Nail Care 101
June 2, 2015 1:28 PM   Subscribe

My nails have never been pretty, but I want them to be. What could I do over the next 30 days to make them even a little improved so that they don't look bad when I dress up for Comic Con?

Possibly Relevant Info:

Yes, I bite my nails.
I have hypothyroidism.
My skin is hella dry.
If my nails get semi long they break and chip and peel.
Clear nail polish doesn't help with nail biting.
I use lotion on my hands every day and they still look like this.
My toes are actually really nice and don't have nail bed issues at all.
Short nail beds make fake nails hard to do.

Any time I ask for a manicure though at a salon the manicurist looks at me like I'm joking with her and tells me there's nothing that can be done for nail beds that short, cuticles that weird (they're really ragged on the other hand), and nails that brittle.
posted by Hermione Granger to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (27 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
For sad cuticles/nail beds and dry skin, Climb On! is a miracle worker. It also smells wonderful (and mild). It cures my ragged cuticles/nail beds in a couple days after applying liberally.
posted by blueberrypuffin at 1:33 PM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

You could try to get a gel manicure (like Shellac) which would allow your nails to grow and will probably make them hard to bite. After the UV light cure, the polish is almost like a thin layer of acrylic nail. You'd have to stop yourself from picking at them (if that's an issue), though. The polish has to be removed with pure acetone and picking at or peeling the polish off will peel layers of your nail off.
posted by quince at 1:34 PM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm a nail biter too, but I do weekly manicures on myself to keep from biting. (I don't want to accidentally ingest glitter polish)

I see your picture will the ultra-short nail beds. Have you ever tried pushing back your cuticles? Start with a daily regimen of Burt's Bees Lemon Butter. (I do this while sitting at red traffic lights on the way to work). Then get an orange stick and push back moist (immediately post-shower or bath) cuticles once weekly.

Do you clip or file your nails regularly? This also helps prevent me from biting. The ragged edges are my weakness for biting. If you file down smoothly, then there might not be much of a corner to bite and pick. Also can be a once or twice weekly activity to keep your nails short so they don't break.
posted by watch out for turtles at 1:35 PM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

So I have pretty crappy nails and am a sometime nail biter. I've found the only way to get them cleaned up and to a decent length is daily maintenance. As in lotion multiple times a day. Filing off any little rough edge every day and pushing back/cutting the cuticles. I've also found taking vitamins like vitamin d made my nails a lot stronger. But yeah it's a pain, which is why I only sort of do it and my nails are usually very short but the cuticles are in much better shape.
posted by whoaali at 1:37 PM on June 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

I was a lifelong nail-biter and for whatever reason, taking high dose multivitamins is the only thing that ever got me to stop. I don't know if they made my nails stronger so that they weren't as easy to chew on, or whether I had a pica-type mineral deficiency that was at the root of my nail biting (??) but it worked. Now I keep them painted at all times and that helps reinforce the no-biting.

So my prescription is: take a really good multivitamin and start keeping your nails painted. Do it yourself at home while you watch TV. Use this as a base coat and get Sally Hansen's Complete Salon Manicure line as your color, and whatever top coat you like. I don't know if this can complete transform your nails in 30 days but you will definitely see improvement.
posted by something something at 1:45 PM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

For Comic-Con, you could use nail wraps. I think Espionage is normally a CC vendor, and you'll probably see a lot of people wearing them. There's also ncla.

I don't find them damaging to wear or remove, and my nails will grow longer than they normally would because of the extra structural stability, and they stand up to lotioning pretty well, but you could just go on an intensive skin-care program for the next month and put the wraps on at the last minute.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:46 PM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

You have a ton of dead cuticle built up; get some remover (I like Blue Cross) and a cuticle stone and get that shit out of there, then start pushing them back. From what I can see, your nail beds could easily be pushed back to at least 2/3rds again their length, maybe even double. See all that shiny, smooth skin right below your nail beds, that's a little bit raised? Remove the dead cuticle and you can probably push your beds back almost all the way to the bottom of that area. Be gentle, but you'll see a really dramatic difference in a pretty short time.

Start taking Biotin. It might make you break out or your facial hair go crazy, but it does work for most people. Also take a good multivitamin if you aren't, and in general if you have a bad or deficient diet, it's going to show up in your nails (and hair, and skin).

Get a good cuticle balm or oil, and use it very often. I like CND's Solar Oil, solid balms are a little bit easier to use but in my experience don't work as well.

