Nails are a two-fingered exercise in pampering. They’re also a very dry, tired tool of our day. The last thing you want is to be screaming for a manicurist to cut off your nails, because “I can’t see my clippers!” just makes you appear more self-conscious than you actually are. In fact, some of us can’t even stand them without a direct hit from our nail (instead of a cuticle) getting visible.
But, can we do better? Or do we have to do even better? Should we groom like we groom ourselves? Before we dive in, just know this: An 8-year-old with frozen toes can’t do nails like a 40-year-old does. The science of nail formation isn’t really known, so we reached out to a few experts to figure out how to style your digits in a way that will resist breakage.
Here are five nails that will last forever, as well as the safest ways to Manicure them.
Keep them in plain shape
You’ll feel much better if your digits stay in their natural shape, says Jennifer Luo, founder of vFiance Nail Salon and Spa in San Francisco. “The top of your fingers are kind of the only place to have good control without the nerves.”
Less nail structure means less hair. “Put more hair around the edges of the tips,” Luo advises. So if your nails are a bit longer, you can opt for something on the shorter side, like a square or rectangle, or a circle.
Keep the tips short
“There are amazing products that cost hundreds of dollars you can buy at Target for the price of one drugstore product,” Luo says.
“Salon-quality nails can last for upwards of six months with only 20 minutes per Manicure,” says Ricardo Samaniego, an aesthetician at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and owner of Hard Rock Nails, A Wave & A Touch. “But you definitely want to focus on the tips, which are the lowest risk to breakage.”
From there, longer tips will require a stronger polish and keep things from drying out, he says.
Know when to wax
Gone are the days of going at it with a crude polish, your toenails streaked for weeks on end. “The new conservative elegance in my salons is a luscious nude shade with moisturized nails,” says Luo. “The growth curve of a healthy nail is spongy and the cuticle is easy to work with.”
The trick is ensuring a regular wax — after your nail has grown to the right length and for the right length of time (five to six weeks) — and keeping your toenails clean for three days before you wax, Samaniego says. (There’s no guarantee you won’t end up wearing nail polish underneath — these two things should be separate.)
How to let them rest and keep them safe
We talked to Liam O’Sullivan, who owns L.A.’s Ruffio Nails, a two-year-old salon that specializes in pedicures and manicures. He gives this advice: When it comes to cutting off your nails at night, look for one that cuts from tip to tip and creates a pleated effect. “Flawless pearly white doesn’t fit with the added vitamin D content,” he says.
When they’re all grown out, you want to give them a full-on cut when you sit for a Manicure. “It’s like having your wedding day — only with greased lashes,” he says. “If your tips are kind of irregular, you’ll want to get them trimmed.”
In general, Samaniego says to always get your nails shortened, such as by 2 or 3 millimeters — twice the length to the tip. And if you can, something with a lot of alcohol is good, too.