I would say the first important thing is to stop using your nails as tools, this weakens them tremendously and leads to breakage and tears. Next give Biotin supplements a try, get a Hair, Skin and Nails formula with 1000 mcg of Biotin and see if it triggers break outs for you. It does in some people so I wouldn’t recommend starting off at the 5000 mcg level just to be safe and make sure you tolerate it at 1000 mcg. I take two 1000 mcg capsules after lunch religiously. However I have recently learned from a nutritionist and nail polish enthusiast that our bodies can only process 300 mcg a day. The biggest thing to remember is that it won’t work if you forget to take it so schedule a time when you take vitamins or medications and stick to it. I'm not a doctor or a pharmacist so definitely talk to yours before starting any new supplements.
The Biotin takes a couple of months to work, but when it starts to improve your nails you will be glad you’re taking it, the difference is like night and day. Next I would add a daily moisturizer to your regular routine, some people use Lansinoh HPA Lanolin which is a nipple cream for breast feeding mothers, and you’ll find it in the baby aisle, it can turn even the hardest cuticles into smooth joys to deal with in a matter of a few uses. If the idea of using this ointment bothers you for whatever reason you can use olive oil or even a heavy duty lotion, but the key is to be consistent and use it daily at least once or twice. I personally have a tub of coconut oil by my bed and use this with my cotton gloves a few times a week. You can buy Manicure Gloves for $1 at the Dollar Tree, these cotton gloves are worn at night with a huge helping of whatever lotion you like, the cotton helps keep the lotion where it needs to be to do the most good, now the HPA Lanolin will stain these so if you’re using it I honestly don’t see a need for the gloves. I have several pairs I use with a vitamin E skin cream at night before bed occasionally.
Next I would highly recommend you purchase either a ruby stone file or a glass file from Sally’s beauty supply. You can use this to seal the free edge of your nails to help them stay in better shape. And you can use it to shape your nails. Nail shape is personal preference however the more of the sides of the nails you maintain the stronger the nails are. Square is the strongest shape with totally rounded being much weaker for your nails. So try to figure out what shape you like them in and stick to it. It’s a good idea to file in one direction if you can, but I tend to file towards the middle, side to middle seems to work for me and it was how I was taught in Beauty College, so it’s what I go with.
These things are very important but the next step is just as important as the above ones. Get a base coat, top coat, and some colored polishes. Drug store brands don’t wear as long as say, Color Club, or China Glaze or even higher end polishes, but no polish will last even two days without a base coat or a top coat. Polish will help protect and seal your nails and helps them stay strong. Commit to doing at least weekly manicures. I find I am doing mine twice a week now, like every third or fourth day. If I get a chip before that I will patch it with base coat, the same color I have on, then top coat. Of course you wash your hands first to make sure you’re not sealing in anything bad like germs. One product I really recommend is Salon Science's Instant Artificials from Sally's. It really adds a layer of strength to any manicure, I use it over my regular Sally's Beauty Secret's Moisturizing Base Coat, and now I have made the switch to Sally Hansen's Insta-Dri Anti-Chip Top Coat in the red bottle. This combination really is working for me.
But if you’re just starting out you can use drug store brands like Sally Hansen or Wet & Wild and be perfectly fine. CVS sells the top coat I used to adore, it’s a fast drying top coat and it dries the polish beneath it, it’s called Poshe and it’s about $7 from Sally’s Beauty Supply or $9 from CVS. It’s amazing stuff. You can also get the red bottle of the Sally Hansen’s Insta Dri there too and it also works good, so it’s a matter of what you can find around you and what you can reasonably afford. Wearing polish should be fun, and not like work, so if all this is overwhelming to you, just start with manicuring your nails and add whatever else you can handle to your new nail care routine.
Some people add cuticle removers to their manicure steps, but I really haven’t used it since Beauty College, I just don’t think it’s too important if you’re moisturizing daily and taking care to file your nails weekly or as needed. I will gently push back the cuticles after washing my hands thoroughly, when they seem like they need it, but I don’t do this every manicure. You can get a red or pink tipped cuticle pusher from either Walgreen’s or Sally’s Beauty Supply for under $1 and they are useful to help keep your cuticles in good shape. Some people use nippers or clippers on their cuticles but I try to avoid this unless I have a hangnail or something where the cuticle has ripped or been injured.
I also want to add that you should only shake polish if you’re going to use polish thinner, to restore a really goopy or dried out polish. If it’s thick it doesn’t mean it should go in the trash, polish thinner is cheap, under $4 at Sally’s Beauty Supply, and you should use it when polishes get too thick, a few drops can bring a polish back to new consistency most of the time, but sometimes it takes more than a few drops, you just add some and roll the polish between your palms and see if that was enough, if not add more and continue rolling it. You should NEVER add Acetone polish remover to polishes, it will break them down in the bottle and ruins them. You’d be surprised at the way thinner can save a supposedly old or ruined polish so it’s worth buying some thinner to keep on hand to save them from the trash heap.