RIDGES IN NAILS —To Buff or Not To Buff?

Ridges in Nails—ASK ANA

www.nailcarehq.com Ridges-In-Nails To Buff or Not to Buff?


Hi Ana, I am starting to get deeper ridges on my nails and I don’t like the way it looks. Is it ok to buff them down so my nails are smooth? Some people say yes, some say don’t do it. I don’t know who to believe. ~Jessica


ANSWERRidges in Nails Oprah's bad advice

I’ve got ridges too and I don’t like them either.

And you know, it’s pretty tough to find the truth, especially when Oprah’s very own beauty director, Val Monroe, recommends incorrect advice. She endorses buffing your nails smooth or covering ridges with an opaque (solid) polish.” [source: Oprah.com]

Both of these are terrible ideas!

I’ll explain why.

The Truth About Ridges in Nails

I recently finished watching the 3D DVD “Inside Doug Schoon’s Brain.”  Mr. Schoon’s book, Nail Structure and Product Chemistry is my ‘Nail Bible’. I can not tell you how exciting it was to me to finally find out “WHY” we should NOT file down ridges! *geeky girl glee.*

In this DVD, Mr. Schoon explains what’s happening with ridges by using an electron microscope photo enlarged 150 times.

You know how I say almost everything we seem to know about nails is BACKWARDS? This is true for our belief about ridges too.

Ridges in nails are actually the healthy part of the nail. It’s the concave portions that are thinner because the nail matrix isn’t working properly and at full capacity.

It is actually the dips in the nails that are the weaker portions! The thicker portions (ridges) are really the healthier, stronger nail sections.

Take a look at the photo below. It is a cross-section of the nail plate enlarged 150 times. The wavy top is the visible top surface of your nail. The bottom is the part that sits on your nail bed. It is also the same part that becomes the underside of your nail tip as it grows past your fingertip.

The higher portion is what we consider a “ridge”. The “groove” in between each ridge is typically 5% to 7% thinner than the rest of the healthy nail.

Ridges in Nails - Microscopic photo

Photo courtesy of Doug Schoon, ‘Inside Doug Schoon’s Brain’ DVD

See that big crack to the right of the yellow arrow? We’ll zoom in on that crack in the next photo.

Since the grooves are thinner, they have a higher tendency to crack, like the photo below. As this crack becomes worse, the layers will start to peel away, causing your nail plate to be even thinner. This can lead to those crazy splitting nails that are so hard to deal with.


www.NailCareHQ.com Ridges in Nails - Microscopic photo

Photo courtesy of Doug Schoon, ‘Inside Doug Schoon’s Brain’ DVD


The Aging Process

This  explains why ridges seem to get more pronounced with age. As we age, our digestive system does not function at the level of a young person.

We don’t absorb as many of the required vitamins and minerals for nail production. Therefore, the ridges appear more pronounced, when it’s actually the thinner, grooved areas becoming more deeper and more pronounced.

Should You File Ridges in Nails?

You probably know the answer by now. If we file down the ridges to match the rest of the nail plate, we’re actually thinning our nail plate to match the thinnest, weakest portions of the nail!

Ms. Monroe’s Flawed Advice

Now I’ll get back to Ms. Monroe’s advice. Obviously buffing and sanding is a bad idea. But what about the opaque polish?

It’s my understanding and experience that nail polish seems to be formulated to create a thin, even coating over the entire nail. It is going to create a nice, thin layer over the ridges and the dips.

When I see older women with polish over their ridged nails, the polish seems to make the ridges more obvious. Opaque polish is not a great idea either.

The Solution

Along with Doug Schoon, my recommendation is to use a high quality ridge filling base coat to fill in the grooved areas and smooth out the surface of your nail before applying your color lacquer.

Rather than creating one thin layer like polish, ridge filling base coats are full of micro-particle ingredients that settle into the concave portions of your nail.

Using a ridge filling base coat will solve three problems for you.

  1. Reducing staining
  2. Creating a surface that polish loves. (Base coats are formulated to bond to the natural nail plate. Polish is formulated to bond to base coat, not the nail.)
  3. Smoothing the nail surface


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29 Responses to RIDGES IN NAILS —To Buff or Not To Buff?

  1. Lucy from Lucy's Stash June 26, 2013 at 11:58 pm #

    Very helpful article. I actually do buff lightly my nails because of the ridges but I will stop immediately! Thank you for another highly enlightening article!

