If there is one thing I am regularly complimented on, it’s my nails. I am very lucky in that I have very long, strong nails. But they haven’t always been like that. For as far back as I can remember I used to bite my nails, a habit I picked up around the age of three when, desperate to be just like my big brother, I started copying his nail biting habit (I say ‘when’, I still am incredibly proud and admiring of my big bro Hector x).
I tried everything to give up biting my nails; promises of manicures from my parents, giving it up for Lent, all the horrible concoctions under the sun one can paint and dip their fingers in…but nothing worked. Until one day, aged 14, I looked down at my stubby little hands (they’re pretty small at the best of times a feature emphasized hugely by my tiny, sore nails) and thought…ew. And just like that I gave up. No, really. I don’t know what it was, but suddenly my habit lost all its appeal, and my desire to have long nails like my mum suddenly overtook the urge to gnaw.
But getting from there to where I am now has taken a while, so here are my tips on how to get (and then keep!) long, healthy nails.
1. Invest in a strengthener:
I live and die by the belief that a good nail strengthener can really transform your nails, in fact I KNOW it can, because I have seen the results on my very own hands. With nail strengtheners, you really get what you pay for, so they are most definitely worth investing in. I use Dr Lewinn’s Renunail which retails at around £20. Now I realise that is a lot of money, but I permanently have it on my nails, either using their advised treatment, as a base or just a couple of coats on, and it’s a fairly big bottle. Other brilliant and more affordable brands include Nail Magic (£11) or OPI’s Nail Envy (£18). I am sure there are many other brands on the market but these are top three that I have seen great results on either myself or my loved ones. When I first started growing out my nails they were pretty weak after years of being bitten to the quick, but using a strengthener made a massive difference and even now they are very long and healthy it helps maintain and protect those qualities.
2. No nibbling:
…Or chewing, gnawing, sucking, picking or anything else that involves damaging your nails or the areas around them. I know it seems like a really obvious thing to say, but it is true. Even picking at the skin around your nails or hang nails down the side can lead to nasty infections, and the more you pick at them the weaker they become. I know my method for giving up isn’t exactly easy to replicate, but try finding a new distraction like playing with a rubber band or a piece of blu tack instead.
3. File away hang nails:
I always carry a nail file on me so as soon as a little rough edge or hang nail appears I can file it down and that way you don’t run the risk of losing your whole nail and you can usually still salvage the length. I also file my nails in an oval shape rather than blunt and square. This stops the corners from catching on things meaning they’re less likely to rip or snap off – a handy tip I learnt from my friend Meg today, but luckily a shape I’ve always kept.
4. Never use them as tools:
As a rule, I never use my nails for any other function other than looking nice. Yes I am sure that evolutionary they were great for self defense, eating food etc etc but these days we have other contraptions to help with those jobs, and using them for prizing things open or scratching off old paint/ dirt/ whatever will only weaken them. Also, be careful when using tools around them. On several occasions I’ve cut into/ off my nail when peeling potatoes or shaving my legs so do be careful, especially because the longer they get the more they get in the way.
5. Diet makes all the difference :
It is a sad but true fact that a good diet has a huge effect on your skin, hair and nails. Now that doesn’t mean gulping down pints of milk or eating copious pots of petit filous. But making sure you are eating a healthy diet full of fruit and vegetables will do wonders to your body all over, and is especially evident by the state of your nails. You could be popping five types of skin, hair and nails supplements but unless you are taking care of your diet, they will barely make a difference.
Supplements are great to give your nails an added boost, providing your diet is in check (see above). I find they come in especially handy (geddit?) when the weather is cold and your nails run the risk of becoming brittle and snapping more easily. I was gifted Imedeen from a lovely family friend, Suzanne, in an aid to help my poorly hair when I had alopecia, and while it didn’t help it come back , it made a huge difference on the growth rate of both my hair and nails when I began to recover. Again, you do get what you pay for with supplements, and I have noticed far more of an improvement taking these vs boots own brand. The cool thing is different supplements target different things, but it may take some trial and error and a lot of scanning the internet reading reviews and testimonies before you can find the right one for you.
7. Beware of the weather:
Much like with your hair, the weather can have a huge impact on your nails. Cold weather can make your nails far more brittle and more likely to break coming from a cold outside to a warm environment, and heat can make them softer and more susceptible to damage and bruising. Although there is nothing you can do to stop this, being aware of it means you can take more precautions such as wearing gloves in the cold and limiting the amount of nail polish and
8. limit your trips to the nail salon:
In my time I think I have had my nails done professionally maybe 4 times. I never, ever get fake nails of any description as they wreck havoc on your nails and can take a long while to recover from. For special occasions in the past I have got Gelish/ OPI gel manicures, but I always make sure I look after my nails leading up to the appointment and after the gel varnish has been removed to minimize any lasting damage to my nails. I also tend to go to local, free lance artists rather than salons. This is because I know and trust the women who do my nails, Hazel and Megan, and can be sure they are as keen to keep my nails healthy as I am. I do paint my nails myself fairly often, but I always use high quality brands, always apply a coat of strengthener underneath and rub them with oil to maintain their condition.
9. Other helpful accessories:
Alongside my nail strengthener and supplements there are a couple of other useful items I have to keep my nails in the best possible condition.
A cuticle oil I regularly rub into my nails (bare or with polish/ gels) to nourish them.
A glass nail file which is much more gentle on the nail. I never saw my nails back and forth like in cartoons, but gently in one direction to avoid splitting the nail.
A cuticle stick to push back my cuticles (gently) to create the illusion of longer nails.
Rose hand cream by the body shop, again to help nourish and protect my hands and nails. After all, whats the point of nice healthy nails if they aren’t on the end of nice, healthy hands?
10. Admit defeat:
It happens to the best of us. Sometimes I catch a nail on a jumper or against a hard surface and it tears right down at the base of the nail. Or perhaps I have lost the length from a couple of nails in a short space of time. when this happens I just bite the bullet and cut or file them all down to match the shortest one. Upsetting though it is, it is usually for the best and means they all grow back healthier and the same length.
All things considered, I think it’s really important to mention that everyone is different with skin, hair and nails. I am incredibly fortunate to have very strong and resilient hair and nails, as you will know from my previous blog post I really do put my hair through the mill, but it seems to take far more of a hammering than a lot of peoples, and it’s the same with nails. Some people find theirs and others will never go past a maximum lengths. But I hope some of these tips will help you achieve the nails you really want.