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Growing Nails ‘from Scratch’

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Most women love to have beautiful fingernails (with the exception of those who do a lot of manual labor who feel it would be a waste of time). I am a writer, so I need my nails to be ‘active length’ to be able to type well.

As a little girl I admired my Mama’s pretty nails. She could grow them pretty long and she always chose pretty pink or white polishes. As a teenager, I thought her pearly colors were ‘too old fashioned’ and I liked to apply the bold blue, teal or burgundy colors on my fingernails. I loved red best of all, but I never could grow my nails long enough for that color to look nice on me.

My nails have always been weak and would peel in layers or chip and break. I remember back when I used to like soap operas and I watched Days of Our Lives when “Bo and Hope” first were popular. Hope, (Kristen Alfonso) had the prettiest fingernails. I loved the ‘squared off’ shape and they were the french manicure that I loved. Clean and classy!

So after I raised my boys and stopped playing rough boy games with them and they were grown, I gave myself the splurge of getting my nails done. By this time, I had learned about acrylics and I was able to have the white tips with the french manicure look.

The trouble with having acrylic nails is – the nail technician has to drill on top of the natural nail bed in order for the acrylic gel to hold as it hardens. After the acrylic dries on top of the white tip that is glued on, the hardened, thick fingernail is like your own and it is fabulous! I loved how much I could do and still have beautiful nails.

I could spend a day of working with my horse or going hiking and not have one chip! All I had to do was wash my hands and lotion up to have beautiful nails again. My nails don’t grow very fast, so the acrylics would last me three weeks before I would have to get new ones. Some ladies like to go two weeks and get their acrylics ‘filled’ where the nail tech will drill the fresh nail where it had grown out and apply acrylic gel from the cuticle to the old acrylic and then file and shape them.  I liked fresh nails each time and did not like the line I would see in getting a fill.

The first time I had the salon take off my acrylics, I sat with my fingers immersed in smelly liquid for quite a long time before the tech would then try to take them off and it wasn’t always easy. After three weeks of having acrylics, I noticed the edges would loosen from my own nail bed, and if I worked it, it would become even looser and they would pop off. I opted to take my own nails off each time before getting new ones and it was quicker. There would only be a few times when my nails would tear and the acrylic was too stubborn to come off – that was always painful and bloody – but thankfully, few and far between. I learned how to take them off pain free.

What became painful was three years of getting my nails done every month and the drilling just made my own nails paper-thin. Any attempt I had to grow my own nails out, were always futile. It was like I had no nails at all and opening a coke can or using my nails as tools the way we do automatically without realizing, would hurt. They would peel and tear more than before so I would always give in and keep getting the acrylics. I loved the look, but I just didn’t like the drilling.

My sister told me that she started getting “Gel nails”. It was an alternative to acrylics where they only applied the gel onto your own nail with no drilling. But only on your own nail – not with a white tip glued on for length. The gel was thick and hard – but not quite as hard as the acrylics. I didn’t think I would like them as well so I kept getting drilled and stuck with my acrylics – besides, I could not ever grow my own nails out and I thought if I had gel polish with colors on short to-the-quick nails, it would look like ‘Frankenberry’ on the 70s cereal commercial.

When I got married and moved to Kentucky this year, I left my favorite nail technician behind in Chattanooga. I also wanted to show my new husband that ‘I didn’t cost much’ so I  did not go to the hair salon or nail salon …and it showed! My bottle-applied hair color ruined my mid-length hair and my nails were peeling, scabbing at the cuticles and very painful. After my husband and I reached that comfort zone and we talked about finances, I found a hair salon and nail salon and decided that my husband needs a wife who feels beautiful – it makes me more confident and that was the wife he needed.

I had to cut off several inches of dead ends from my hair and I wanted to get my high-lights again (it helps hide those stray grays coming in as I am nearing 50 in a couple of years). Then, I decided to go with the Gel nails. I had grown out my nail bed from the drilled, unhealthy nail but never could get the length passed the quick of my nail bed.

I had short, stubby and painful nails. I seriously considered a lifetime of acrylic nails and drilling, but I wanted to give the Gel nails a try. I took my stubby nails with dry tender cuticles to the nails techs at Nails Art on 12th Street in Murray.

It was a clean, very nice place and I talked to the tech about my dilemma. She encouraged me to try to gel and that even though I had to leave the salon with short, stubby nails with the gel polish, I knew that they should grow much better without peeling or chipping.

I chose a beautiful, rich sparkling brown polish and the tech went to work cutting away the dry and damaged cuticles and polishing what little nails I had. She lotioned, massaged and added oil and viola! – my nails were done. I walked out with my Frankenberry nails and was not as confident with them as with the acrylics. They didn’t feel half as thick but I did my best to re-learn how to behave with my hands – trying not to be so rough and thoughtless with them. I was mindful not to pick at my nails and I used lotion and cuticle oil. After one week, I didn’t notice much growth and I broke one pinky nail that may have grown a little passed the quick. I must have hit it against something.

Whew! It takes work being a girlie-girl! Especially working with a deficit of having dry skin, thin hair and thin nails. I also began taking 10,000 mg of biotin vitamins. I am on my second week of this trial run with the gels, and I must say, that I think they are going to work for me.

I am doing my part, by trying to be careful with my nails, using lotion and taking vitamins but the gel has really kept all of my nails from peeling and breaking (except for the one pinky).

Now, I am excited to go back in a couple of weeks and have them done again now that they have grown out passed the quick and I feel like I actually have fingernails and not stubs. All my lady friends in Murray have nails like Mama, where they have a rounded shape. I still like the square shape that I had with the acrylics and, as long as they can grow in that shape I will keep them that way, but if the corners don’t do well I may have to let the tech shape them rounded.

I do miss my french manicure tough-as-nails acrylic nails, but I don’t miss the unhealthy, painful nail bed in between getting them done. So far, I really like the Gel nails and I love Nails Art!

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