If you’re the type of person who would rather have long and lovely natural nails than to spend hours of your time and oodles of moolah maintaining acrylic nails, here are a few ways you can strengthen, protect and glamorize your own fingernails.

1. Jewels Not Tools

This is the first rule that most women violate and end up unnecessarily breaking a nail. Even though your nails are long and strong, try to resist the temptation to use your thumbnail as a screwdriver.

2. Push ‘Em Back

Healthy cuticles are essential for strong, natural nails. After you get out of the shower or bath, your cuticles will be softened, so this is the time to push them back to expose that little half-moon. Ideally, you should use an orange stick wrapped in a piece of cotton ball, but even if you just push them back with your fingers and a towel, you’ll be doing your nails a favour.

3. Never Cut Cuticles

Some people are tempted to cut their cuticles. Occasionally, it’s even done by professionals. Just. Don’t. Cut.

4. Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize

You don’t have to use anything fancy or expensive, but you do need to use hand lotion regularly, paying special attention to your nail beds. The stimulation of massaging your own hands will help with nail growth as well. If you can find it at a reasonable price, coconut oil works quite well, and it also smells yummy.

5. Nail Hardeners

Use nail hardeners with care. Sally Beauty’s Nail Magic is possibly the best choice, as it both conditions and hardens. Used alone, it can be used to promote nail growth by applying daily until it begins to thicken and peel off. Then, start all over again. Once you’ve reached the desired length and strength, apply a coat of Nail Magic and then a coat of clear polish to protect your natural nails.

6. Nutrition for Nails

Your fingernails need proper nutrition. If you insist upon eating junk food, at least take your vitamins, especially the B-vitamin group. Biotin is part of that group and is essential for preventing dry, brittle nails. Eat liver, cauliflower, carrots and salmon. If you choose to take your vitamins, don’t forget your vitamin C.

7. Mind the Hand Sanitizer

Everyone is using hand sanitizer these days, but it can take a toll on your fingernails, as it dries out the nails and the cuticles. If you must use it, try to use it on your hands only, without getting it on your nails (this may be kind of tricky).

8. Love the Glove

Water, especially dishwater, drastically weakens the nails, so make it a habit to wear rubber gloves during all household tasks. Keep a pair in the bathroom as well as in the kitchen. Also, don’t forget to wear your garden gloves.

9. Size Matters–and So Does Shape

The longer your nails, the more vulnerable they are to breakage. If you lead an active life, you may be better off filing them down when they start reaching Wolverine length. Only you know how long your nails can get before you break one. As for shape, square nails tend to chip or snag at the corners, while rounded or pointed nails can take slightly more punishment. Sometimes you have to sacrifice style for practicality.

Whether painted scarlet or simply plain and natural, lovely fingernails add a dimension of beauty and glamour to your overall appearance. They make your fingers look longer and your hands more graceful, and can be colour coordinated to suit your fashion tastes. It takes time and care to cultivate these tiny jewels, but you don’t have to spend a fortune at the salon to do it.