Get a soak-off LED gel polish mani on your natural nail. You can't put acrylics or sculpted gel nails on nails like that, but you can use gel polish, and it will last a long time and be much harder to bite, which might help stopping the habit. If your manicurist confuses brand names (Shellac) with technologies (soak-off UV/LED gel polish), and can't actually explain the difference between that and sculpted gel nails or gels that aren't soak-off, find another manicurist. Unfortunately, a lot of them aren't actually very educated about this stuff at all.

Personally, I like the Essie gels but any of the Shellac-type lines are fine and will work for literally any nail length and thickness. If a manicurist tells you otherwise, you don't want a mani from them anyway, because they'll overbuff and dehydrate your nail plate. I have a lamp and do this kind of mani to myself, you don't actually need to fuck with the plate as much as you do with acrylics or sculpted gels, but good luck telling that to someone who has spent their career mostly working with acrylics. Don't let them buff with anything harder than the softest foam block type buffer, and don't let them prep your nails with anything other than just a cotton ball and alcohol. When it's time to take off your soak-offs, make sure you use remover that is pure acetone + glycerine. Don't fuck around with any of the supposedly "high end" brands with other shit in them, like vitamin E or that nonsense. Zoya Remove+ works great, or you can make it yourself if you're not afraid of two-step mixing.

Once they've grown out a bit, you can either continue with the gel manis or start on a nail care regimen for your natural nail. LoodieLoodieLoodie has the best info I know of, and what works for one person won't work for everyone. If your crappy nails are at least partially genetic and not only a result of diet and vitamin deficiencies, you will probably want to skip all the calcium/protein/hippie stuff and go straight to a formaldehyde strengthener. but I've had really good results with Sally Hansen Triple Strong. Duri Rejuvacote also works for a lot of people. If you actually start to see good growth with this method, make sure you do not ever ever ever never clip your nails, ever. Nail scissors might be okay, filing is better. Metal files are forbidden, paper is acceptable, glass is best.

You could also actually start to do sculpted gels once you have enough length in your natural nails to use a nail form. Again, make sure you go for soak-offs, and it's even more important to be picky with a manicurist and get someone good and well-educated, because Shellac-alikes are pretty much just "paint nail, turn on lamp", but sculpted gels take actual manual dexterity and skill.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 2:04 PM on June 2, 2015 [8 favorites]

BEEN THERE! These are my nails now. I still struggle with dry cuticles and such, but wayy less than before.

1) STOP biting. The only way your nails are not going to brittle is when you let them grow and strengthen. I didn't even think my nails could not crack and peel until I stopped biting for a WHILE. Wear gloves if you have to or take up knitting or crochet or play with silly putty or chew gum or whatever.

2) Carefully trim dry cuticle areas with a cuticle cutter. I personally DO NOT push my cuticles back. I got more dryness with that method. I just let them do their thing and they got pretty small and not dry all on their now. But do carefully clip any hangnail-type things that will rip and tear.

3) I swear by Sally Hansen Clear Strengthener. It doesn't peel like most top coats and dries very quickly. I really feel it made a difference and really helped before my nails were strong on their own.

4) Keep nail clippers and a nail file by you at ALL TIMES. It's much better to clip and file than bite. It will make sure your nails stay strengthened. (If you bite you're just going to make them brittle again.)

5) Moisturize. I also like Solar Oil cuticle oil.
posted by Crystalinne at 2:17 PM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh my gosh young lady! File your nails right now. Stat!

But I have no nails to file, you say.

It's a catch-22! You have no nails because you don't file them. You're waiting for them to grow out before you file them. Don't! The rough edges are just too tempting and you'll chew them. Or they catch on things and cause continued breakage. File them right now, with the objective to smooth out the raggedness. Don't use a metal nail file or a rough emery board but use a "crystal" nail file (really it's just plastic, play along). You can find them for less than $10 at the store.

This will smooth out your nails. You'll be less tempted to bite because they're not rough & ragged (nothing to absently chew on). It slowly allows the nail to grow out thicker and healthier. File them every couple of days to smooth out the rough edges. Keep that file in your purse and if the nail feels a little rough, split or catching on clothes, file it down!

Then get them shellacked. It will feel like you have surf board on your fingers but it really does give them time to grow.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 2:25 PM on June 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

Don't use a metal nail file or a rough emery board but use a "crystal" nail file (really it's just plastic, play along).

