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fingernail strengthening

22 Sep 04 - 07:34 AM (#1278118)
Subject: fingernail strengthening
From: Davetnova

I've recently returned to guitar playing after a fairly long time, but age and good(?) living have taken their toll on my nails. Now I've read through threads on acrylic nails and that they are not really good for your nails. Can anyone tell me if it's possible to have have just the end quarter inch or so of each nail done and if this this would be better for nail health. Or is there a simpler way(I can't get the hang of fingerpicks.

22 Sep 04 - 07:37 AM (#1278119)
Subject: RE: fingernail strengthening
From: Splott Man

Ralph McTell used swear by a jelly cube a day (they contain gelatine, vegetarians beware).
How effective that is, I have no idea. And they do contain a lot of sugar too.

22 Sep 04 - 07:39 AM (#1278121)
Subject: RE: fingernail strengthening
From: Sttaw Legend

Super Ted / El Ted is your man for this, he spends hours at the vets having his done and they look beautiful....

22 Sep 04 - 07:41 AM (#1278122)
Subject: RE: fingernail strengthening
From: DMcG

I was at a concert performed by a classical guitar player recently, which was followed by a question-and-answer session. Apparently, the most common question he gets is "What happens if you break your nails?" which he admittedly could be a serious problem. He had tried lots of different acrylic nails and found they were all useless - in his view - and so he used what he had always used since he was an impoverished student ... cut up table-tennis balls.

22 Sep 04 - 07:41 AM (#1278123)
Subject: RE: fingernail strengthening
From: Murray MacLeod

The answer is no, you can't have a quarter of an inch at the end of each nail, regrettably. The acrylic would simply lift up and pull off due to the flexing of the nail, as well as from the ingress of water from the back when you wash your hands. They really do need to be filled right back to the cuticle.

Just get it done. Pay no attention to the scaremongerers, I have had acrylics for over six years now, with no ill effects whatsoever.

22 Sep 04 - 07:46 AM (#1278124)
Subject: RE: fingernail strengthening
From: Murray MacLeod

........."He had tried lots of different acrylic nails".......

That is a totally meaningless statement ....acrylic nails are built up on your natural nail by applying a hardening liquid.

If he meant plastic glue-on nails, I would agree. They are useless for guitar players. I doubt however whether a classical player would find much use for acrylic nails either, they are mainly of benefit to steel-string players.

22 Sep 04 - 07:56 AM (#1278132)
Subject: RE: fingernail strengthening
From: GUEST,Andrew

I vote for the cube of Jelly. John James used to say the same as Ralph McTell.   I managed to convince myself that it worked.
Sorry vegtarians ...


22 Sep 04 - 08:13 AM (#1278141)
Subject: RE: fingernail strengthening
From: DMcG

Sorry, Murray, you are right. I meant glue-on nails.

22 Sep 04 - 08:23 AM (#1278148)
Subject: RE: fingernail strengthening
From: GUEST,Sooz (at work)

You should have no trouble with gel nails professionally applied. They put an acrylic tip on your own nail to increase its length and then apply a gel which is hardened under UV light. You only need to have the ones you use for picking done. Of course they grow quite quickly so you have to have the gel re-applied every 3-4 weeks.
Amethyst Nails here in Gainsborough are well used to guitar and banjo pickers and I'm sure it will be the same in your town!

22 Sep 04 - 08:34 AM (#1278159)
Subject: RE: fingernail strengthening
From: Paco Rabanne

    Watch my lips!!! I play flamenco, which is a bit rough on the old nails, but I have never broken one on my guitars. my method is:-
1) apply a coat of protective basecoat to the bare nail.
2) two days later do it again.
3) lay thin fibre glass sheet over each nail and cover with superglue. ( sheets can be bought from model shops)
4) apply couple of coats of Boots topcoat nail varnish, to keep water away from the superglue.

ps do not cover the nail's cuticle.

You now have super hard nails that you could invade Poland with!

22 Sep 04 - 08:46 AM (#1278165)
Subject: RE: fingernail strengthening
From: Murray MacLeod

Sooz, every 3-4 weeks ?????

I have to get mine done every 10 days ...

22 Sep 04 - 09:02 AM (#1278176)
Subject: RE: fingernail strengthening
From: GUEST,Raggytash

I used to bite my nails down to the quick, however when I parted company with my first wife they started growing !
The liberal application of nail varnish helped them harden and I rarely have a problem now, if I do split a nail the application of a piece of cigarette paper and superglue, filed to shape, normally does the job long emough to play a sesion or two, giving time for the nail to grow back.
I also used superglue to fill in any cuts on the finger ends or where harden skin had broken away

22 Sep 04 - 09:16 AM (#1278183)
Subject: RE: fingernail strengthening
From: Davetnova

whoo thanks all, I think I'll go for it.
El Ted - I think I'll try a professional job at first, but I do like your blue fingers,what do you use for the basecoat?

