How to Fix a Broken Nail, According to Manicurists (2023)

How to Fix a Broken Nail, According to Manicurists (1)

While there are certainly bigger problems in the world than a broken nail, there’s no denying that suddenly chipping, cracking, splitting, or fully breaking your nail is nothing short of a disappointment—especially if you’ve been trying to grow them out.

Unfortunately, no matter how much you try to avoid breaking a nail—from religiously applying strengthening serum (we’re obsessed with ISDIN Si-Nails Strengthening Treatment, $32) and learning how to correctly remove gel polish to avoid excessive exposure to hot water, which might soften nails and lead to more cracks and snags—it’s rather unavoidable at least every once in a while.

Thankfully, a broken nail doesn’t need to automatically ruin your manicure. After all, there seems to be one sure-fire way to fix a damaged digit. According to nail experts Sarah Gibson Tuttle, Lauren Dunne, and Molly Romah, the best way to rehab a broken nail—if the goal is to salvage length—is to get crafty with a teabag.

Meet the Expert

  • Sarah Gibson Tuttle is the founder of Olive & June, a beloved nail salon and product line based in Los Angeles, CA.
  • Lauren Dunne is a nail expert and the cofounder of Washington, D.C.-based nail salon, Varnish Lane.
  • Molly Romah is the lead nail technician at Chillhouse in New York City.
  • Michele Farber, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist with Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City.

The thin, porous material of a tea bag makes it a perfect patch for your broken nail. It adheres nicely to your nails and helps to seamlessly patch the broken part back together. The tea bag material is permeable, which helps it quickly adhere to your nails using only clear polish. A coffee filter can also be used in a pinch, however, the paper is often thicker than tea bags and may not blend quite as well.

Ready to get started? Learn exactly how to fix that broken nail.

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File the Broken Nail (and All Your Nails, While You're at It)

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Whether you’ve cracked, chipped, or fully broken your nail, the first thing you’ll want to do is file the edges. “Moving in one single direction, file the nail back to the original shape so that it matches the other nails (just a little shorter),” Gibson Tuttle says. “If it's a major break, clip 90 percent and file the remaining 10 percent.”

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The reason filing is such a must—apart from the fact that most folks like smooth edges—is because doing so will help limit how far a crack can lead through the nail, which helps to avoid getting unnecessarily close to the quick. (Ouch, no thank you.)

Now, if your nails are quite short, filing might be all it takes to repair your nail. However, if you have long almond-, oval-, stiletto-, or coffin-shaped nails and you’ve cracked one edge, you’ll want to file the jagged edge (as opposed to clipping) and move on to step two.

Pro Tip: "This is exactly why we created The Studio Box,” Gibson Tuttle says. “It takes all the guesswork out of what you need to do the perfect salon manicure at home: file, buffer, and all.” The Olive & June Studio Box has all of the essentials you need to protect your polish, care for your cuticles, and extend the life of your manicure inside one super cute, reusable mani box—apart from teabags, that is. Fortunately, most of us have those lying around the house.

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Wipe Your Broken Nail With Rubbing Alcohol

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Before placing the tea bag over the top of your cracked nail, Romah says you’ll want to wipe your nail with alcohol and buff it out so that it’s completely smooth. This will not only help the cloth adhere better but the polish, too.

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Cut a Tea Bag

How to Fix a Broken Nail, According to Manicurists (4)

Once your nail is filed, Dunne says to cut a small piece of teabag (make sure it's clean and no tea particles are attached) to lay over the entire crack—and, yes, it’s totally fine if it takes up the surface of the nail. After cutting your cloth, put it to the side until step four.

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Apply Gel Basecoat, Then Adhere the Tea Bag to the Crack

How to Fix a Broken Nail, According to Manicurists (5)

(Video) How to Fix a Broken Nail With A Tea Bag! | natural nail repair

Sally HansenSalon Gel Polish Gel Base Coat$13.00

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Now that your nail is buffed and filed to perfection, it’s time to put your nail back together. “Apply a layer of clear polish and use a toothpick or tweezers to apply the tea bag to the nail while the clear polish is still wet,” Dunne instructs. Once dry, buff out any rough patches before moving on to the next step.

Romah notes that you can also do this with gel polish if you want a longer-lasting fix. If that’s the case, instead of regular clear polish, opt for a gel base coat and be sure to cure it with a gel lamp between coats.

Pro Tip: Many old-fashioned nail hacks recommend gluing broken nails back together but Dunne says you should steer clear of doing so. “We recommend avoiding nail glue as it contains chemicals that can be very irritating to the nail bed,” she explains.

