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A Self-Proclaimed Nail Expert’s Guide To A Long and Healthy Manicure

By Alexandra Grieco

Graphic by Tess Adams


The most glamorous women around me while growing up all had long, vicious fingernails. My grandmother’s nails were always perfected in a scarlet red shade, leaving behind little red marks around any white surface she touched. In middle school, my Tumblr-era obsession with Lana Del Rey extended into an obsession with almond-shaped acrylics. She would wear reds, baby blues, pale nudes, and sometimes accented her ring fingernails, playing with her nails like she would with vintage makeup looks and beehive hairstyles. To emulate my style icon, I went to a cheap nail salon, curiously located in a Walmart, and bought a set of white acrylic nails. They turned out boxy and chunky, resembling more of a Snooki duck nail than the Old Hollywood nails I desperately wanted. After the acrylics fell off, taking strands of hair and snagged threads with them, I decided it would be much simpler and cheaper to do my nails myself.


About eight years later, I have managed to maintain long, natural nails that have grown to be one of my favorite features about myself. My many years of trial and error with hacks, like Krazy Gluing nail breaks, has given me the very unimportant but very fun niche of fingernail expertise. Allow me to share with you my curated fingernail tips and tricks.


Keep Your Cuticles Moisturized

Many people have asked me for my nail holy grail and it is always simpler than expected: moisturizer. Every night before bed, I take any moisturizer lying around and rub small amounts into each cuticle. This keeps the nail beds moisturized and flexible, rather than becoming hard and prone to breakage. Buying nail moisturizing products or cuticle oil is unnecessary— any moisturizer will do.


Don’t Use Nail Strengthener

Moisturization and flexibility is key when it comes to growing fingernails. The worst nails of my life resulted from consistently using nail hardener. They broke off in a mass exodus and left half of my hands with short stubs of nails. Growing your nails is not about making them strong and hard, but making them healthy. Moisturizing, being careful with your hands, and taking nail supplements will always do more than a strengthener.


File Your Nails In One Direction

Being gentle is the other key to maintaining long nails. When cutting and filing your nails, be ultra careful in handling the unpolished beds. When I paint my nails, this is my routines: polish remover, moisturize the cuticles, cut the nails down a bit, file them in one direction, then paint them. Filing back and forth can be too rough and create tiny breaks that poison the nail and leave it destined to snap off.


Keep Your Nails Shorter In The Winter

Nails become brittle in the winter. It is better for their overall health if nails are kept slightly shorter in this season to prevent potential breaks. When summer comes, growing them out longer will feel much safer and healthier.


Create and Maintain a Self-Care Schedule

I cut, file, and paint my nails every other Sunday. Such a ritualistic schedule is not necessary, but some general plan of upkeep can help maintain healthy and manicured nails. It also prevents the annoying feeling of chipped nail polish and grown out manicures.



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