COUNTLESS PEOPLE ask me what I do when I break a nail. I usually say, "Cry a lot!" Actually, because I cook and sew and do most of the activities that people who don't earn their living from manual labor do, I am usually walking around with a few mended nails (and even occasionally a repair of a complete break-off). Over the years I have discovered some terrific mending techniques that are waterproof, and more importantly, embarrassment-proof. And if you use the mending techniques as soon as you notice a weakening at the side of the nail, or a slight tear, complete replacement of a broken nail will rarely be necessary.
Crazy Glue or five-second glue
These glues can be applied to a split in your nail, or used to reaffix a broken-off one (more below). Use sparingly, as this glue bonds instantly and drips will harden into bumps on your nail (or skin for that matter, if you are really careless). Also, this strong chemical can weaken the surface of the nail plate, so apply judiciously, avoiding any unnecessary spill onto the nail surface.
Apply a small amount to the break, wiping the excess glue off with remover if possible. If the broken part of the nail is separating from the base, gently lift the broken part of the nail with an orange stick and apply the glue sparingly to both inside edges of the nail. Press the two pieces together.
Special mender procedure
For most splits and breaks I strongly recommend the following method, perfected by Jean Rayner, a very successful hand model from England.
You can begin with Crazy Glue (also called Super Glue, KrazyGlue, or Cyanoacrylate) or not, depending on how bad the split or break is and how much heavy duty your hands are required to do. I used this method for years before the invention of Crazy Glue, but the glue does add strength to your patch. With or without Crazy Glue, it is the best, safest and most aesthetically appealing method I know to avoid what used to be disaster for me.
Always start with clean, oil-free and lotion-free nails.
If possible, use one of the nail-mender kits which include fibrous papers and a nail mending liquid. You can also use tea bag paper. A clear top coat or 5-Second Nail Wrap (not the same as 5-Second Glue) can also work as your mending liquid.
Cut a strip of nail-mender paper large enough so that it will cover your break and wrap under the tip of your nail. Apply a coat of the liquid mender to the bare nail.
Using the brush applicator provided, saturate the mender paper with the liquid. Then apply the saturated paper to the break. Wrap it as smoothly as you can with an orange stick.
Tuck the extra paper under the nail to give it added strength.
Note: If the break is just a small one, I will tuck less paper under the nail because the extra support isn't necessary, and the paper often gets mushy after a few days and has to be replaced.
Let dry a few minutes and reapply a coat of nail-mender liquid. Let dry a few minutes again and repeat the finger-smoothing process.
Repeat the nail mender liquid application and finger smoothing process one more time. This will give your nail a smooth, hard surface. If the break is extreme, you may want to repeat all of this with an additional piece of mending paper that you place in the opposite direction of the first (in other words, horizontally).
If possible, let the nail dry overnight before applying nail enamel to avoid bubbling of enamel.
Cotton and other patches
A small piece of cotton rolled at the sides and tucked under the nail gives even greater strength than nail-mender paper but is a paper but is a little more difficult to apply yourself. Some manicurists recommend fine handkerchief linen, coffee-filter paper (the very thin cheap kind), or tea bag paper. The above procedure can be used with any of these. Silk wraps are also available. These have adhesive backs and so are easy to apply. Although silk wraps have had a bad rap for years, Skilled manicurist Sandra Cavanas at the Beverly Hill Frederic Fekkai Salon told me that this was because inexpensive nail emporiums often used a product called Diamond Dust with the silk and this can create the same nail damage as acrylic powders.
Emergency repair to get you through the night (or at least out of the house!)
If you split a nail and don't have mender or paper, you can apply Crazy Glue to the split. Then saturate a small piece of facial tissue with base coat or clear polish. Apply to your nail, as above. It should hold you till you can use one of the stronger aids.
Another nail savior is Scotch Brand Magic Mending Tape. If you are in a real hurry, just cover the break. Your nail enamel color will show through.