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Finish With Polish

After marveling at how well a teabag mends a broken nail, you’ll want to make it look just as polished as your other nails, so pick your favorite hue and paint accordingly.

Pro Tip: If you’re pressed for time after repairing a broken nail, or you simply don’t have your polish color with you, nail stickers are a great way to camouflage any irregularities on your nail.

How to Fix a Broken Nail, According to Manicurists (7)

Olive & JuneCabana Love Nail Art Stickers$8.00

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When to See a Doctor

Most nail breaks are not serious and do not require medical assistance, especially if it is just the tip of your nail. If your nail breaks down into your nail bed, however, it can be quite painful. If this happens, watch for signs of infection, including redness, swelling, and pain, and see your doctor if this does occur.

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If you caught your nail on something and ripped it off, unfortunately, it won't reattach—but it will eventually grow back. If it has separated from the nail bed completely, it will take around six months to grow back out. You likely do not need medical attention for this unless you have increasing pain and/or swelling as this could indicate an infection.

You may notice your nail bed turning black or purple after an injury, especially if you smashed your finger or caught your nail on something and it ripped. If it is just a small bruised spot, it will go away as it heals and does not require medical attention. If it is a larger area and causes painful throbbing, you may have a subungual hematoma and your doctor may need to place a small hole and drain it to relieve the pressure and allow it to heal.

FAQ

  • How do you prevent nails from breaking?

    You now know how to fix a broken nail, but how do you prevent them from breaking in the first place? Keep your nails dry by wearing gloves when cleaning or washing dishes, moisturize your nails and cuticles every day, and avoid harsh nail products by using acetone-free nail polish remover.

  • Will a broken nail heal itself?

    Once a nail splits or breaks, it will not grow back together. You can use the technique above to try to repair the break until the nail grows out.

  • Nails grow very slowly and, as previously mentioned, it can take six months for a fingernail to grow back. Board-certified dermatologist Michele Farber, MD, suggests focusing on proper protein intake and optimizing your nutrition, practicing good nail hygiene, and gently caring for your nails.

  • What home remedies can keep my nails healthy?

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    Coconut oil is a great way to naturally keep your nails healthy as it is thought to strengthen nail, moisturize cuticles, and prevent ridges. Simply massage the coconut oil into your nails and cuticles each day.

  • Why is my nail splitting down the middle?

    Nails that split down the middle can be caused by frequent handwashing or overuse of nail polish remover resulting in dry, brittle nails that crack. Occasionally, nail splitting can also be caused by a medical condition, including thyroid issues or anemia, so talk to your doctor if this condition persists.

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Article Sources

Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.

  1. University of Michigan Health. Nail problems and injuries. Updated February 26, 2020.

  2. Tully AS, Trayes KP, Studdiford JS. Evaluation of nail abnormalities.Am Fam Physician. 2012;85(8):779-787.

  3. Batory M, Namieciński P, Rotsztejn H. Evaluation of structural damage and pH of nail plates of hands after applying different methods of decorating.Int J Dermatol. 2019;58(3):311-318. doi:10.1111/ijd.14198

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FAQs

How do you fix a broken nail hack? ›

Cutting a tiny section from a teabag, Ash places this over the split in the nail, applies a light layer of nail glue and sticks the material down. Ash follows with a slick of top coat and, like magic, the gap is mended.

How do you fix a broken nail without nail clippers? ›

Step 1: Cut the top off of a tea bag and make a square roughly the size of the crack. Step 2: Smooth a layer of nail glue over the crack (a brush-on formula is easiest here), and while it's still wet, place the tea bag square on top. Step 3: Once it's dry, paint one more layer of nail glue and you're good to go.

How do you fix a broken nail without a tea bag? ›

If you need to quickly fix a broken nail, cut a small piece of clear tape so it's just big enough to cover the tear. Lay the tape over the tear in the nail and press it down firmly so it adheres, then trim away any excess tape.

Can glue fix a broken nail? ›

"Lightly buff the surface of the nail and apply a coat or two of a fast-drying, thin viscosity glue, like Nail Bliss by Dashing Diva Brush-on Glue ($5), to hold your nail together until you can get to a salon," she says. Coat your nail with polish on top of the glue once it's dried to help keep the crack in place.

Can a broken nail join back together? ›

If you caught your nail on something and ripped it off, unfortunately, it won't reattach—but it will eventually grow back. If it has separated from the nail bed completely, it will take around six months to grow back out.