    • Ana June 27, 2013 at 1:51 pm #

      Thank you so much for stopping by Lucy! I’ve buffed off my ridges too in the past. No more. I’m happy you enjoyed the article. ~Ana

  2. Rebecca June 27, 2013 at 1:04 am #

    Made perfect sense the minute I read and it and should have been utterly obvious. I had already stopped buffing because I knew on some level that it wasn’t helpful. Thank you.

    BTW, ordered my oil from amazon and anxiously awaiting! 🙂

    • Ana June 27, 2013 at 1:54 pm #

      Thank you so much for stopping by Rebecca! I totally agree… It does seem to make perfect sense once you see the cool microscope picture.

      Your Pure Nail Oil™ has been shipped. You should get it any day now. Eeeee! 😀

  3. Kirsten June 27, 2013 at 1:10 am #

    Stop filing! Check! But what about just buffing to get the shine if you’re a nail nudist like me? I prefer not to wear polish on my nails…even just a clear basecoat and topcoat.

    • Ana June 27, 2013 at 2:19 pm #

      Kirsten, Nail Nudist! Bwahaha!

      I’m going to ask Mr. Schoon about that one and get back to you. Thanks for stopping by! ~Ana

  4. Fingers June 27, 2013 at 5:21 am #

    So wish I knew this yesterday before I buffed the ridges down!

    • Ana June 27, 2013 at 2:00 pm #

      Oh, no Fingers! Just baby those nails for the next 4 to 6 months until all the smooth nail is grown out. You’ll want to oil them between manicures a little bit and then keep several layers of polish on at all times to add temporary strength. (2 BC, 2 Color, 1+ TC)

      • Ashlyn January 30, 2016 at 6:44 pm #

        Wish I would have seen this before I literally just buffed my nails.. ☹

  5. Olivia June 27, 2013 at 7:45 am #

    This firms up my resolve not to buff…ever! Plus, I convinced my mom not too as well. I’m using Simply Smooth and am quite pleased! I’ll have to put a review soon! 🙂

    • Ana June 27, 2013 at 2:13 pm #

      Aw, that’s great Olivia! I’m so happy you love Simply Smooth™ as much as I do! Please send me the link to your review so I can share it too.! <3

  6. Bonnie McCloud October 11, 2013 at 10:10 am #

    Ana…I have vertical nail ridges on my thumb nails, but my left thumb nail is really bad. I have buffed these nails because of bad advice. After reading these comments that I am very thankful for, I will never buff again. My question is, will your Pure Nail Oil be enough to get my nails healthy and ridge free? I don’t like polish. I like a naked nail, but unhealthy nails are not pretty. I use organic jojoba oil with vitamin e. This helps, but after reading about your oil, I think this is my next step.
    HELP…….. What are the steps you think I should take to start with?

    Thank you

    • Ana October 16, 2013 at 7:45 pm #

      Bonnie, I’m so happy this article was able to help you!

      The best way to improve your nails is with a well balanced diet, a really good multivitamin, 2,500 to 5,000 mg. of Biotin, and drinking 1/2 your body weight in ounces of water (150lb/2 = 75 ounces).

      Pure™ will not do a lot to change the depth of concave areas of your nail. The problem is that portions of your matrix aren’t functioning at maximum capacity to create the same type of nail cells that are the “healthy” ridges.

      As much as you don’t like polish, you may actually love Bliss Kiss™ Simply Smooth™ base coat. It will level out your nails so they’re smooth with a semi-matte finish. My non-polish wearing mother is over the moon about Simply Smooth™. It makes her nails look natural they way she’s always wanted them to look.

      Thank you for stopping by! ~Ana

  7. Bonnie McCloud October 18, 2013 at 1:14 pm #

    Ana…thank you for your reply. My next question is when I use the Simply Smooth, will your Pure Nail Oil benefit my nails. My goal is to have the healthiest nails possible. I would love to be able to achieve this without a polish, but if needed I will do. Can I apply the oil to my cuticles and nail close to the cuticle and still have the Simply Smooth on my nail? I take over 5000mg of biotin daily already and have been for over a year.

    Thank you for your help

    • Ana April 15, 2014 at 3:20 pm #

      Bonnie, Pure™ needs to be used on naked nails only for the first 3 days of a Hydration Treatment. Then it’s very important to seal in the oil with polish, which also prevents water absorption. While you’re wearing polish, the oil will absorb into the top layer of the polish, reducing cracking in the polish. It also keeps your cuticle lines moisturized, preventing painful hangnails. Hope that helps! ~Ana

  8. Kattet November 19, 2013 at 1:04 pm #

    Wooww !!!! Good to know …. My nails peeled all the time and I used to buff them and doesn’t help… Now I been using your Bliss Kiss™ Pure Nail Oil™ for the last 5 months and I love it! … My nails are so much better they are flexible and more strong … I don’t have long nails because I cant … But I love the length I have right now.. I only still have problems with two nails on my right hand …still peeling some times … But is so much better them before … I love all your information thank you.