22 Sep 04 - 09:22 AM (#1278191)
Subject: RE: fingernail strengthening
From: Sttaw Legend

"El Ted - I think I'll try a professional job at first"

But El Ted does a professional job he's a brick layer!

22 Sep 04 - 09:35 AM (#1278204)
Subject: RE: fingernail strengthening
From: Paco Rabanne

    pop to Boots, they do loads of basecoat/protectors, any will do. They simply protect the nail from any harmful effects from the glue. You are right about the topcoats though, I do sometimes use coloured rather than clear. my current favourite is a gold colour. Gay? moi?

22 Sep 04 - 09:50 AM (#1278218)
Subject: RE: fingernail strengthening
From: Strollin' Johnny

Murray, depends on how much you play and how hard you pull at the strings! I have gels on index, middle and ring fingers (I use a thumbpick) and I can get 4-5 weeks between refits. With the acrylics I only got 3 weeks. Gel is a lot stronger than standard acrylics and doesn't shell off around the edges the way acrylic does.

Also, get the attractive young lady who applies the stuff to put plenty of the fibreglass reinforcing sheet (like a very thin Isopon) on between coats of gel. Claire at Amethyst Nails in Gainsborough puts four lots on mine - gel, two layers of fibreglass, gel, two layers of fibreglass, gel. And don't forget a layer of non-shiny natural coloured nail polish to finish - makes them look much more natural.

The question of overlays only arises if, like mine were, your nails are very short - they use the overlay (the 'plastic nail') to form a falsie, then gel and fibreglass over it. Also the overlay only covers about half or two-thirds of the real nail, the last part back to the cuticle is left and just infilled with the gel and fibreglass.

Ted's right of course - you can do a good job yourself with the Boots' stuff, but they look so much nicer done professionally and only cost around the same as a decent set of strings.

I was a user of finger-picks, successfully, for many years, but no more. Get the gels, Davetnova, you can't lose them or drop them on the floor for some great clod to tread on and break them! :0)

SJ :0)

22 Sep 04 - 10:08 AM (#1278239)
Subject: RE: fingernail strengthening

Acrylic has been the answer for me. My (poor?) technique of attacking the top of my nails on percussive downstrokes was wearing them away quicker than I could grow 'em. A lady friend suggested acrylic was the answer - and I've been attending a local nail salon for two years now, no ill effect, quite the reverse - I have much healthier nails these days.
As others have mentioned - these are not some false layer of material glued on that might 'fly off', but a powder - mixed with solvent - applied by painting on with a paint brush - which sets like glass. Very strong, very durable. As your nails grow a gap appears at the cuticle end which needs back-filling (they call it re-balancing!) - and the number of days before this process needs to be done depends on your diet as much as anything - hence some of the aboves messages mentioning different time intervals.
When I'm eating well (or hitting the vitamin suplements) my nails grow quicker! On avearage I go back every third week - unless I chip one - usually by performing a hard 'straightfingers' into some imanimate object at work!
It costs me 1.50 a nail - and as I use a thumbpick, I only need two fingers doing (poor style once again!) where my pal Alistair Hulett gets a full set ('cept pinkie!).
We both swear by Acrylic - never loooked back.
Cheers! - Duncan

22 Sep 04 - 10:31 AM (#1278261)
Subject: RE: fingernail strengthening
From: Mooh

Lots of good advice here. I have solved most of my nail (and some other) problems with a decent diet lately, but I also find some hardener or crazy glue works wonders to preserve the tips a little longer, as does regular daily attention with an emory board. I sometimes make my own boards with wet/dry paper glued to a stick. A smooth edge stays smooth and wears less. Otherwise, workgloves when required...too bad I can't frail with gloves on!

Peace, Mooh.

22 Sep 04 - 11:45 AM (#1278327)
Subject: RE: fingernail strengthening
From: Strollin' Johnny

Hey Duncan, you're obviously a hard hitter and picker. We must compare cuticles at Market Rasen on Friday! Ooh Matron!! ROFL!!
SJ :0)

22 Sep 04 - 12:00 PM (#1278339)
Subject: RE: fingernail strengthening
From: GUEST,Linday

My father was a classical guitarist and once broke a nail just before an important recital - and he glued it on with superglue, with no ill-effects

22 Sep 04 - 07:39 PM (#1278712)
Subject: RE: fingernail strengthening
From: Murray MacLeod

Strolling Johnny, we need to clarify our terminology here, when you talk about "gels", is that the same as what most of us mean by acrylics ? When you talk about "standard acrylics" are you referring to glue-on plastic nails?

