Let me preface to say that I am not a nail technician. I am solely an experienced customer that has gotten her nails done since 12 years old. I have gone through a long journey of recouping my nail strength, and though it may not be a fortress, I have finally grown enough sturdiness that I can confidently say that I am proud of them.
I started my nail salon journey of acrylic extensions way too early. My grandmother took me to a place in Puerto Rico, and it was my first time having long nails. In fact, I got stuck in the bathroom because I couldn’t unlock the knob. My long-ass nails just kept sliding off the lock.
I also have gotten nail technicians that were either new and inexperienced. This poses a problem for me that has led me to be prejudice on who I have handled my nails. I have had guys and newbies machine-file my nail bed to NOTHING. This has made my nails so weak; it could barely grow. Because of this, I avoid them at all costs. I always ask for the experienced professional that can take direction.
I had to deal with nails that grew so weak; I would NEED to see a nail salon to remove the pains of splitting nails. For those of you that also have thin nails, you know that when a nail breaks in the middle all the way up, it hurts (may even bleed). I understand that buffing the machine before getting a gel manicure or SNS helps the polish stay longer. However, I have to disagree with really needing it. Especially since you are destroying valuable layers that help your nails grow durable and long.
I tested my theory September-November mostly because I had quit my job and I needed to save. But even before I left my job, I bought my own SNS kit. I would not recommend doing your own SNS nails but if you want to save money and go through the grueling work of doing it yourself, by all means, go for it! It saved me $80 a month. Additionally, I was able to control what happened to my nails like buffing off layers of my nail bed with the machine. The goal was to allow my layers to grow back!
Once September’s freedom hit, I let my nails stay bare and free from any nail polish, gels, or acrylics. I just merely kept a glass nail file in my purse, and whenever I noticed a nail looking weak, I would do a slight filing session to strengthen the structure. I would always make sure to lotion my hands up like crazy as well since cuticle oils were not always a feasible option to take with you everywhere. These two simple things paired with time passing helped my nails grow stronger and stronger.
Now, I am drawing my conclusions to my own experiences, but I can’t help but share my nail salon conspiracy theory: nail salons want to keep your nails weak so that you need them.
Whether or not this is true, I cannot verify for you. However, it’s the only thing that makes sense to me because I do not understand why nail technicians are so adamant about buffing the nail with a machine. Why not use the little nail buffer sponges? I had one nail technician, not buff out my nail with a machine for SNS and guess what? My nail lasted just as long as when other technicians buffed it with a machine. My takeaway is that you shouldn’t listen to your nail technician fully. They may know how to create the illusion of beautiful nails, but they are not interested in you getting or keeping up with healthy nails. I bet they want you to need them and have you coming back. They are a business after all.
Maybe I have a string of bad luck in Winston-Salem, NC but this is my theory, and I am sticking to it because my test has come to be true. This may not stop me from getting my nails done from time to time but every time a technician insists on buffing my nails with a machine, I don’t want to come back, and I don’t for a long time.
To sum up, here are my takeaways to gaining back nail strength:
Lotion up hands always
As much as we wash our hands after activities, it is essential to keep the cuticles hydrated. The easiest way to do that is to massage a lotion into your nail bed as much as the cuticles. Egyptian Magic Cream has been a miracle worker in healing my poor, brittle, cracky nails!
Avoid going to the nail salon or seek a technician that will avoid scraping layers off your natural nail. It takes 4-6 months for nails to grow back out so keep that in mind as it is not a fast process to start over.
Keep a glass nail file handy
Glass nail files are the most gentle on natural nails. If you file lightly even with this gentle tool, your nails will grow stronger. Keep this file with you at all times in case something happens, or you see a break starting to happen. Using rougher gradients can destroy your nail structure, but if it is all you have, I would assume it is better than nothing. I would do a light graze daily.
Don’t use nail polish
I don’t know about you, but when I use regular nail polishes it not only lasts a few hours but forces my nails to crack it. The vegan ones are a little better but still crack fast! I just go plain’ol jane with my nails during this period of healing. Avoid all “repair” polishes and nail hardeners and just use natural creams instead.
Glue-on or DIY Kits
If your nails are so bad that not even just going natural helps, try using the glue on. I used them for a wedding, and everyone thought I had gone to a nail salon. Just be careful because it can tend to pull on your nail bed when it starts loosening up after a week. An alternative but extreme is what I mentioned earlier about DIY SNS. I have never had success with DIY gel kits, but SNS has been good to me. It’s a lot of work, but I was in control and did not have to argue with a technician to not buff my nail bed. Although I could never add length without looking like a claw monster, being able to apply it to my natural nail was a great experience.