A: We love polished nails for their ability to make us feel instantly more pulled together. So taking a break can be quite a shock if it’s been a while since you’ve seen them bare. But it’s necessary, says Jocelyn Petroni, the official manicurist for Chanel in Australia. “Synthetic treatments are occlusive, meaning that no air or water can move through to feed the nail.” The result is often peeling, softening and brittleness. Another thing that doesn’t help: picking it off rather than using an acetone soak.

Fortunately, there’s plenty you can do to restore your nails, starting from the inside. A key mineral is silicium, “which helps nails to grow faster and be more resistant,” says Petroni. It’s found in vegetables, prunes, whole cereals and garlic, so eat up.

Next, apply a strengthening formula to your nails. Petroni rates Mavala’s Scientifique K+, which has been shown to harden the nail plate by improving the cohesion of keratin fibres (what nails are made of). Also add cuticle oil (we love the classic by Sally Hansen with vitamin E) to your daily regimen to help heal ragged edges and prevent nails from getting too dry.

Once nails start to look and feel stronger, gently buff them to help stimulate circulation and give them a nice sheen, says Tracey Winder, the national trainer for Mavala. And keep the shape short and round to minimise wear and tear. Finally, adjust your expectations. While all of the above will help, the full regrowth cycle of a nail is three to five months, so keep in mind that it’s a marathon not a sprint.

Words by Brooke Le Poer Trench for ELLE