Acrylic and gel nails might look the part but they’re no substitute for the real deal. Fake nails can also damage your fingernails and make them brittle and prone to breakage. So what’s a girl to do? These tips and tricks can help you do away with fake fingernails and grow your own long, strong and gorgeous looking nails.
Break Bad Nail Habits
The first step to getting the long, strong nails you desire is to break all the bad habits that have kept them weak and short for years.
The biggest culprit is onychophagia, commonly known as nail biting. Research suggests 45% of teens, 25% of young adults, and 5% of older people bite their nails. You’ll never get the long, strong nails you want if you bite them and there are several ways to beat the habit. Keeping your hands busy can be helpful, so try occupying yourself with a new hobby like knitting or crocheting. You might also try wrapping your nails in Band-Aids or covering them in an unpleasant substance like hot sauce, vinegar or a commercial no-bite solution.
Nail biting isn’t the only damaging habit, though. Picking at your fingers can remove layers of your nail beds and make them much weaker. As nails are porous, sucking on your fingers will make your nails soft and prone to breakage. Even regularly running your fingers along the tips of your nails can do damage.
Take Biotin in Supplements or Food
Most people don’t need supplements to grow healthy, strong nails, but not everyone’s so genetically blessed. If you regularly notice breakage, you may benefit from taking Biotin, a B vitamin. This vitamin has been approved by medical professionals and shown to get great results.
A German study assessed the impact of biotin on people with severe nail problems. The 45 test subjects took 2.5 milligrams of biotin daily for several months. Every person in the study said the supplement improved their nails and 91% of the participants noticed significant improvement. Dr. Sumayah Jamal, a dermatologist at New York University. told WebMD that people should make sure they’re taking the prescription-strength supplement of 2.5 milligrams daily to see results. Many supplements also contain the nutrients silicon and MSM, which are both linked to good nail health.
There are also a number of foods rich in biotin including tomatoes, tuna, turkey, and mushrooms if you’d prefer more natural sources.
Use Oils for Hydration
Nails are very porous and can become brittle if they’re not kept hydrated. When they’re put under pressure, dry nails break and split rather than bending as they should. A good natural oil can give your nails the extra hydration they need to look their best.
Organic argan and rosehip seed oils are excellent options. Cold-pressed varieties are good choices as this process preserves the oil’s naturally occurring vitamins and essential fatty acids. Simply massage a couple of drops into your nails and cuticles nightly to keep your nails hydrated. Take a minute to massage the oil in to stimulate blood supply and improve nail growth.
Nourish From the Inside Out
Hydrating your nails from the outside is important but don’t forget to hydrate and nourish them from the inside, too.
A variety of foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids will help keep your nails hydrated. Foods such as salmon and other oily fish, grass-fed beef and dairy, walnuts, and almonds all contain high amounts of omega fatty acids. Of course, water is the ultimate hydrator. Drink at least eight glasses a day to keep your nails healthy and consume plenty of fruits and veggies as they are rich in water. Conversely, say no to beverages that cause dehydration, like tea, coffee, caffeinated sodas, and alcohol.
Your body converts the antioxidant beta-carotene into Vitamin A, which is essential for cell growth and healthy nail development. Orange veggies like sweet potatoes, pumpkins, and carrots are rich in this antioxidant.
Studies show 10 mg of silicon can help strengthen your nails in 20 weeks. You’ll get that by eating a cup of green beans every day. Organic varieties get the best results, so bypass the beans sprayed with chemical nasties.
Calcium isn’t just good for bone health; it’s also excellent for nail health. Choose foods and drinks rich in calcium to turn dry, brittle nails into long, strong ones. Milk, yogurt, cheese, and spinach are all excellent sources.
Don’t Neglect Your Cuticles
With so much focus on your nails it’s easy to forget about your cuticles. These are the foundations of your nails so they deserve your attention. Gently push back your cuticles with a cuticle pusher to maximize your nailbed and make your nails appear longer.
Resist the urge to snip your cuticles because this prevents them from doing their job of protecting the base of your nail. Removing the cuticle leaves an open space for bacteria and other unpleasantries to enter your body. Bacterial infections have been known to inhibit nail growth, so it’s not worth taking the risk. Redness, swelling, pus, and pain are all signs of a cuticle infection, so see a doctor promptly for treatment if you notice any of these symptoms. Cutting your cuticles can also lead to aesthetic problems, including unsightly ridges and white spots and lines in your nails.
Keep Your Nails at the Right Length
It might seem counter-intuitive to try to cut your nails if you want them long, but the best way to keep your nails looking nice is maintaining the right shape and length. Choose from five common nail shapes: oval, square, round, pointed (sometimes called almond), and a combination of oval and square dubbed “squoval.” The shape you choose will probably depend on your tastes and what suits your nail beds. However, round and oval shapes are favored by many women because they soften the hand and don’t snag as easily as other styles.