If you have the time , you can use the above method with 5 Second Nail Wrap over the nail surface.
Repair totally broken-off nails
What if your nail breaks off completely? Dry your tears immediately so you can look for the lost tip!
You can glue it back on with Crazy Glue or Five Second Glue. If the tip has dried out, soak it in some warm water until it's pliable.
If you don't have your own tip, you can buy a product like Eve 'n Tips. These are the same tips that many salons use for extensions or porcelains. Clip then file the tip to the desired length (these are sold outrageously long and undue nail tip can damage your nail bed). Apply with Crazy Glue, using the method described above.
Do not stop at this point. The glue is too strong to give your new nail tip and the supporting part of your nail plate proper balance. A pull on that nail tip can result in a break way below the quick and possible damage to your nail bed.
Get out your trusty nail-mender kit and use the procedure for mending described above. However, instead of one horizontal paper (or other patching material) in wrapping, also run two vertical strips of mending paper at both sides of the nail to provide extra strength.
Acrylic mender kits
These kits are sold to repair split or broken nails. I have found the chemicals in most of these kits (an acrylic powder and a solvent) too strong to recommend. The paste they are mixed into can weaken the nail bed, increasing the probability of breakage as the nail grows out. The chemicals can also cause allergic reactions and fungus infections, not to mention the very noxious fumes.
The advantage of false nails is that they are cheap and can be applied faster than any other remedy for the broken nail. The arguments against their use are the glue provided must be applied to the entire nail surface (and so can rob the nail plate of natural oils and weaken then nail), and that false nails fall off more readily than nails repaired in other ways.
Soften false nails in warm water before you use them to facilitate bending them into the shape. The glue that usually comes with these kits isn't that strong (which is for your protection) so don't keep them on too long. The glue can give out, and nothing looks tackier than an otherwise beautifully turned-out woman lifting a long-stemmed goblet with a hand sporting only four long red nails. It's usually the pointer that goes first, too.
I can't seem to do business with false nails, though some of my competitors can. The very same blessing of long, narrowly shaped nails makes commercial false nails look like toenails on my hand. I can, however, usually get away with them on all but my thumb and pointer fingers, as these are likely to be focused too close for comfort by the camera. When I do use false nails, I apply them with double-faced tape, so that they can be easily removed after the shoot.
How to get fragile nails to grow
There are many new products available (base coats and cuticle treatments) which can strengthen weak nails. But if your nails are very fragile and you have the time, the following methods should help you grow long nails if you have never been able to grow them before.
The nail wrap or the juliet
If your nails are very fragile and you want to keep them long (or you have a splitting nail), this is the only procedure I can recommend without reservation that covers and protects fragile nails. This method was originally developed by Juliette Marglen, was popularized in Los Angeles, and is now flourishing in salons all over the country. With practice, you can master this process on your own nails to give them extra support.
Use one of the nail-mender kits that contain mending liquid and papers (or the other materials mentioned for repairing broken nails). Cut all the papers you will need before beginning application, and make sure there are no traces of oil or lotion on your nails. The cover should be wedge-shaped and fit over your nail, extending about 1/8 inch over the edge all around the tip. Saturate the paper in the liquid and then brush the nail surface with the same liquid. Tuck the end under the nail and smooth with an orange stick. Dip the stick into remover and try to remove all wrinkles and lumps. Let dry and apply base coat, then clear or colored enamel. You can also add a sealer, which is colorless, and coat the underside of the nail.
Special Trick: Prick the surface of the mending tissue with a straight pin in several places to allow the air to escape and reduce the possibility of bubbling.
This page excerpted from Hands, by Linda Rose. Click book for more.
The hand has few oil glands. The skin on the back of the hand is thin. There is very little flesh underneath the skin to support moisture. Linda's Active Hand Cream supplements the moisture to the hands. After a few days, you can literally see the difference.