I am hopelessly devoted to S., my manicurist, because of her amazing talent and charm. She's the best, and everyone in my neighborhood knows it, as is evident by the women who will wait for hours to see her, refusing to see any other manicurist at her salon who happens to be available. For a long time, I was afraid of nail extensions because I didn't want deal with them breaking, chipping, splitting--I refused to be someone who lived in constant fear of whining about broken nails. But with S., I have suffered a broken nail only once over the course of three years, and we're talking three years of typing, bulb-planting, cooking, baking, dishwashing, knitting, cleaning, sewing and general clumsiness. So, it's been with surprise that over the past few weeks my nails seem to be having a hard time staying put.
I saw S. this week, and immediately I knew something was wrong. As she was preparing to do the fill, she brought my hands up close to her face and said, "Oh, that's not good." Worse words could have come only from my tattoo artist. She explained that I had a weak nail bed. What? Me, a weak nail bed?
She went on to explain that over time, the chemicals in acrylic nails can weaken the natural nail upon which the acrylic nails are set, making them thin as paper. When that happens, the acrylic has a harder time adhering to the nail, and the nail cannot support the weight of the acrylic, which is relatively heavy. Every time water gets around my nails, like when I wash my hands, the water gets in the space between the acrylic and the actual nail where the nail can't hold on to the acrylic. That little bit of water takes its own sweet time to dry, meanwhile effectively rotting my nail. There doesn't appear to be any infection or anything like that, but the nail ceases to be anything more substantial than a Kleenex.
No part of that sounds sexy to me, so I asked her what I should do. S. told me that most of the white girls she works with have this problem with acrylic, and in fact I am her only white client who has managed to have long acrylic nails for such a long time. Her other white clients use a silk wrap, which is much lighter, though more time-consuming to apply and slightly less durable. She says my nails are still not so weak that I have to resort exclusively to the silk wrap route, but that keeping the nails shorter will do a lot to help ease the weight and pressure of the acrylic on my natural nail.
I tell this as a tale of caution. Long nails are beautiful, but long and unkempt nails are not; you have to find the middle ground that's right for you. Be careful not to go overboard, because you can't keep it up forever. My man is not happy at all that my talons are trimmed, but as I tell him almost every day, he's just been spoiled for the last few years.