What are Nails?

Nails are comprised of dead cells that make up a protein called keratin, similar to your hair. The hardness, however, is derived from the presence of sulfur in the amino acids binding the keratin of the nails together. Then, between the layers of Keratin, there are fat and water molecules that give the nails its shiny and pliable appeal.

Can You Change the Look of Your Nails?

Like everything else, we are only blessed with what we've been given. But, by taking good care of your nails you can make the best of what you have by making your nails stronger and healthier looking.

How Fast Do Nails Grow?

Nails grow an average of 1/8 inch per month. Therefore, it takes anywhere from four to six months to grow an entirely new nail. Also, nails grow faster during certain hormonal fluctuating periods (ie: the beginning stages of pregnancy, or just before menstruation). Ironically, biting your nails can also increase nail growth since it creates an increase in blood circulation. However, we wouldn't recommend biting your nails to increase nail growth. Those who are right-handed may also notice that nails grow faster on their right hand than on their left. Nail growth may be slowed if your diet denies the nail matrix of its essential nutrients. Illnesses can also slow nail growth, as can some prescription medications. And lastly, after you turn 30, your nail growth naturally slows down on its own.

Artificial Nails:

Sculptured Nails

When using the sculptured nails process an acrylic, gel or fiberglass material is applied to your nails. The material is then lengthened and sculpted over metal or foil. Another way is to use a plastic nail tip that can be applied with glue. Gel, fiberglass, silk or acrylic can then be laid over the entire nail. As your nail natural grows, your manicurist will fill in the base and file down the artificial tip. Eventually, you will end up with just the overlay on your natural nail.

Acrylic Nails

Acrylic nails are the strongest and the most durable of all the nail overlays. They are also the most commonly-used artificial nail. However, if it is not done properly, the nails can look thick and very fake. Make sure you find a manicurist who is skilled at applying acrylic nails to ensure that you get a natural-looking nail. They usually need to be filled in every two to three weeks as your nails grow. However, depending on how you treat your nails, you may need to visit your manicurist sooner to avoid nail loosening, which can lead to mildew if water gets trapped underneath. And, make certain a professional removes them properly to ensure the acrylic nails cause little or no weakening to the nail plate.

Linen, Silk and Fiber Wraps

Wraps are pieces of fiberglass, linen or silk that have been cut and glued to the nail plate, in order to add strength, and sometimes length, to the nail. Done on natural nails, wraps are most commonly used to strengthen tips. Silk is the most natural-looking wrap and provides a lot of flexibility, but it is often too delicate for those with an active lifestyle. Linen is stronger, but usually appears quite thick because of its opaque nature. Fiberglass is the best of both worlds, since it provides the natural look of silk and the strength of linen.

Gel Nails

Once upon a time these nails were made of a dental porcelain gel-powder. Now, manicurists use a Mylar form to sculpt your nail, and then set it under an ultraviolet light. Because of this process, gel nails may need to be filled in less often than acrylic nails, though fill-ins are still necessary. Like acrylics, a professional must remove the tips in order for it to be done properly.

Artificial Nail Splits and Cracks:

When an artificial nail cracks or splits, nail glue or mending tape is your best solution. Dot the nail glue onto a piece of a tea bag, or coffee filter paper, and cover the nail where it is torn. File the nail smooth, and cover it with polish if you like. This is a simple trick that should last you until you can get to the salon for proper mending. If a tip falls off, you can glue it back on yourself with nail glue. However, be sure to see your nail technician so that it can be filled in.

Manicure Maintenance:

Treat your nails with respect. Treat them well and they will treat you wonderfully with their beauty. Instead of using your nails for the wearisome daily uses, like scraping, picking, pulling and opening, use the pads of your fingertips. Along with preventing the splitting, chipping and breaking, this will make your hands look more elegant. If you are doing activities like cleaning the house and/or doing the dishes, be sure to wear some protective gloves. Prolonged exposure to water can also dry out and/or cause damage to your nails and skin. To avoid nail polish chips, reapply the top coat regularly, even daily.

Solving Your Nail Problems:

Brittle Nails

Brittle nails can be caused by any number of things including sun exposure, a poor diet, etc. Avoid the use of hardeners containing formaldehyde, which has a drying effect on nails. Try using formaldehyde free products. Also, try a waterproof coating that seals moisture in the nail and repels water and dirt. Believe it or not, a waxy lip balm can be quite effective at softening nails.


Picking and biting your nails, exposure to detergents and chemicals or just plain general nail neglect, are all causes of those annoying hangnails. Use a sharp cuticle nipper to remove existing hangnails. Avoid cheap, dull cuticle nippers as they will not allow you to get at the hangnails in the way you want and may end up creating more damage. To help prevent hangnails altogether, use a cuticle minimizer cream at least once a day. If your cuticles are a painful disaster, apply the minimizer twice daily.


Ridges are unfortunately, mostly genetic. Though you can't change mother nature, you can smooth over the ridged nail surface with a buffer and buffing cream. However, if your ridges are severe and have developed recently it could be a sign of anemia, and you should consult your doctor. Too much pressure and pushing during a manicure may also cause ridges. Always be gentle on your nails during grooming so that they will grow back normally.

White Spots

White spots on the nail can be caused by a sharp blow to the nail, applying too much pressure on the nail matrix during a manicure or too much pressure and pushing on the nail. In order to get rid of them, let the spots grow out, and make an effort to be gentler when manicuring your nails in the future. Be especially careful when prodding beneath the cuticles, because that is where new growth is generated.

Yellow Nails

Yellowing of the nails could be caused by forgetting to use a base coat underneath your polish. It could also be a more serious nail fungus that needs to be treated. Lighten your discolored nails with a whitening scrub containing a mild abrasive, or with a remover containing a lemon juice-like ingredient that bleaches out the yellow.

Nail Biting

Unfortunately, there is no surefire way to stop biting your nails. It's a habit and like all habits, hard to break. An idea on how to quit is to get a professional manicure each week. When your nails are even, polished and looking great, you're less likely to nibble on them. Also, you'll feel confident about your hands and more likely to keep them exposed instead of covered up.

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