Long Nails: Will I Ever Have Them?
Today’s article actually addresses two important ASK ANA questions that are intertwined …
“I saw the pic of your long nails you put up on Facebook. How do keep them so long and beautiful without breaking? I’m using your high quality jojoba nail and cuticle oil. I did get them long—but not like yours. I had to cut them because two broke :”( I have no idea how. What do you recommend?” ~Brianna
Ana, I have learned so much from you! I’m just wondering why some people are blessed with naturally beautiful nails that don’t require jojoba. Will you please explain this? Thank you.” ~Dot
Brianna and Dot, these are really important questions with a very complicated answer. I could probably write about 3,000 words on just this topic alone! So let’s see if I can do it in less.
Brittle Nails & Genetics
Most people think my nails must be very strong.
The truth is that my nails are VERY THIN. When I look at my husband’s and my mother’s nails—they appear to be almost 50% thicker than mine!
People’s nails on average contain 50 layers of nail keratin. Since this is an average, some people can have a little more or a little less.
For about four months, your new nail cells develop in the matrix underneath the eponychium (right behind your cuticle line).
The strength of your cells created is in direct relation to the quality and variety of your diet.
Illness, disease and stress also affects the quality of your nails.
Curved or Flat?
I’ve noticed that most of the successful nail polish bloggers with long nails have naturally strong C-curves in their nails.
If you look at the tips of your nails, do they make a C-curve or are they pretty flat?
Longer nails with a minimal c-curve have a big tendency to tear from the sides. This is why my thumbnails are significantly shorter than the rest of my long nails.
“Keratin fibers inside the nail cells lay across the width of the nail plate, which is why the nail plate typically splits across the width of the plate and not down the length. The so called “grain” doesn’t make a difference when it comes to nail surface damage. It can make a difference when it comes to vertical nail plate splitting, which is usually a result of over thinning/over filing. [Source: Doug Schoon]
This desire to have what we aren’t blessed with naturally parallels today’s fashion industry.
Successful models are insanely skinny with legs from here to another country. You don’t diet to that shape, you’re born with it. You just can’t diet yourself into those long legs.
Your fingertip bone structure and the shape of your nail matrix determines whether you have a strong C-curve or flat nails. There is absolutely nothing you can do to change it. Sorry 🙁
What is important is to acknowledge your natural nail shape and learn how to maximize it.
Once you know how to look for nails that are like yours, you can embrace the beauty and possibilities.
Your Crazy Lifestyle?
There have been times in my life that it was simply impossible to have long nails.
When my first child died of SIDS, I volunteered at a horse stable for two years and took riding lessons.
The horses gave me more joy than my nails at the time, so I kept them short.
When my four surviving children were infants, the endless diaper changes and snapping them in and out of car seats forced me to keep them short.
At this writing, my nails are much shorter than the image of the top of this article. My lifestyle has changed from that time four years ago.
Many of you may have hobbies or jobs that just don’t match with long nails. That’s ok.
Over the last 4 years of watching nail artists and enthusiasts, I’ve been delighted to see how many people can still have beautiful short nails.
Where Am I in Space?
Do you go through life like a bull in a china closet—knocking everything over?
I pay attention to how I move my body through life.
I’ve chosen to slow down—just a little bit—so that I don’t slam my finger nails into light switches and drawer handles.
I chose to carefully watch where I place my hands when grabbing doors. Too many of my nails have snapped while carelessly grabbing my car door handle.
I’ve also learned that it is always easier to let things fall, including the dog jumping off the sofa or a child trying to pull away from me.
Every time I didn’t follow these tips—I’ve broken nails—and usually quite painfully.
I offer more strategies in my How To Stop Breaking Nails article.
Proper Nail Hydration
In 2012, I learned that healthy nails have a perfect balance of 18% moisture and 5% oil.
This body oil and moisture come from the nail bed—the pink portion under your nail plate.
I knew my nails had been dried out from constant hand washing and weekly acetone use.
When I learned from Doug Schoon that certain oils can penetrate the nail plate to increase its flexibility, I started doing a lot of research into why and how.
“Sticky substances between the nail cells, as well as tight rivet like connections, hold the nail plate cells together. Many natural oils and proteins are found in the nail plate. Research shows that the nail oils found in the nail plate are cholesterol and squalene. Both are found in skin oil (sebum). However, in the nails they are found in greater abundance.” ~Doug Schoon, Nail Structure and Product Chemistry.
I wanted to know which oils would penetrate the nail plate when creating our Simply Pure™ nail oil recipe. The ingredients that intrigued me most were jojoba and squalane. Bear with me as I cite some sciency stuff.
Human body oil (sebum) consists of squalene, esters of glycerol, wax and cholesterol, as well as free cholesterol and fatty acids. Triglycerides and fatty acids, taken together, account for the predominant proportion (57.5%), followed by wax esters (26%) and squalene (12%). The least abundant lipid in sebum is cholesterol, which with its esters, accounts for the 4.5% of total lipids. The most characteristic products of sebaceous secretion are squalene and wax esters. [Source: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
Jojoba Wax Ester
Jojoba esters are commonly used in cosmetic formulations as an emollient, due to its remarkable similarity to the natural oils produced by the human skin, and its high oxidative stability. This means that jojoba ester has an amazing shelf life since it doesn’t go rancid like other vegetable oils.
Jojoba esters are proper waxes; there is no triglyceride component of jojoba esters. Jojoba esters’ chemical structure is very similar to that of human sebum and of sperm whale oil.
Since whale hunting was banned in 1986, the cosmetic industry was forced to find a replacement for sperm whale oil. Jojoba is an excellent botanical substitute. [Source: en.wikipedia.org]
Squalene and Squalane are two very similar words, yet the ‘e’ in one of them makes all the difference.
Squalene is naturally present in the skin lipid barrier of plants, animals and humans, preventing moisture loss while restoring skin’s suppleness and flexibility.
Squalene is shark liver oil that had been used as one of the most common moisturizers in cosmetics before sourcing began endangering the species.
Approximately 3000 sharks are required to produce one ton of squalene. The EU took steps to ban targeted deep‐sea shark fisheries back in 2010.
Squalene isn’t stable enough for use in products intended to be kept on the shelves for some time, like skin care products.
Since squalane is derived from squalene, it is a more stable form of this molecule. Olive oil squalane as an alternative non-animal source has been developed and commercialized. [Sources: various]
Too Much Of A Good Thing?
For most of us, we wash our hands too much and strip the natural oils from the nail plate. People wash their hands on average 20 times per day. That’s just too much.
But, some people produce more body oil than the rest of us. Their body is able to keep up with the washing and soaps.
For some women it’s so extreme that they are unable to keep polish on for more than a day. It will pop off in a complete piece.
The extra oil in their nail plate is breaking the polish to nail bond.
These people probably also have beautiful skin with few wrinkles. Nature’s best moisturizer is our sebum.
Fab 5 Polish Wrap
Protect those nails from water absorption with polish. I explain this technique in more detail on my Fab Five Polish Wrap article.
Gloves, Gloves and more Gloves
I don’t think I can say it enough. Wear gloves for many of your tasks—dishes, laundry, cleaning, gardening, etc.
You hate them. I hate them. But beautiful nails require them.
Knowledge is Power
Spend some time exploring this site and let your friends know about it.
At this writing in 2016, I’ve written over 70 articles. The answers are here.
Have fun browsing!
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