:

    My nails are currently recovering from a home gel kit that claimed to be good for the nails. It was about as good for my nails as sandpapering my face! I have found CND Solar Oil or Jessica Phenomen Oil to be the best products for rehydrating them, plus rubbing in Leighton Denny Best Defence hand and nail cream every night when I go to bed. In the future I will only be using my Leighton Denny Top That system if I want gel as it goes over normal nail polish so isn’t hard on the nails!

  11. Erin says:

    Try Great Lakes Collagen supplement and Omega 7 from New Chapter or Sibu. Works for skin, hair, and nails as well as lot of other stuff!
    Erin recently posted … Ponzi Vineyards 2014 Pinot Gris

  12. Katherine says:

    Owie! That looks very painful. My mom quit gels when she did chemotherapy, but chemo often makes your nails fall out completely (which it did to her) so I had no idea that just quitting gels alone can be so horrible. I’d been considering gels for a while, but I’ll definitely steer clear now! I hope your nails recover swiftly.
    Katherine recently posted … Glacial Geology Tour of the Port Jefferson/Stony Brook Area

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