    • Ana November 19, 2013 at 6:07 pm #

      Thank you so much for stopping by Kattet and for taking the time to leave a comment. I’m so happy you found this article helpful. ~Ana

  9. Donna December 29, 2013 at 9:52 am #

    My problems began with my first, and only, time I got my nails done. About a year ago, I got tips for my son’s wedding. They did a terrible job. Some tips were about an 1/8″ thick, he sanded so much surface off, I was very sore on most of my nails, and I’ve been using OTC fungal treatment for months. I found this site, because I’ve also started getting ridges, but wanted a kinder way than sanding to smooth my nails. I was never a big nail girl, but i never before considered my nails ugly. They are now. I will try a ridge filler, but I’d just really love healthy, nude nails, again. Thanks for the info and advice.

    • Ana March 3, 2014 at 6:00 pm #

      You’re welcome Donna. You don’t have to be a nail girl to just want nice looking hands. I totally understand. Have you had a chance to try Pure Nail Oil™ yet? ~Ana

  10. Mary May 24, 2014 at 8:47 am #

    Just wanted to comment on at least one article as I just spent my entire morning on your amazing site! I absolutely LOVE that you use science to explain nail care. I destroyed my nails for years with acrylics and then switched to gels that I would peel off every ten days. Now I’m really into nail art and trying to fix years of improper nail care. I am loving your Instagram and now your site!

  11. Barbee July 19, 2014 at 8:53 pm #

    Thank you very much for your logical, scientific based advice.
    I used to buff my ridges too-and in doing so, I have noticed that buffing makes my nails thinner and weaker.
    Clearly: Thin, weak nails are not an improvement over strong ridged ones.
    My whole thinking is changed now-for the better.

  12. Christine October 18, 2014 at 8:30 am #

    Wow, what an interesting article. It is completely the opposite to what I had always thought. I’m going to go out and buy myself some good ridge-filling nail polish right away, and I’m going to be starting to use Pure Nail Oil as soon as it arrives in my mailbox. Also, Ana, have you checked out the amazing Australian Jojoba Oils that are available in Australia. They are not excessively expensive, and pure, cold-pressed oil, and sound amazing. There is one particular site that gives you amazing details on just what Jojoba is good for, and it all ties in with what you have told us in so many of your blogs. The link is: http://www.australiasown.com.au/australias-own/pure-jojoba-oil

    • Ana March 2, 2015 at 5:11 pm #

      Christine, thanks for stopping by. I have not heard of them, but I love their description of how amazing jojoba is! Thank you.

  13. lydie March 2, 2015 at 8:10 am #

    I, too have ridges and have tried everything. Buffing, not buffing, polish, no polish and over the years have figured out buffing them down really makes them weak. Your explanation of the ridge as actually being the strong part of the nail makes so much sense. My nails are actually strong, but the ridges drive me crazy.

    Used to have such pretty hands, nice long nail beds. Those days are gone, but at least it is no health concern. Good to hear that polish is not harming them any further. I will keep them polished again.

  14. Becca April 10, 2015 at 1:03 pm #

    After years of dyshidrotic eczema on my hands, my nails have a ridged and pitted appearance. I’m rather intolerant to thick polish, so what natural products would you recommend to smooth out the nails?

    • Ana April 21, 2015 at 12:08 pm #

      Becca, thank you for stopping by! I get dyshidrotic eczema too. I would recommend trying our Simply Smooth™ ridge filling base coat. I’m able to apply it fairly thin, and am happiest with two coats to fill my ridges completely. ~Ana

  15. Pam joseph April 25, 2015 at 6:45 am #

    Hi Ana

    Is there anywhere in the UK I can get your Simply Smooth. I have ordered your Pure Nail Oil but I have quite bad vertical ridges on my nails?

  16. Deb July 25, 2015 at 9:10 pm #

    Thank you so much Ana. I don’t mind getting older, but having nice looking hands makes me feel better…and now I still can.
    You made my day 😎

  17. Courtney November 8, 2015 at 9:52 pm #

    Cristine at Simplynailogical swears by your oils! So I’ve been wandering about your site reading your blogs and info. I have to say I am so excited to see what your oil does for my nails! And all of the info is insane! Love your website!