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Q. What is the best product to strengthen thin, brittle nails?

Crystal Bishop

Newark, Delaware

A. If the only nails of steel around are the stainless kind hammered into your walls, read on. Fingernails are made from a tough protein called keratin, but they still suffer all kinds of daily abuse. “Overexposure to very hot water, harsh cleaning products, and detergents can break down nails’ elasticity, leaving them brittle and dull,” says Elle, a manicurist based in New York City. To fend off brittleness, try Barielle’s Hydrating Ridge Filler with Silk Fiber ($16, It contains water (unlike most products), which helps replenish and rebalance nails’ natural moisture level, staving off dryness and increasing nail flexibility.

Iron and other mineral deficiencies, as well as acetone nail-polish removers (which strip nails of their natural oils) can cause delicate nails to peel. Elle recommends using Cutex Acetone Free Nail Polish Remover ($2.50, available at drugstores) and Original O.P.I. Nail Envy ($17, for locations) as a base coat; both contain protein, which reinforces and fortifies nails.

Finally, slather on a hand cream like Linden Leaves Hand and Nail Treatment Cream ($18, and aim for 2.5 milligrams of vitamin B7 a day. Vitamin B7, commonly known as biotin, can be found in egg yolks, tomatoes, milk, yeast, liver, some fruits and meats, and some beans and nuts. The fatty acids help promote new cell growth, which may result in stronger and healthier nails, skin, and hair.

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