There are some events that I truly feel were overlooked by the Olympic Committee. For example, I feel like the amount of time, training, dedication, and acceptance of repeated failures it takes to grow your nails out without breaks and chips should be featured somewhere in between gymnastics and weightlifting. And not like, regular weightlifting. I'm talking about the kind of weightlifting where really broad, muscular people lift the equivalent of semi trucks with a dedication and skill I can only devote to eating snack foods.
There have been more times than I care to remember where I was mere millimeters from the nail length promised land, only to shut a car door at a weird angle or grab a drawer the wrong way, and relive, yet again, the experience of having all my dreams cracked and broken. And it's not like you can just move on from a cracked or broken nail. You can't live your life with four glorious nail specimens and one short, ragged jerk nail. You have to trim everything. Or you have to use some kind of crack repair or fake nail, which is probably going to damage your natural nail and create this viscous cycle of non-natural nail length.
I haven't completely mastered the art of growing out my nails yet (mostly because I can't ever resist the urge to put on, then chew off, fake nails) but I do know what you're supposed to do. Stick with me, and I'll walk you through it.
1. Break All Those Bad Habits
If you're nail biter, a cuticle picker, or if you have some other habit that's destroying your nails, well, you guessed it. You gotta give it up. I know it's hard, especially since these habits are often long-held-on-to coping mechanisms for stress and anxiety, but you can do it. You'll never have long, healthy nails if you keep sabotaging your hands with these compulsive behaviors. And don't be ashamed if you need help from a counselor to drop your bad habits. That's one of the things they're there for! Plus, if it makes you feel better, my therapist helped me stop picking scabs on my head, so no shame.
2. Pick A Different Shape
I love those square nails. I mean, like severely square. Like, ants could tightrope on them. But when you have square nails, those edges tend to break off. Stiletto and almond nails are awesome if you have some length. Oh, and ballerina/coffin nails are so cute and trendy right now. But for most people just starting out, a good squoval or oval shape will let you get some length with much fewer breaks. A good rule of thumb is to make your nail shape mirror your cuticle shape, but that's not set in stone. Just find a shape that doesn't seem to always break, snag, or cause you to scratch up your face like a baby who needs their nails trimmed.
3. Baby Your Cuticles
Your cuticles are now your life. You know that part in Pitch Perfect where Stacy is all "my hobbies include cuticle care and watching E! Network"? Well this is you now. You need to use hand lotion at least before bed and once or twice throughout the day. You need to add cuticle oil after each manicure. And you need to use soaps and hand products that add rather than remove moisture (I'm looking at you, drying hand sanitizers). If your cuticles are rough and dry and cracked, you're doomed before you even get started. Think of your cuticles as the bottom layer of bread on your nail sandwich. You need a healthy foundation.
4. Never Go Naked
If you're going swimming, taking a bath, spending fourteen years in the shower, or changing aquarium water tanks, you need to have some nail protection. Water soaks into your nails like a dubious invader and pushes apart the different layers of your nails. You get weak nails that want to chip and peel. No good. Instead, always wear at least a good base coat, and make sure to cap your nails and hit the undersides with it too. Your goal is to make a little raincoat for your nails out of polish. This will save you tons of grief down the road, especially once you start to build some length.
5. Oil Like It's Your Only Job
There's this fascinating thing that Bliss Kiss does called the 3-day or 7-day hydration challenge. The goal is to apply oils to your nails every couple of hours until they cannot possibly absorb any more oil. Once they're fully hydrated, you're left with nails that are flexible instead of hard. That means when you accidentally hit your nail on something, it's more likely to bend and not break. In fact, the oil will also help if you have nails that just seem to peel and crack on their own without any help from your personal brand of clumsiness. This is like the secret weapon of all those Instagrammers with the perfect long nails who always use #naturalnails and make us all jealous. But you're totally on to them, so...
6. Baby Your Nails
Have you ever seen nail models walking around with gloves on to protect their million dollar hands from sun and contact with common humans? Do that. Okay, I'm just kidding. But you do need to at least try to be more careful. Don't open soda cans with them. Don't pick at labels and stickers. Wear gloves when you garden, engineer, travel in space, or do complicated science. Maybe don't do car mechanic work or, like, construction, without some serious personal protective equipment. Don't abuse them with whiteners, or chew off fake nails. Don't peel off your gels or chip at your polish. Gosh, so many rules! I know. You can do it.
7. Take Care Of Your Insides
Your nails might not be pulsing with veins and other signs of life, but they're still attached to your body and still created by mechanisms inside you that are very much alive. That means you need to do things to your body, as a whole, to get healthier nails. Those things include drinking enough water, staying on top of any body (and nail) damaging health conditions like diabetes and thyroid disorders, and eating a well-balanced diet. Your nails, specifically, need omega-3s (yes, Chipotle guac! Yes, I know it's extra...), biotin, zinc, and protein. Healthy body, healthy mani.
If you can master all of these habits, you'll have nails like lightsabers in no time. But I don't advise battling people on the subway with them, because obvi they will break.
Images: Nailed It NZ