Fingernails keep breaking

Diedra

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Hello! For the last while I have been almost exclusively playing fingerstyle on my baritone but the nails on my plucking hand keep breaking as they are pretty thin and brittle, plus I have a very hands-on job that is generally really hard on my digits.
I've tried to remedy this with that Sally Hansen Miracle nail stuff but also in order to keep playing have been patching individual nails up (mostly my middle finger for some reason) with either falsies or a resin and mesh combo. This obviously means I cant use the nail goop on the afflicted nail, not that I've actually noticed an improvement overall using it.
What I'd love to know is what do you guys use that would be a more practical solution to strengthen nails as to play?
While I am ok reapplying nails and mesh every week I'd really rather just be able to function with my natural claws.
 

Down Up Dick

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When my fingernails gave out with Clawhammer banjo, I switched to two finger. With the rest of my stringed instruments except Classical Guitar, I use picks. With CG I use fingers, but I haven’t had trouble yet. I mostly play with my finger pads so far.

If you don’t wanna use all that fingernail polish stuff, you might try using a very light pick. That’s probably what I would do.
 

LorenFL

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I'm only using my thumb, and really just using it to "accentuate" a thumb strum. But, I couldn't get it to grow out enough without chipping the corner of it that makes most contact with the string. So, probably a less intense problem than legit fingerpicking.

I tried laminating with some "nail strengthening" polish and silk. That did work pretty well, but it was way too much of a hassle to do, and when it lifted (which it did weekly), a big thick layer of laminate material would peel right off of my fingernail. That, plus the stuff took ages to dry! (could be that the bottle I was using was several years old) It was supposed to "fortify" the nail (I never saw a difference), but the polish itself dried a little soft and prone to peeling.

After some time poking around on Amazon and the interwebz, I came across Sally Hansen "Diamond Strength", which claims to have diamond dust, unicorn horn and fairy tears in it. Something like that. Anyway, all the reviews say that it really is very hard. And it dries quickly. I gave it a shot.

I've been impressed with it so far, it's been a couple months. A light coat dries to touch in about 45 seconds. You can use a file to smooth it after a few minutes. When I'm starting from bare nails, I do a couple light coats and touch up with a glass file. I find that overnight, the finish amazingly settles as it cures and looks pretty good. I'm fidgety, though... so I grab the glass file by my chair and polish it down to a smoother finish, and then put another coat or two on it... repeat the filing the next day. By then, I'm pretty much good for two weeks! I'll often touch it up on Friday or Saturday. But, I only have to strip the polish and redo it every other week. I'm okay with that.

My other fingers, I just give a single light coat just so that all my fingers look the same (it's high gloss clear). It does a good job of keeping things from chipping. It's very hard and smooth.

On the thumbnail, a big part of my goal is to protect the nail so that it can continue to grow stronger. So, I don't do any filing of the top of my nail at all. Just nail polish remover. I file the tip to shape and smooth it. Then, when I paint that thumbnail (it's the only one that's long, every other nail is very short), I paint not just the top, but also the BOTTOM and be sure to wrap around the front edge. Fully protecting the nail.

That's been working for me. It allows the nail to grow in as strong as it can. And every time I think I'm starting to see chipping in that corner of the nail where it would always split before... it's just the polish! I can usually peel up the small chip, hit it with the file (being careful to not actually file the nail), and then "re-seal it" with the nail polish and get a few more days out of it.

I thought I'd try laminating with this same polish and silk. But, so far, I haven't felt the need. It's getting the job done with just a few thorough coats.

"Diamond Strength" is quite hard after a 12-24 hour cure. Even if you just used it as a top coat, it could be helpful.
 

TimWilson

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The supplement Biotin will work wonders for your nails (and also your hair). It's pretty inexpensive, and has lots of benefits. I honestly don't remember the last time I even chipped a nail, much less broke one. Here's the stuff I use, but feel free to look around: Sports Research Biotin (10,000mcg) with Organic Coconut Oil | Supports Healthy Hair, Skin & Nails | Non-GMO Verified & Vegan Certified (120 Veggie-Softgels) https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00T56FQAE/ref=cm_sw_r_apan_i_RK89Z99H9XD0QHVSMRN6?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1

If you're determined to stick with nail polish and the like, or just for a delightful diversion in your day, James Taylor did a video called "Nails 101“ a few years back on his official YT channel. I watch it now and again just because it's adorable -- check the rogue-ish eyebrow waggle when he mentions sniffing acetone! -- but it's also genuinely helpful.

Biotin's easier, imo, and your hair and skin will thank you too. 😁
 
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Patty

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Hello! For the last while I have been almost exclusively playing fingerstyle on my baritone but the nails on my plucking hand keep breaking as they are pretty thin and brittle, plus I have a very hands-on job that is generally really hard on my digits.
I've tried to remedy this with that Sally Hansen Miracle nail stuff but also in order to keep playing have been patching individual nails up (mostly my middle finger for some reason) with either falsies or a resin and mesh combo. This obviously means I cant use the nail goop on the afflicted nail, not that I've actually noticed an improvement overall using it.
What I'd love to know is what do you guys use that would be a more practical solution to strengthen nails as to play?
While I am ok reapplying nails and mesh every week I'd really rather just be able to function with my natural claws.
I play (fingerstyle) only with the fleshy pads of my fingers. That means means giving up having fingernails, which I'm happy to do. I like the sound better.
 