I must admit I am unfamiliar with the process of fiberglass reinforcement combined with acrylic gel, any time I have had nails done it has just been the liquid, applied, left to harden, then sanded flat.

I may have to phone Claire at Amethyst Nails to get her professional advice ...

22 Sep 04 - 10:02 PM (#1278776)
Subject: RE: fingernail strengthening
From: Desert Dancer

I know there have many discussions on the topic before. Here's one.

~ Becky in Tucson

22 Sep 04 - 11:53 PM (#1278838)
Subject: RE: fingernail strengthening
From: GUEST,Anne Croucher

I eat 'straight' gelatine - no colour or sugar - you can find it in the baking section, usually.

I make fishy jellies - bran, flaked salmon or tuna, and prawns, pour over the gelatine and let it set. Great with salad, or fresh veges. Don't make the gelatine too strong, experiment and leave overnight - it sets slowly, even in the fridge. You don't have to put the bran in, unless you need it.

The sachets are usually to make a pint I only use 1/3rd of the powder as it is only for me.

Great summer lunch. Also great for the nails. If I stop after eating it regularly (as I did when the local supermarket stopped stocking it) I could see a reduction in nail thickness after a week or so.


23 Sep 04 - 03:48 AM (#1278927)
Subject: RE: fingernail strengthening
From: Strollin' Johnny

Murray, no they're two different substances. Sorry if I'm not using the correct nomenclature, but I'm just a dumb accountant/musician! (LOL).

Both are painted on, and you can apply either of them over an overlay (a 'false nail' glued on top of the 'real' nail) and use the fibreglass reinforcement stuff (like fine sheets of the stuff you used to get in the old Isopon car-body-repair kits back in the '70s and '80s) but gel is more flexible and hard-wearing than the 'standard' acrylic stuff.

The 'standard' stuff air-dries, but the gel has to be 'cured' in ultra-violet light (they have a little light-box you shove your hand in for a couple of minutes).

I used the Boots' liquid/powder dip-your-finger-in stuff once prior to having my nails done professionally, but I found it too bloody messy and time-consuming farting about dipping and sanding, and the eventual result looked exactly like what it was - very rough and amateur-night! So, with great trepidation and embarrassment, I ventured in to our local manicurist/beauty parlour and asked if they could sort 'em out. I was astonished to find that they already had clients exactly like me, so no need to feel like a wuss! :0)

As I say, three quid a finger - nine quid in all, every 4 to 5 weeks, seems a good deal and, in the couple of years I've been having them done, I've only broken one (the 'standard' stuff - that's when I went to gel and never had any sort of problem since).

Regarding the comment someone made earlier about fungus, and overlays/acrylic etc. being bad for the nails, if you have them done professionally they use a substance which prevents fungus etc. before they apply the first coat, and they check each time you have them re-done to make sure the natural nail is healthy (at least my local lady does).

Talk to your local nailbar people - they'll explain properly what I've struggled to get across.

All the best,
SJ :0)

23 Sep 04 - 04:11 AM (#1278937)
Subject: RE: fingernail strengthening
From: Grab

I recently started using a cream called Sudocrem on psoriasis spots. This seems to have the side-effect of improving my nails, which is nice! It's got various stuff in it like lanolin which presumably helps make them more flexible and resilient.

For me, the main thing to remember is to keep them filed fairly short. For classical guitar, fingernails are usually level with or only very slightly (a couple of mm) longer than the fingertip, because much of the tone comes from using flesh *and* nail together. If they're not insanely long, there's less to break.

Also file them regularly. As they get longer, the tips wear down and the nail gets thinner on the end, so it's more likely to break. And like breaking a glass, once there's a crack then it'll spread. I've also found that filing seems to be better than clipping - it gives a smoother "edge" to the nail which sounds nicer, and there's none of the hard edges you can get from clipping, which again would give a split somewhere to start.

And don't bite them, otherwise they'll just get weaker. I used to (for the last 20 years), and it's taken several years for my nails to toughen up again since I stopped.


23 Sep 04 - 04:26 AM (#1278949)
Subject: RE: fingernail strengthening
From: Steve Parkes

I'll have to try the Sudocrem -- there's a tub in the bathroom cabinet somewhere. After several years of experimentation, I finally discovered tha my own nails, flimsy as they are, are better than fingerpicks, even though they are quiter. I keep them about level with my fingertips; they work best when they are between slightly below and slightly above -- if you can make sense of that. Somebody told me ages back to try cod liver oil; somebody else told me later it's pobably the gelatin in the caps that do the trick. Whatever - I don't eat enough fish anyway, so I'll stick with 'em. Beware of overdoing the vitamin A: it can lead to osteoporosis in later life.


