Habits That Make Nail Beds Shorter & What To Do To Keep Them Healthy Instead

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 09: General view of atmpsphere as seen during JINsoon at Vera Wang Spring/Summer 2015 Collection at Dia:Chelsea on September 9, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Anna Webber/Getty Images for JINsoon)
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Lately, I've noticed that my nails aren't quite as long as they used to be, which got me wondering if there are certain habits that make nail beds shorter. I've always liked to keep my nails clipped short, close to the quick. But that line appears to have been slowly receding over the past few years. Has clipping my nails too short, too often caused my nail beds to shrink? Wanting to know if others have experienced this same phenomenon where nail beds became shorter over time, or if maybe I was just imagining the whole thing, I looked to a few nail blogs and emailed with a couple of experts. 

Founder and Director of Capital Laser & Skin Care and Assistant Clinical Professor of the Department of Dermatology at the George Washington University Medical Center, Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi, and celebrity manicurist for KISS Products, Inc., Gina Edwards, both weighed in on why nail beds may appear shorter, and what you can do to make them longer. According to Dr. Tanzi, clipping nails too short does not cause nail beds to become shorter. And likewise, she explained that letting your nails grow out will not cause the nail beds to grow longer either. 

Something that could cause your nail beds to appear shorter though, explains Edwards, is a minor nail casualty that causes separation towards the tip of the nail. If you've ever opened a can or peeled an orange with your nails, you may have experienced this minor lifting of the nail from the nail bed. However, this isn't a cause for concern. According to Edwards, the nail beds will reattach, and you can even "use tea tree oil to help heal the bed faster." She recommends applying tea tree oil to the affected area both morning and night for a speedy recovery. 

As far as lengthening nail beds goes, Edwards explains that the practice for this "consist[s] of pushing back your cuticles and exposing more of the nail plate." While you should never cut your cuticles, gently pushing them back after proper preparation can help your nails appear longer. To help keep your nail beds healthy and looking as long as they should, here are four other things that you can do.

1. Moisturize

So your nail beds stay healthy and look the part too, Edwards also recommends regularly moisturizing your hands and nails. Whether you prefer hand creams or cuticle oils, find a product you like, and use it at least once a day.

2. Try Press-On Nails

imPRESS Gel Manicure, $6, Walmart

If you have trouble leaving your nails alone and have a tendency to bite or pick at them, Edwards also suggests trying a press-on manicure, as it will help protect your real nails. 

3. File, Don't Cut

Nail blogger Kristina, from Dailysomething.com, revealed that she also had trouble lengthening her nail beds. While she is not a professional, she did share some tips that worked for her. One of them was refraining from cutting her nails. She noticed that when she filed her nails to her desired length rather than using nail clippers, her nail beds appeared to "grow" because she wasn't inadvertently damaging the skin underneath her nails.  

4. Use A Nail Brush

Tweezerman Dual Surface Nail Brush, $8, Amazon

Kristina also recommends using a nail brush to clean underneath nails. Whereas picking and scraping dirt from under your nails could cause some damage to the skin, a gentle nail brush will sweep away debris without harming your nail beds. 

So while habits you may have won't necessarily cause your nail beds to permanently shorten, following some (or all) of these tips could help you improve their health and appearance. 

Images: Courtesy of Brands

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