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The (kind of) Secret to Beautiful Nails

Updated on February 26, 2013
At least I can still open the door.
At least I can still open the door.

(Hint: It's in your blood.)


"How do you get your nails so long?"

I'm not sure how many times I've heard this question, but it always strikes me a strange. How do I get my nails so long? How do you "get" longer hair? How do you "make" your heart beat? The answer seems obvious--they just grow! But over the years I've come to realize that for a lot of people, "getting" long nails is an impossible feat, best achieved at the nail salon after dropping about $50-200.

Once they get to this length it gets sort of ridiculous.
Once they get to this length it gets sort of ridiculous.

Good Genes

The sturdiness of your nails does depend on some things that you can control. Diet and nutrition are very important, along with the care you take not to bump your nails into things or open soda cans. But there's a lot about it that you can't control. Sometimes the thickness and strength of your nails is just genetic. Smaller, slimmer fingers with rounder nails are preferable to wide fingers with flatter nails.

We all did that "science" experiment in grade school, right? Where you balance a brick on a cylinder of paper? The same thing applies to nails. The more cylindrical your nails, the sturdier they will be. And the smaller they are, the better. By which I mean a c is sturdier than a C.

So for me (and my mom), I just got lucky. I was born with small fingers and rounder nails. They're thick and tough, and difficult to cut, but they don't break very easily.

And they sprout flowers and glitter.
And they sprout flowers and glitter.

How Can I Get Nicer Nails?

If you weren't lucky enough to be born with good nails and don't have the cash to spend on fake ones (which bring their own issues), there are a few things you can do to make the best of the nails you have.

1. Don't File the Sides

My mom always does this and I don't know why. Remember what I said about cylinders? This weakens the nail by making it flatter. So even someone like my mom with relatively nice nails won't get them to last as long because they've been structurally weakened. I'm not sure what she has against rounder nails, but apparently this is some undesirable thing? Personally I like knowing that I can type a paper or open a package without my nail unexpectedly ripping off.

2. Avoid Dangerous Situations

This is such a no-brainer. Playing sports is probably not good for your nails (I got my pinky nail kicked off when someone decided to kick the soccer ball I was holding), and neither are soda cans. You can probably stick something flat (a butter knife, for example) under a pop top to open it, but in other situations you may need to get assistance. Which is, unfortunately, one of the cons of having long nails.

3. Avoid Chemicals and Water

This is a little tougher. Using gloves while washing the dishes helps, but sometimes you just can't avoid getting your nails wet. Chemicals will weaken your nails and perhaps dry them out. Water will soften them, which also can make them weaker.

4. Stay Hydrated, Eat Well

Another no-brainer! A balanced diet with plenty of fluids is great for your nails! Some people focus on certain supplements such as calcium or B vitamins. The truth is, taking extra supplements won't do a bit of good (calcium won't make them better), but a deficiency in calcium or Bs will make your nails worse. A lot of health problems show up in your nails (so if you notice ridges or strange changes in your nails, go see your doctor), but good health and good health practices won't necessarily make them better.

You want the kinds of nails that slam against the table, fold in half and then spring back up, right? So eat your veggies!

5. Polish

This is advice I don't follow. I hate polishing my nails. I hate the smell. I hate wasting my time. I hate spending a week trying to keep it from chipping. And I hate removing it! But when you apply nail polish to a nail you are adding extra layers to it, which will (in theory) make it more resilient.

Just remember that certain nail polish removers will actually WEAKEN your nails by drying them out. Acetone is horrible for your nails. Which is why it's probably best not to polish them in the first place. But that's up to you. I generally find I'm more careful with my nails because I'm trying not to chip the polish, so that may be another reason that varnished nails last longer!

6. Be Nice to Your Nails

This goes along with the tips about filing, but just letting your nails be themselves can mean a lot for their structural integrity. Honestly, I don't do anything to my nails 99% of the time. I don't file, I don't buff, I don't play with my cuticles, I don't polish and I don't apply any sort of topcoat. I just let them grow because cutting them is such a hassle. This might be the secret to nice nails. Leaving them alone.

99% of the time, this is what my nails look like.
99% of the time, this is what my nails look like.


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