Growing up, there are a lot of urban legends you’re led to believe. My biggest fear came from my Mum’s friend Beverly, who told me the story of a man who pierced his liver from nail biting.
Turns out living in fear of a punctured organ wasn’t enough to get me to quit the habit. Neither was that horrible tasting stuff my mum forced me to paint on. In fact, it took me to the grand old age of 34 to finally quit nibbling and grow my nails to a length where I’m regularly asked, “Are they real?”
No one, let alone me can believe I’ve gone from having painfully sore, bitten down fingers, to having nails that quite literally tear holes in my favourite pink Skims knickers.
As your Beauty Insider, I wanted to share some of the expert tips I’ve learnt along my nail growth journey. Because truthfully if I’d had this information to begin with, I don’t think it would have taken me so long to get to where I am now.
Tip one: builder gel is key
Back when I was a beauty assistant, I was told that the phrase “life-changing” when referring to a product, was lazy. However, I think builder gel (often referred to as BIAB) might just be the one exception.
At the beginning of my journey, I had a manicure at Townhouse in Fitzrovia and I was complimenting Melody my manicurist’s nails. She told me it was a product called ‘builder gel’, which I had never heard of before, but Melody said it would help me grow my nails.
Desperate to make that happen I happily paid for a slightly more expensive (and more time-consuming) manicure there and then.
“Builder is different to regular gel. It still soaks off, but it’s hard, so it adds a strength layer to your natural nails, allowing them to grow out,” explains Rosie Mia Lynall owner and founder of Nails Bab in Birmingham.
In fact, Rosie is such a fan of builder gel, she doesn’t offer acrylic extensions. “It’s a lot more natural looking than fake nails. 75% of what we do in salon is builder gel”.
My go-to London nail salon also agree. “Builder gel is a fantastic way to strengthen the natural nail. It is suitable for any length and comes with the added benefit of extending the longevity of your manicure,” explains Townhouse founder Juanita Huber-Millet, who has just launched her new salon in Kensington.
In my experience I can get 6 weeks wear out of a builder gel manicure, with zero chipping. I’ve never had that with regular gel.
Tip two: it pays to be consistent
Before I discovered builder gel, the first thing that helped me was facing my fears and getting regular manicures. We invest in our skin, so why not our nails?
As a reformed nail biter herself, Rosie knows first-hand the difference a good manicure can make. “When you’ve got a cute design or colour on, you don’t want to ruin it”.
While I now go around 4-5 weeks between appointments, Rosie recommends having a higher frequency to begin with (every 2-3 weeks). This is to stop any picking as you try and break your old habits.
Despite what you may have been told, “your nails don’t need to breathe; they are dead,” explains Rosie. Juanita agrees and admits she also wears gel all year round with no breaks. “The most important thing is careful application and removal,” she says.
Looks like I don’t need to worry about quitting my new addiction anytime soon then.
Tip three: don’t ignore your manicurist
One of the most in-demand people when it comes to that coveted healthy Instagram manicure look is Julia Diogo, aka @paintedbyjools.
When I asked her the one thing we should start doing to our nails at home, she did not skip a beat when she told me: “following your manicurists home care advice.”
Yep, turns out they aren’t telling us to apply cuticle oil for lols. Funny that.
“Oiling your cuticles and keeping your hands hydrated makes such a difference,” Jools explains. “You will notice your nails last longer, don’t break, and your cuticles stay looking better for longer.”
Now, screenshot this for your next mani appt
You’re going to need some inspiration for your new manicure routine, so take note of the experts’ recommendations.
Pre-holiday nails? Make an appointment and choose CND’s Romantique. “It’s a super wearable light pink that can be built up from a subtle milky colour. It’s the perfect beach look,” says Juanita.
Booking for builder gel and want the clean girl aesthetic look? “My favourite shade is The Gel Bottle’s Builder in a Bottle in shade 19”.
If you can’t get an appointment with Jools herself, take her advice and go bright. “Neons are back in full swing this summer, so opt for a bright French manicure or one with minimal nail art.”
I, for one, cannot wait to see your new #nailfies. Follow me at @laucapon for more nail inspo.