Not if you invest a very small bit more and get one of the good kind, they're not. The Czech ones are 100% glass, definitely worth paying another ~$6 for. The difference between the real stuff and the fakes is palpable. They definitely give you more of that "nails on a chalkboard" feeling while using them, but it's absolutely worth learning to just grit your teeth and bear with it. The plastic ones will actually make peeling nails worse.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 2:33 PM on June 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

You could try to get a gel manicure (like Shellac) which would allow your nails to grow and will probably make them hard to bite. After the UV light cure, the polish is almost like a thin layer of acrylic nail. You'd have to stop yourself from picking at them (if that's an issue), though. The polish has to be removed with pure acetone and picking at or peeling the polish off will peel layers of your nail off.

This, this, this. I had horrible peeling splintery breaking nails. I'd look at my bare nails, see them starting to separate into layers, and I'd peel it down past the quick. I'd polish my nails, I would ding them after ten minutes so they'd look crappy, and then the polish would chip and I'd see them starting to separate into layers... and so on and so forth.

Finally, I decided to get a gel manicure. That polish does not budge. My nails didn't look crappy, so I wasn't picking at them, making it worse.

I had them for about a little over a month before I took them off (today, in fact). This is what my nails look like now (with a coat of clear sparkle on them).

TL;DR - gel nails are the way to go.
posted by Lucinda at 2:44 PM on June 2, 2015

I always had terrible peeling breaking nails. The game changer for me...I worked in a high end salon and the manicurist gave me the following advice:
1. Cut your nails short and keep them short.
2. Do not put any nail products on them such as clear polish or anything.
3. As often as you have time throughout the day, apply cuticle oil/hand cream and massage into your cuticles and nail beds. Try cuticle oil as you said hand cream hasn't been making such a big difference. And massage for a minute each nail.
Keep them short and do the above and they will grow back stronger and healthier. They have to recover before they can look good. I used to bite mine too but I got so obsessed with massaging them and taking care of them that it stopped the biting. It kind of became a game I didn't want to use.
I now have really long nails and people constantly ask me if they're fake. They're strong, barely ever break and they make me feel a lot more confident.
It takes a lot of patience and a little bit of effort.
In 30 days they won't be totally rejuvenated but they'll be on their way and you can paint them just for the wedding!

Once you have got them in great condition just make sure to keep them moisturized, give them breaks between polish. Use good quality tools (a glass file as people said above).

You can do it! If I did you can.
posted by shesbenevolent at 2:48 PM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

And just as a warning, people above have suggested a gel manicure. If you have brittle nails a gel manicure will make them worse. They may look good when they're done but as soon as they're removed your nails will be a mess. No matter how gently you remove the gel.

Someone above said nail wraps are a good idea. I agree. They're not damaging and they are really easy to use.
Also when using cuticle oil and massaging, use an orange stick to push your cuticles back each time. They will gradually soften and it makes a big difference to have cuticles that are in check.
posted by shesbenevolent at 2:52 PM on June 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

The thing with gel for damaged nails is you'd really have to go through a few cycles of getting them filled and letting your nails really grow out underneath, before you abandon the whole thing and go natural. This was at least my experience when getting them professionally done. I found it worth doing in the end.

I keep cuticle oil on my desk at work, by my computer at home, by the couch, by my bed, everywhere. As soon as I feel any dryness I put that stuff on. It's been the only way I can keep my hands decent looking as a habitual cuticle-picker-would-inflictor. Same goes for things like nail files and cuticle clippers. Basically make it as easy for yourself as possible to take care of your hands!
posted by erratic meatsack at 3:10 PM on June 2, 2015

Do not use nail clippers on your nails. Use a file to take down the length or they will peel (ask me how I know, ugh). Also learn how to 'seal the nail edge' with a fine grit file to prevent peeling and breaks. Don't wait til they are long to learn this skill: if you learn and practice now, your nails will actually be healthy enough to start growing. Loodie Loodie Loodie is a great resource for all of these techniques!

Also start taking a daily biotin supplement. You will be amazed, I promise.
posted by ananci at 3:23 PM on June 2, 2015

I used to have unattractive nails too - I always had lots of hangnails, and wondered how my friends didn't seem to have all of the hang nails I had.

I was also a nail biter, and never realized that biting was what was causing all of the hang nails (since I wasn't biting them directly). Stopping nail biting not only makes the nails look better, it prevents hang nails as well.

