The Long Nail Life

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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.

—Annie Kreighbaum

Photo from ITG.

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  • keely

    i have very long natural nails so i relate to this article a lot! i use my finger backwards to scoop out body butters or skin stuff (like i push it onto the backs of my nails instead of the underside). i moved this weekend and made it through without a single broken nail- a success!

    i'm lucky to have very long nailbeds too....thanks nana for the good nail genes!

  • Agoprime

    do not particularly like her nails so long!

  • Behind the Mirror

    I went through this exact same thing last summer - I had this big LDR moment where I wanted extremely long rounded nails. Grew them out only to realize I can't function with nails like that, much less type. haha

  • Jane T.

    My nails are super brittle naturally, so I've accepted that they'll always be kinda short. Before I accepted this, however, I tried acryllics for a few months during my freshman year of college. Woof. Never again!

  • Laila

    I wanted the long nail life, but stuff always gets under them..gross!

  • Teckie

    I think you should've just stopped after recommending becoming a kept woman. Keeping long nails looking presentable is a full-time job.

  • Rachel Kareha

    Yes! This article is spot-on! I have 12mm natural nails that I like to keep square. I have never taken gelatin or painted the undersides, though. That needs to happen!

  • MC

    Same - I have very long natural nails (have had them for years), and you really adapt over time. Give it a few months/years, and you'll naturally type differently, dig for things in your bag more delicately, ties shoes carefully, and open things (cans, envelopes) with other objects instead of your nails. Failproof combo for strength: always keep them lacquered with nailtiques I, followed by Nailtek base coat, followed by regular polish (never gel) and top coat. Use a glass file (I like revlon's)--they never dull and they don't pull at the nail edge; you use this file on lacquered nails, also. I keep L'Occitane shea butter hand cream (the basic one) on hand and minimize exposure to water--the Playtex Living rubber gloves (usually they're purple, come in a box) are the best ones I've found.

  • Heather P.

    I type far too much for long nails. My coworkers would want to kill me from all the clickity-clacking. ;-)

  • Prince & Sullivan

    Great article!!!



  • ModernGrace

    I've had fake nails a few times, but I always go back to a typing friendly length. I imagine people with talon nails poke themselves in the eye often.

  • savs

    You forgot to mention that it is impossible to play any string instrument with long nails (guitar, violin, cello, etc.).

    • ITG Annie

      true. i smashed my ukelele against the wall the other night. gratifying!

  • nueyork

    My nails are brittle and constantly break so I've always lusted after long nails, fake or not. I am very nervous about the difficulties I might face getting them and feel I'd remove them after a couple of days! My sister told me you get used to them, but I'm not quite sure!

  • Aisha S

    hahahaa, I loved this pooost. Toooo many oo's..dunzo gone.

  • cat & tonic

    Love this, love your style Annie! I switched from short, square nails (which I'd been repping for ~5 or so years) to a long oval/stiletto shape this year. I love the way they make my hands look, but I've def had to adjust my typing style and I can't quite get over how much stuff gets under my nails, but whatevs... So worth it #longnaillife

  • Talia Wayne

    Love this article so much! I am trying to grow my nails at the moment and I see myself in many of those things mentioned. I haven't tried gelatin supplements but the one thing that made my nails harder and overall better is Sally Hansen's "Complete care 4-in-1 treatment", this is the one product that every girl who wants long nails, must own!

  • Sara Shabtai

    Painting the underside of nails reminds me of Adeles nails!

  • Beka

    it is a lifestyle is.


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