You can file your nail to your preferred shape using a buffing block, an emery board, or a crystal file. A file with 180 or 240 grit is ideal, because it’s strong enough to file down your nails but not strong enough to tear them. Lower grit numbers are too coarse for natural nails and should only be used to file acrylics. Higher grit numbers will work, but since their grit is very fine you’ll need to spend more time filing. Metal files are very common but they tend to shred nails rather than filing them. Also, pop a spare file in your purse to make sure you can take action in an emergency. Otherwise a snagged nail can turn into a problem quite quickly.
If you’ve never shaped your nails before, trim them with nail clippers or manicure scissors to get the desired shape and then use a file for the finer details. Nail clippers are easy to use but some women prefer manicure scissors. They are incredibly sharp, so proceed with caution if you’ve never used them before. File from the outside of your nail toward the center in smooth, even motions. Always file in a single direction, as using a sawing motion can cause tearing. File in a flat position for a square edge, and curve the file for a more rounded edge. Be firm when filing, but not so forceful that you damage the nail wall.
Nails tend to grow unevenly, so make sure you trim yours to match your shortest nail. Nails can also get too long for your taste or your lifestyle, so you may want to trim them regularly to maintain your preferred length. People with small to medium nailbeds also tend to look better with nails on the shorter side. And remember, no one looks good with nails worthy of the Guinness Book of World Records!
Add Some Color
A few coats of nail polish can turn your long nails from ordinary to eye-catching. But polish doesn’t just have an aesthetic appeal. Your favorite polish actually forms a great protective barrier. Apply a base coat, at least two coats of colored polish, and a top coat for a glossy finish, and you’ve got four layers of polish protecting and reinforcing your nails. For some extra strength, use a nail hardener as your base. Nail polish lovers swear their habit keeps their nails long and strong. Many even say that discovering nail polish helped them kick the biting habit!
Just be cautious of nail polishes laden with chemicals like formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalates, which can weaken the nails. Many beauty brands are releasing vegan and chemical-free polishes that won’t deteriorate your nails.
When you tire of the color, resist the urge to pick it off, because this will remove the top layer of your nail bed and weaken your nails. Instead grab a cotton ball, add some acetone-free nail polish remover, and swab the polish away. While acetone is a common ingredient in nail polish removers, this chemical can strip away the natural oils that protect your nails, leaving them weaker and vulnerable to damage. Acetone-free nail polish removers are becoming more common and are available at most drugstores.
Limit Professional Manicures
You might think the manicurists do a better job of painting your nails than your unsteady hand, but there’s scientific evidence to suggest it’s best to stay out of the salon. Research led by Dr. Dana Stern, a dermatologist at New York City’s Mount Sinai Medical Center, found people who regularly get manicures are more likely to have dry, brittle nails. The doctors believed these women’s nails suffer because they’re exposed to more harsh chemicals. They’re also more likely to have chronic nail bed infections that inhibit nail growth.
Do you worry you might have an infection? Look at your finger sideways. The area around your nail bed should appear flat. If it’s puffy and inflamed, you may have a chronic infection. Book an appointment with your doctor to confirm the condition and get treatment if necessary.
Treat Your Nails Well
You needn’t become a princess, but treating your nails well will help them stay long and looking their best.
Your nails might be literally at your fingertips, but make sure you resist the temptation to use them as tools. Nails aren’t for scratching off labels, opening packaging, unfastening keyrings or performing other tasks that put them at risk.
Protecting them from this kind of damage is the only way to keep them in pristine condition. Making sure you always carry a small foldable pair of scissors with you can help you resist the urge to use your nails in ways that will damage them.
Forget what Marilyn Monroe said about diamonds; gloves can be a woman’s best friend. They’ll protect your nails from harsh chemicals when you’re washing dishes or cleaning the house and from soil while you’re gardening. Make sure you always glove up when you’re doing any chore that could damage your nails.
Gloves also come in handy when winter weather rolls around. The cold can dry and deteriorate your nails, undoing all of the hard work you put in during summer. Keep a cute pair of felt or woolen gloves in your purse, and you’ll never need to expose your nails to the elements.
Go Natural With Soaps and Shampoos
Detergents and other cleaners aren’t the only chemical products your nails are exposed to. Soaps and shampoos are also commonly made with chemicals including sodium lauryl sulfate, phthalates, and parabens. They’re designed to strip away oils from your scalp and hands, so it stands to reason that they’d also dry out your nails, leaving them weak and brittle.
It’s not practical to wear gloves when dealing with these products, so choose more organic, natural alternatives instead. Soaps and shampoos all list their ingredients on the packs to help you make a more informed choice.
With these tips for growing long, strong nails in mind, you need never resort to those damaging gel and acrylic alternatives again!