Only by making this connection was I able to successfully stop biting after years and years of trying. I still relapse every once in awhile, on average my nails look a million times better due to lack of hangnails.
posted by seesom at 3:32 PM on June 2, 2015

Fair warning with biotin - it made me break out all over my body pretty quickly, and this took a long time to fully go away. I was all "Pfft, what are the chances" because I don't usually react to things other people warn me about, but there you go. If you're trying to clean yourself up for some upcoming event definitely proceed with caution.
posted by erratic meatsack at 5:53 PM on June 2, 2015

I love biotin and swear by it (bonus, also works on hair!), but it can make nails seem temporarily worse before they look way, way better. Maybe that's something worth investigating for next year's ComicCon?
posted by gnomeloaf at 6:28 PM on June 2, 2015

Natalie Dee has some great info on healing damaged nails and cuticles. I'm a picker, not a biter, but these are some things that have helped me improve my nails:

* Using a glass nail file instead of nail cutters
* Regularly applying cuticle oil with a pen applicator, similar to this
* Keeping this Tweezerman cuticle nipper on me at all times
* Stashing tubes of hand lotion all over my house and using it while surfing the web or watching TV, and right before I go to sleep
posted by neushoorn at 1:40 AM on June 3, 2015

I'm going to expand on gnomeloaf's biotin suggestion and suggest taking B-Complex. MSM may also have some positive effects, but a very small number of people get anxiety problems on MSM.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 2:52 AM on June 3, 2015

I've been a lifelong biter. It's a nervous tic for me. I pick/bite at anything that isn't smooth on my nails.

Over the last couple of months, I've committed to getting acrylic nails with gel done every $increment. It's usually 3-5 weeks for me. The first time, they put on fake nails, glued to my (very short) existing nails, then acrylic, then UV-cured gel polish.

I get the nails done pretty short - basically as long as my finger - so they don't bother me as they grow out. I file them down a little between sessions when they start getting annoyingly long.

The acrylic nails have made a huge difference - my nails are always smooth so I don't bite at them, plus I CAN'T bite at them because the acrylic isn't biteable.

I found that the gel polish I was (A) able to still bite my nails, and (B) when I bit them, then I could peel off the gel in very satisfying strips. That's why I went to acrylics.
posted by bookdragoness at 6:44 AM on June 3, 2015

You'll get a ton of different opinions on this, as you can see -- things that work for one person won't work for another. For me, moisturizing my nails -- not just my hands or cuticles, my nails -- is key to stopping the peeling and chipping. Twice a week, I soak my nails in oil. Any old kind of oil. Lately it's been peanut oil (because I have some that I never cook with). In the past I've used olive, almond, walnut, etc. It does't matter. I fill a little bowl with the oil and soak my fingertips on one hand for 15 minutes, then soak the other hand for 15 minutes.

Given where you are starting from, I think the most important things, as others have said, is to stop chewing, push back your cuticles (some people cut them, but this can cause infections), and file them gently. Every time you want to bite, file or massage lotion in them instead.

To jump start the process with your cuticles, you might want to try a cuticle remover. I like Sally Hansen cuticle remover. It just takes about a minute to do both hands, and makes a big difference. You probably don't want to use it every day (it can cause irritation). I do once a week, but you might want to start with every other day. In addition to putting it on my cuticles, I also put it under my nails and use a white pencil (just a plain old white pencil, like would come in a set of colored pencils) to clean out under them, which helps keep the edges where the nail meets the side tidy.
posted by OrangeDisk at 8:13 AM on June 3, 2015

Everything Margarita Mix said except the Hellish Gelish. I am hypothyroid too and so my nails are brittle, the constant filing to prep the nail bed for the Gelish just made things worse. I've recently found Jamberry nail wraps and they might also be a solution for you. They support the nail without damage AND make it super hard to nibble.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 5:05 PM on June 3, 2015

You guys!!! I was brave and went and got a manicure!!! 😭🙏🏻💅🏻 The nice ladies at the new place I went to looked at this whole thread and agreed that if I spend some time each week taking care of my cuticles and filing my nails, I might finally have real nail beds some day. They agreed that my nails are still too short to accommodate gels, but that's okay. Thank you all for your excellent advice!
posted by Hermione Granger at 8:34 PM on June 8, 2015 [3 favorites]

Also pro tip: telling a manicurist that you think your nails look like little nuns in their habits is a great way to weird them out for the rest of your manicure.
posted by Hermione Granger at 8:36 PM on June 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Follow up inquiry: how often should I be pushing my cuticles back? Daily? Weekly?
posted by Hermione Granger at 1:03 PM on June 9, 2015

Yay! I'd recommend no more than once a week, but keep using a cuticle oil if you get one as often as possible. It'll help the whole cycle of dry-cuticles-must-pick-on-them-this-now-looks-horrible-OH-GOD-WHY.
posted by erratic meatsack at 12:38 PM on June 10, 2015

« Older How can I open a doc with MS Word/Excel in Google...   |   Organizing mini projects Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.