The natural nail is the foundation of every nail service. A healthy nail provides a clean canvas for beautiful nail art. Your clients will expect you to know basic nail health signs — and the answers to any related questions they throw your way.

Here are four common questions about nail health that every professional should be ready to answer.

1. How Can I Thicken My Nails?

Clients frequently ask about nail thickness, believing it to be a visible measure of nail health. The natural nail’s thickness is determined by the length of the matrix, or the area beneath the nail fold. Despite some products currently on the market, there are no magic pills or potions that will make the nail grow thicker than genetics allow, but hygiene, nutrition and repeated wetting and drying (especially in the dry winter months) can thin nails.

If a client has thin, weak nails, determine if they are naturally so or if they have become so by damage. A keratin treatment can also help repair the natural protein of the nail. Also, a strong nail coating like liquid and powder can protect the nail as it grows out of its damage. Your client can also incorporate this coating into their beauty regimen if their nails are naturally too thin. Clients should avoid regularly buffing the natural nails; buffing removes layers and can make the nails thin and weak.

2. How Can I Strengthen My Nails?

Most clients would love to have strong natural nails that never break. Nails that are both hard and flexible are naturally strong, and nails that don’t meet both of these criteria will likely need a little help. Brittle nails can benefit from a gel coating or a high-quality oil that can penetrate the natural nail surface. Ingredients like jojoba and squalane are carrier oils that enable penetration into the nail surface to lubricate the nail cells. Nails that are weak and overly flexible will need a coating to help protect and strengthen them. The amount of flexibility in a nail will determine if a gel polish will suffice or if liquid and powder are necessary as well to improve solidity.

3. How Can I Stop My Nails From Peeling?

Nails sometimes peel naturally and other times peel because of outside sources. Gardening and overexposure to water or cleaning products can damage nails to the point of peeling. When outside sources cause the nails to peel, some basic home-care measures and salon-applied nail coatings can help halt the damage. Wearing gloves to wash dishes, clean or garden will guard the nails and limit the peeling. Nail coatings like polish and gel polish can seal the edge of the nail to protect it. Shaping nails with a 240-grit file will also seal the edges, making the nails less likely to peel.

4. How Can I Lengthen My Nails?

When clients want longer nails, it’s up to you to determine if the nails can gain length on their own or if they’ll require a nail coating. Strong nails that are equally hard and flexible may be able to achieve length on their own with a little help from home care like regular oil application. Nails with a little bit of peeling or that are slightly brittle could grow better with some protection in the form of a gel polish. Nails that are very hard or brittle will be less prone to breaking with a gel coating to add length and protect them as they grow. Soft, weak nails in need of a makeover will see the best results from the added hardness of a liquid and powder coating to create length. A rule of thumb for the average salon client is to ensure the extension edge is no longer than the nail bed.

Knowing When to Say “I Don’t Know”

As a nail professional, you’re probably asked these questions about nail health signs daily. Knowing how to answer them shows your expertise and professionalism. And when a client comes in with a question you don’t know how to answer, honesty will always garner you the most respect. Take notes about their question, and contact an educator or expert to see if they can point you in the right direction for answers. A true nail professional values knowledge and is not afraid to admit they need to learn more.