Diedra

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Thanks guys! These are all incredibly helpful tips!
I already take a few supplements to try help my joints and ligaments as I have hyper mobility, including collagen and some biotin hair/nail stuff.
I think part of the problem is that I am pretty clumsy, use power tools and chemicals all day and am about as graceful as a bull in a china shop. 😅
Will deffo check the video and have a look at those products though as they look like a combo will have these weak clackers supported in no time!
 

badhabits

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the diamond dust/unicorn horn/fairy tear stuff sounds intriguing. but will I break more strings with it? and can I still travel or will I be held up at borders due to CITES? :p
 

LorenFL

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the diamond dust/unicorn horn/fairy tear stuff sounds intriguing. but will I break more strings with it? and can I still travel or will I be held up at borders due to CITES? :p

Not only will you break strings, but you should be very careful picking your nose. Might lobotomize yourself!
 

Diedra

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And it broke agin. Ffs 😂😂
At this point I feel like this nail has been cursed. A jilted lover? A jealous rival? Evil frenemy? Who knows 😅💀
IMG-20220507-WA0012.jpeg
 

anthonyg

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I visit a nail salon every 6-8 weeks and have my nails reenforced with clear acrylic. I don't use false nails. They just paint the acrylic onto my natural nails which allows the to grow to a reasonable length without breaking.
 

Jim Yates

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I used to use Sally Hansen's Hard As Nails and during COVID, when the Lily's Nail Salon was closed, I went back to it. I have a type of psoriasis that makes my nails very weak and for the past couple of decades have been visiting Lily's Nails and getting an acrylic gel on my index, bird and ring fingers. I don't keep them quite as long as yours though. I like to just see a tiny bit of nail from the palm side.
These are a bit longer than I usually keep them.
Nails.jpg
 

Wiggy

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... what do you guys use that would be a more practical solution to strengthen nails as to play?
Drink more milk.

Milk is loaded with calcium and Vitamin D, both of which are crucial for building strong, healthy nails that can tackle all the abuse we put them through every day, from typing to trying to remove the batteries from your remote.
 

aaronkb

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You could try keeping them slightly shorter. More importantly, how’s your nutrition?

 

Diedra

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Unfortunately I am lactose intolerant 😅
I do have a little lacto free milk once in a while but honestly it mostly just makes me feel queasy so I try limit the amounts consumed.
My diet is overall good, I enjoy vegetables and cook loads :)
I'll definitely see what I can change that might help though! Probably going to cut them all back for a little while and see if the aggressive addition of all these things, plus nail oil will have them growing out stronger :)
 

aaronkb

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Unfortunately I am lactose intolerant 😅
I do have a little lacto free milk once in a while but honestly it mostly just makes me feel queasy so I try limit the amounts consumed.
My diet is overall good, I enjoy vegetables and cook loads :)
I'll definitely see what I can change that might help though! Probably going to cut them all back for a little while and see if the aggressive addition of all these things, plus nail oil will have them growing out stronger :)
I don’t know off the top of my head the best non-dairy way to consume calcium, but vitamin d supplementation is super easy and affordable and has a ton of proven health benefits. It’s also really hard to get through food, and a lot of us don’t get enough sun.
 

hendulele

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These are available online at a lot of places (this link came up randomly).


You can trim them as you would your own nails, too. If you get the right size for your fingers, they’re great. They won’t damage a uke in the way metal picks would.
 

Ziret

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I tried the Diamonds and unicorn horn, and it was OK but not good enough. Tried James Taylor tricks. After a few weeks of weekly repairs, the repairs started peeling off my nails. Alaska picks don’t feel right and require more nail to go under than I currently have. I’m going to give hope another couple of weeks and then get something at the nail salon. It’s frustrating. I don’t get the tone I want from pads alone.
 

Cadia

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I used to use Sally Hansen's Hard As Nails and during COVID, when the Lily's Nail Salon was closed, I went back to it. I have a type of psoriasis that makes my nails very weak and for the past couple of decades have been visiting Lily's Nails and getting an acrylic gel on my index, bird and ring fingers. I don't keep them quite as long as yours though. I like to just see a tiny bit of nail from the palm side.
These are a bit longer than I usually keep them.
View attachment 140539
I have very thin, brittle nails which break all the time, and usually below the skin line. Ouch! Painful! Right now I have long, party nails that I had done for my daughter's wedding on the 20th. I can't really play uke until I have them removed, at least on my fretting hand, but I'm finding the gel coating the manicurist used to be extremely strong. I'm thinking of having her do my picking hand with a shorter version of tips with gel coating, or just having her gel coat my own nails if I can get them a little longer without breaking. This was not an inexpensive asian walk-in nail salon, but a manicurist with over 30 years experience who I explained my issues to. She compensated my problems to give me very strong nails, including a thumb nail that I just broken below the skin line. I haven't broken one of these yet, nor popped a tip off.
 

Ukecaster

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Check out this nail therapy lotion on Amazon. Just a pea size dab on your palm twice a day, rub into nails and cuticles. I've had terrible nail my whole life, but with this stuff, they are now super thick and durable. Read the description and reviews.
 

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Ziret

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Check out this nail therapy lotion on Amazon. Just a pea size dab on your palm twice a day, rub into nails and cuticles. I've had terrible nail my whole life, but with this stuff, they are now super thick and durable. Read the description and reviews.
Oddly enough I think I’ve seen that at Grocery Outlet and possibly Dollar Tree as well. I’ll try it, though I am extremely skeptical. I hope I have the same experience as you.