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For as long as I can remember, my family just had “bad” nails. Our genes cursed the women in our family with short stubby nail beds, paper thin peeling nails, and nails that were just plain... well, ugly. I often painted my nails, only to be disappointed by how unflattering even the brightest colors appeared on my unattractive beds. What’s worse is I was a compulsive biter. All attempts to quit just ended in failures, and even when I wasn’t biting per se, my fingers still ended up in my mouth. I’d still gently gnaw at the white free edges, and separate the skin from under my nail beds. Any growth was weak and flimsy, so I’d concede and return to my nasty habit. I had once bitten a hangnail that had become so badly infected that I ended up having it lanced at an ER trip. “Why even bother quitting biting if I have weak nails anyway?” I often bargained with myself. So, I either ignored my nail stumps, or shelled out $60 to get them done. Both options weren’t sustainable for me or my bank account. That’s when I finally said, “Enough is ENOUGH!”
A few hours of nail care research and I was ready to do this, but would it work? To my surprise, my results were astounding! My nails grew strong, the peeling and breakage stopped, and my stubby nail beds finally elongated. All this time, I thought I was doomed when in reality, I simply knew NOTHING of proper nail care. Today I’m going to share my findings, and best tips for reversing years of nail damage. It’s not easy at first, but don’t give up!! It’s worth it, and it absolutely WORKS!
Steps to finally growing beautiful nails:
1. STOP THE BITING!!!
Yup. Even you knew this was coming. Nail biting, and healthy nails just can’t live in harmony. I know, I know, easier said than done, but it really is THAT important. Don’t bother with products that claim to deter you from biting. They don’t work. Trust me on that. Just like a diet change, it takes dedication and a choice. Keep your goal in your head at all times, and take pictures to show you your regular progress. Thankfully, nails grow quickly so you should see results fast! Mind over matter my friends!!! (Besides, you don’t want those nasty finger germs in your body, or in my case, a steep ER bill for an infection.)
2. Nails are made from keratin... as in the same material as hair. Moisture is your friend!!
That’s right, folks! Nails are made of keratin. Hair is made of keratin. What happens if you skip the conditioner on your hair? It’s not a pretty image, is it? Nails are no different in this regard. They need plenty of moisture to stay free of cracks and damage. Invest in some cuticle oil and some hand lotion. Oil should be massaged into the cuticles and fingertips twice daily, and lotion should be applied any time your hands are washed or exposed to harsh conditions. Keep that lotion in your purse for on the go!
3. Cuticle Care 101
Your cuticles need just as much love as your nails. What exactly is the cuticle anyway? The cuticle is the little picture frame around your nails. That little lip covers the nail matrix, which is where your growth is formed. Do: after showering, during showering, or after massaging in cuticle oil; gently push down the edges with the back of your other fingernail or an orange stick (those pointy stick things you’ve seen in literally every manicure kit). Don’t: haphazardly shove tools straight down into the nail matrix. THIS WILL CAUSE DAMAGE! Also, please do NOT cut your cuticles! You need them to help keep out those nasty little germs. When done correctly, properly groomed cuticles will help elongate your nail beds, and help prevent hangnails. Unkempt cuticles can literally pull the edges of your nails and cling to the nail plates, which causes tearing and distortion of the skin and nails. NO THANKS!
4. Toss the nail clippers!
You heard me correctly. NO. MORE. NAIL CLIPPERS! From now on, you’ll tame your nail shape and length with nail files only. Cutting is much too aggressive for your delicate nails, and can actually create micro-cracks. These little cracks can turn into larger cracks, and weaken and split the nail as it grows. This is not helpful for adding length. Instead, grab your handy-dandy nail file and get to work. There's one caveat though! You must only file in one direction. Don’t just go sawing away at your nails. This too can cause cracks and tears.
5. Learn to clean under your nails properly.
From now on, you’ll actually use the little brush thingy in your manicure kit. If you tossed it, just head over to your local dollar store and pick one up. Gently brush under your nails with the soft bristles of the nail brush (a soft toothbrush is also effective) in swift sweeping motions. Any debris under your nail beds will be removed, and you’ll be left with the under skin still intact and not separated from the nails. It’s important not to pick and shove objects under your nail beds! You want the skin under your nails to regrow and attach to the nails. The farther up you can get the free edge to grow (white parts on the top of your nails), the more stable your new growth will be. Plus, this is one of the ways you’ll help encourage longer, more attractive nail beds.
6. Never be naked (well, your nails that is).
Nails are delicate, and require protection. This is the most fun step in my opinion! Polish is an effective and easy way to ensure your nails stay sealed from liquids. Also, be sure to wear gloves when washing dishes or cleaning with harsh chemicals. Unprotected nails will absorb any liquids they come in contact with, and waterlogged nails are flimsy and prone to damage. How do you know your nails have been soaked too long? The white free edge will look suddenly clear. If this happens, leave your nails alone until they’ve returned to their normal white edged selves! Don’t have time to paint them all pretty? Just make sure you throw on a regular old clear coat for protection. When you want a change, use some non-acetone remover, and resist the urge to peel off the polish. Peeling polish can also cause damage.
7. Your nails are for display ONLY!
As you read in steps 1-6, getting these pretty babies in tip top shape is no walk in the park. Your new nails will be beautiful and strong, but they’re still very delicate and should be treated as so. Please refrain from treating them like tools. Soda cans can be opened with a spoon, butter knife, or even your car keys (husbands/boyfriends are also effective). Stickers can be peeled with a knife or soaked off in warm water. Be creative, and improvise using household items as necessary. Nails just aren’t made to be abused.
All these steps might sound a bit overwhelming, but relax, you’ve got this! Before you know it, your new nail routine will come as naturally as your skincare or hair routine. In a matter of weeks, you’ll have the nail beds you always dreamed of, and can reap the benefits of healthy and gorgeous new nail growth. Enjoy your new nails!