23 Sep 04 - 03:09 PM (#1279287)
Subject: RE: fingernail strengthening
From: GUEST,Brian

As a clawhammer banjo player who found a need to have the one finger 'done'.

Acrylic is, well, acrylic. It is a noxious chemical in the built up layer and any dust that comes off in the grinding to shape and any later removal is somewhat toxic. It smells bad too when being done.

Gel nail covering is a natural sugar based product I am told. It is organic and will not attack the nail top surface and bed.

According to person who did my last nail I HAD been getting the acrylic kind (this was a better-toned shoppe) at a 'nail sweatshop', unbeknownst to me.
She told me to get the GEL fill behind the nail-tip.

Same cost - actually very cheap - one hour total to remove old acrylic fill with ACETONE soak (stink!) and then apply new tip-extension with GEL fill.
Ten dollars! Bargain. (plus, with due respect, the GEL salon speaks my lingua franca, but the cheap sweatshop alas does not and was not therefore communicating risks/options at all)


23 Sep 04 - 03:18 PM (#1279294)
Subject: RE: fingernail strengthening
From: Sooz

I've just returned from my session at Amethyst nails and they do not believe they are being discussed on the Internet!
I've had some nice purple nail art - but then my nails are just for show.

23 Sep 04 - 06:37 PM (#1279414)
Subject: RE: fingernail strengthening
From: GUEST,Mike, Halifax UK

I'm going to add that I have two strong natural nails on the second and third but my first finger nail always breaks however I have used acrylic nails (boots) for years now. I just super glue one on. It takes about 3 seconds plus a few seconds with an emery board and lasts on average 10 - 12 days. I finger pick quite aggressively and never had one 'ping' off. Finding the right colour nail varnish.... Now that is a problem...

24 Sep 04 - 06:13 PM (#1280353)
Subject: RE: fingernail strengthening
From: GUEST,Emily

Eat lots of tinned salmon (with bones). Eat lots of pulses like chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, butter beans etc.
Eat lots of salads with raw spinach and raw red cabbage etc.
Eat lots of red meat as well.
And stuff like raw muesli with rolled oats and brown rice.
Your nails will soon be strong and will grow so fast that you'll have to file them every second day to keep them a comfortable length for fingerpicking.
Unfortunately, the side effects of changing to a diet like this can be
extremely , prolific flatulence. BUT this should go away afer a few years when your digestive system gets used to it.
Good luck !


24 Sep 04 - 09:41 PM (#1280490)
Subject: RE: fingernail strengthening
From: Liz the Squeak

Don't use a nail buffer - they sand down the nail and make it thinner, leading to weak spots, especially if you use the 'remove ridges' bit.

Superglue and Boots Nailhardener seem to be a good combination (used to go out with a blues picker)


25 Sep 04 - 12:48 PM (#1280796)
Subject: RE: fingernail strengthening
From: C-flat

After a good spell of untroubled picking I seem to be breaking nails again. I seem to go through spells of this, presumably a reflection on my general state of health, maybe it's time to up my insurance.
I'm interested in trying "acrylics" but I'm curious as to how they look. Do they have a highly polished finish or do they look like natural nails?
Something that is obviously false looking would be a problem for me on a day-to-day basis. In the past I've tried everything from glue-on nails to ping-pong balls without finding a satisfactory solution and last night I tried Super-Teds' fibre-glass/superglue tip with almost disastrous consequences! Maybe it was the lack of protective basecoat (I needed something quick) but the mixture of glue and fibre-glass brought on a chemical reaction which began to burn my fingers. My attempts to rip the offending concoction off was hampered by the fumes which caused my eyes to sting!
No harm done and I managed to get through the gig minus a nail.


25 Sep 04 - 02:08 PM (#1280858)
Subject: RE: fingernail strengthening
From: Murray MacLeod

C-Flat, acrylics look totally like natural nails, especially if the nail tech uses the pinkish "flesh tinged" powder, which I would assume is fairly universal now. She will finish them off with a buff and a rub with oil to get rid of the dusty look. (For a polished look, you would have to apply a separate coat of polish).

Incidentally, the burning you experienced wasn't due to a reaction between the glue and the fiberglass, it was just the heat generated by cyanoacrylate when it cures. I have experienced it myself a few time when I have had to make temporary nail repairs.