What glue can you use instead of nail glue? ›

The Best Nail Glue Alternatives and Substitutes are:
  • Nail Tabs (Easiest & safest method)
  • Using Acrylic Mixture (More durable & longer-lasting than nail glue)
  • Gel Nail Polish or Polygel (Works best on transparent press on nails or tips)
  • DIY Nail Glue (Using a mixture of clear nail polish & clear glue)

Can you use super glue as nail glue? ›

Super Glue should never be used to glue your Press on Nails or Fake Nails. Super Glue wasn't made to be used on your body and it can be very harsh on your natural nails which can lead to them being damaged. This is why most brands of super glue come with a warning on their label to not use it on your skin or body.

Will a split nail heal? ›

Most split nails will heal with time as your nails grow out. If you're experiencing frequent splitting, avoid moisture on your nails and consider using a nail hardening solution. If your split nails are causing you frequent discomfort, consult with your doctor about treatment options.

Will gel polish fix a broken nail? ›

Not only do gel manicures give your nails a natural-looking finish, but the formula comes in handy to strengthen your nails and repair small breaks and cracks. And if you have a lamp for curing gel polish, you can even give yourself a nail-repairing gel manicure at home.

How fast do nails grow? ›

Fingernails grow about 3.5 millimeters each month

And toenails grow about 1.5 millimeters per month. Those are the averages for healthy adults. Whether you're getting proper nutrition and how well you take care of your nails can affect the growth rate.

How does Vaseline fix broken nails? ›

Use scissors to remove the detached part of the nail if the nail is partly attached. Soak your finger or toe in cold water for 20 minutes after trimming the nail. Apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, and cover the area with a non-stick bandage.

Does hot water break down nail glue? ›

After soaking your nails, hot water can loosen the nail glue. Over time, you will feel that your acrylics will start to soften and slowly come off—making them easier to remove. For great results, you can dip your nails with warm water and oil to eliminate any glue residue from your natural nails before you rinse them.

Why do tea bags fix a broken nail? ›

A teabag - it acts as the glue. A base or top coat - the adhesive. A fine nail file - to smooth the teabag into the nail. A nail polish - to cover and seal.

Should I remove a broken fingernail? ›

Trim off the detached part of a large tear, or leave the nail alone. Cover the nail with tape or an adhesive bandage until the nail has grown out enough to protect the finger or toe. If you trim off the detached nail, you will have less worry about the nail catching and tearing.

How do you make homemade nail glue? ›

To make nail glue, start by combining 1 cup of PVA glue and about half of a standard-sized bottle of nail polish in a bowl. Use a cotton swab stick to stir the mixture, since you can also use it for applying the glue afterwards.

How fast do nails grow in a day? ›

Your fingernails grow at an average rate of 3.47 millimeters (mm) per month, or about a tenth of a millimeter per day.

How long do nails grow in a week? ›

Chacon, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist. “Fingernails tend to grow about 0.7 mm or about 0.03 inches per week,” she says, adding that toenails take about 2-3 times longer to grow.

How painful is losing a fingernail? ›

Some accidents can lift your nail away from your finger partially or completely. This is called nail bed avulsion, and it's extremely painful. This injury is typically accompanied by bleeding and swelling, and it definitely calls for immediate medical attention.

Can you Gorilla Glue a broken nail? ›

It is possible but discouraged to use Gorilla Glue or super glue on your nails. Nail glue is undoubtedly the better option as it was designed for use on the human nail. Other alternatives to nail glue can create bacteria collection and potential infection, not to mention the mess it can make.

What is the best nail glue? ›

The 5 Best Nail Glues for a Long-Lasting At-Home Manicure
  • KDS Nail Glue. Buy on Amazon Buy on Walmart. ...
  • Cala Super Nail Glue. Buy on Amazon Buy on Walmart. ...
  • NYK1 Nail Glue. Buy on Amazon Buy on Walmart. ...
  • Young Nails Brush-On Glue. Buy on Amazon Buy on Walmart. ...
  • Static Nails Non-Damaging Brush-On Nail Glue. Buy on Ulta.
28 Jun 2022

How long does super glue last on nails? ›

As long as the super glue isn't harming you or keeping you from doing something else to your nails, such as painting them, you can simply leave it on. It will usually peel off on its own after 1 or 2 days.

Can a tea bag fix a broken nail? ›

The low-down: If you break a nail, apply a base coat across the break, then soak up any excess with a small square of dry teabag. It will fuse the nail together. Then apply colour and finish with a strengthening top coat.

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