There are few things in life that take the monk-like dedication, patience, and skill as having extremely long natural nails. Somewhere an ancient fresco restorer just scoffed in disdain (which was multiplied by the echo of the domed ceiling from which they’re suspended, upside-down), but to them I’d like to point out that The Long Nail Life isn’t a job or a task that you can simply take a break from and come back to later—it’s a lifestyle choice—a bold decision marked with a myriad of trials, tribulations, and resulting superpowers, like developing the sage wisdom to (awkwardly) type a bullet-point list of what it’s like having a centimeter of hard, thin protein attached to the end of your fingertips:
-The most obvious note to make, for me at least, and of which I’ve become painfully aware of, literally, as I write this, is that typing is hard. The longer your nails grow, the flatter the incline your of your hands against the keyboard so that the pads of your fingertips can actually make contact with the right keys. Then there’s the high-pitched clickity-clack of your excess nails tapping against the adjacent letters, which, I’ve found, for whatever reason, can only be drowned out by Madonna’s Ray of Light album.
-I’m not a parent, but I have some, and I’d argue that caring for a centimeter of nail is more challenging than caring for a newborn. You knock your kid against a low-hanging metal awning while they ride on your shoulders and they’ll probably be OK. According to my father and upon completion of years of therapy, at least. You accidentally hit your nail on a hard surface and it can snap—dunzo, gone. Think about that.
-One must always keep a supply of latex gloves handy, for you never know when you’ll decide, spur of the moment, to gloss your hair with temporary cream color. “It’s not even real hair dye,” you’ll say. “It won’t stain or anything.” Next thing you know, your six weeks worth of nail growth has a Pepto-pink tinge, and will take another six weeks to grow out.
-One must always keep a supply of dish gloves handy, because long soaks in warm water—especially chemically soap water—will lead to weakness and tearing and tears.
-Actually, scratch that. Avoid all handiwork beyond typing and consider the life of a kept woman. Even the most innocent-seeming tasks can result in breakage if you’re not careful; or worse—when the nail tip is bent upward in the wrong direction, resulting in a pain and panicky avoidance of drawers, doors, and other hard, movable surfaces that you might mistake for PTSD.
-Gelatin. This isn’t so much a complaint as it is a tip—gelatin supplements have worked beautifully for me in my quest to quickly grow long, strong, white-tipped fingernails. I will say that remembering to take pills every day is the absolute worst.
-Seriously, take gelatin. And probably look into using a nail-strengthening base coat like Nailtiques. One of the worst things about growing out long nails is that just when you get to a sexy, 14mm length, the sides sometimes start to curl under because they’re weak and sad. There’s no cure for this besides cutting them off and starting over.
-Do you often find yourself reaching for things that are just out of arm’s length? Long nails not only visually lengthen your fingers, providing the tarsier-like elegance most human hands lack, but you’ll also find that they’re often that tiny bit of extra oomph you need to grab your phone from the other side of the table, or reach for the other handle across a fully-stuffed mesh laundry hamper.
-Learn to file. See also: learning when to file and when to clip. Go to a beauty supply store and buy a few coarse nail files for the purpose of reducing the length of too-long nails without the dangers of taking too much off the top with a pair of clippers. (Clippers should only be used for full amputation purposes.) Then use a finer-grain file for shaping the nails. Might I recommend a gentle almond curve? The shape is very old-school ladylike and visually extends the nail beds without looking harsh and dramatic like a squared-off edge or stiletto point.
-Long nails are one of the most underrated hypnosis tools available today. Next time you want something from your significant other, they will bow to a good back, shoulder, and upper arm scratching.
-As your nails grow to more extreme lengths, you need to consider the undercarriage. Personally, I think a colored long nail is too distracting for normal, day-to-day wear, but if you do paint your nails, paint the undersides as well. This will keep them from looking dirty and distracting from the overall awesomeness that is having long nails.
-I hate to end on a negative, but if you’re considering the long-nail commitment, invest in cosmetics and skincare that come in pump containers. You could actually use those little spoons for the potted creams and things, but then it’s like ugh, more dishes—and you shouldn't be doing those anyway.
Photo from "Nails," a zine by manicurist Natalie Pavloski.