25 Sep 04 - 07:32 PM (#1281066)
Subject: RE: fingernail strengthening
From: C-flat

Thanks Murray, I'll make some enquiries at my nearest nail-bar.

"Cyanoacrylate"? I didn't read that in my "Burt Weedon Play-In-A-Day" book!


25 Sep 04 - 07:58 PM (#1281079)
Subject: RE: fingernail strengthening
From: Murray MacLeod

No, you didn't, but you would have come across it in the "Burt Reynolds Play-In-A-Day" book.

Nothing like cyanoacrylate for holding down a rug ...

26 Sep 04 - 05:00 AM (#1281260)
Subject: RE: fingernail strengthening
From: Strollin' Johnny

C-Flat et al - Johnny give you all velly good advice, why you no risten?? :0) LOL

For one FINAL BLOODY TIME (yep, that was shouted! LOL) - I've tried absolutely everything (including superglued table-tennis ball pieces, layers of tissue glued on as per Segovia, Boots' DIY Dip-Your-Finger-In-The-Jar jobbies etc. etc. etc. (as the King of Siam once said) and, trust me, absolutely the best results are gained from a professional job with gels (with or without a falsie stuck on top of your own nails) and the fibreglass-wrap-stuff. They last longer, they look better, they don't cost a lot. Use a dull (i.e. non-shiny) natural polish on top to protect them, and they'll look perfectly natural. Go see your local beautician/manicurist. Give them some business. You'll never look back. Job done, no further discussion needed. 'Bye.

26 Sep 04 - 09:31 PM (#1281873)
Subject: RE: fingernail strengthening
From: Gypsy

Once again, speaking from years of experience as a nail tech: If you go the salon route, book the follow up appointments as you are advised. Don't try to save money by stretching the time between rebases.....not worth it. Don't EVER glue down a loose edge....that is one of the main reasons you will have problems. If you follow the program, you will have no problems, and the artificial nails will work like a charm. Not much difference in strength twixt porcelaine, acrylic, or gel nails. Find out what the local tech does best, and go that route.
If you aren't going the salon route: Examine how you file your nails. Leave the supporting sides alone, only smoothing them occasionally. Square your nails off, like you would toenails. At this shape, they are at their only want to knock the corners off so they don't catch. Look at the natural shape of your nail. If it is totally flat, it will never be strong. The more curve, and supporting sides it has, the stronger the potential. A healthy diet will also go a long way to making strong nails. Nails are hardened keratin, like hair, and dry out. Use a bit of hand cream, any kind, regularly. There are a ton of "nail hardeners" on the market. They do work.......but over time, can cause the lifting of the nail from the nail bed, if used excessively. They usually have a formeldahyde base, so check for that as well.
IF you decide to wrap/acrylic/whatever at home..........MAINTAIN it, just like a salon would. Or, you will wind up with fungus pretty darn fast. It is not the product that causes fungus, it is the lack of maintenance!
'nuff of the tirade. hope this helps.

27 Sep 04 - 05:28 AM (#1282087)
Subject: RE: fingernail strengthening
From: GUEST,Peter A

I've tried it all - with no success until I dared to enter a ladies shop for naildesigning. The first time it is hard for your pride sitting there, but now I am completely accustomed to it.
Let them put on four layers of silk on your natural nails - it has to be four - fastened with a two-component glue of some sort.
I've never broken a nail since that, and I can do everything (house-building, laying bricks, whatever you have to do) without any strain to your fingernails. You have to repair and to refill this procedure every 3 weeks (apprx) but it is worth it.

Good luck.

27 Sep 04 - 10:16 AM (#1282246)
Subject: RE: fingernail strengthening
From: Strollin' Johnny

And don't forget the 'Marigolds' when you're washing up - hot water and fairy liquid can make them lift (not joking!). I've bought a dishwasher now, much better. :0)

27 Sep 04 - 11:32 AM (#1282318)
Subject: RE: fingernail strengthening
From: open mike

these sound like legumes to me:
"Eat lots of pulses like chickpeas, lentils,
kidney beans, butter beans etc."
wherfe it says the raw materials are:
"include cattle bone, cattle hides and fresh, frozen pigskins"
I always thouhgt that geleatin was from horsee hooves
or a similar substance. but the above page says:
Horse hooves are made of keratin, the same material as your hair and fingernails. Gelatin cannot be made from keratin.
so maybe if you want more finger nail material in
your body you should eat keratin?

27 Sep 04 - 03:56 PM (#1282497)
Subject: RE: fingernail strengthening
From: GUEST,julia

I play harp with my fingernails. I use Rio Vista Hoof manicure- great stuff. nice lotion , full of vitamins etc. Available at tack shops
craving oats is only the side effect... just kidding