A few years ago I was obsessed with nail polish. It was my thing. I posted my nails constantly to Instagram, I followed nail artists, I bought nail polish by the bucket load...
I haven't painted my nails in probably 2 years. My nail stamping supplies, which I absolutely loved and hoarded, have gone unused. I will probably resell them soon. A few weeks ago, I went through my massive nail polish collection, which filled an entire drawer in my bathroom, and threw away or donated over 50% of it--closer to 75%. The rest I will probably donate to my husband's school soon, keeping just a few of my favorites.
It took a long time, but finally, I realized: I just can't paint my nails. I love it; I love how nail polish looks; and I wish I could be one of those people who wears nail polish all the time. But I can't.
For several years, I struggled to get my nails to look decent without polish.
My nails are very thin (by nature); I have small nail beds and weak, thin nails that are prone to splitting and peeling. I kept them painted because they were really short and ragged without polish; polish gave them an extra layer of strength, I thought.
While trying to figure out why my nails were such garbage (despite spending a lot of money on expensive topcoats and basecoats), I started finding articles that suggested that, alongside skin types, there are also nail types. My mind was blown. Aren't nails just... nails? Aren't they the same for everybody?
No. Just like not everyone has the same hair type, not every has the same nail type. Our nails are as unique as we are.
The Common Nail Types
I tried to find good sources for all this, but unfortunately, the biggest article I could find was the Daily Mail, which I won't be linking to. This is jammed together from my research (written down in my journal a few years ago).
There are 4 major nail types:
You can have oily and sensitive nails, dry and sensitive nails, or just one at a time. If you can wear nail polish for days and days and never have it peel, you've probably got dry nails. (Your nails are also prone to being hard and brittle, however.) If your nail polish peels up within a day or two, you've most likely got oily nails. If your nails seem relatively perfect and you have no idea what these problems like "rigid breaks" and "peeling" are, then you probably have combination nails.
And if your nails react to nail polish by splitting, peeling up in layers, resembling wet paper, and breaking constantly, you've got sensitive nails.
So, I'd like to reintroduce myself: my name is Michelle and I have oily, extremely sensitive nails.
What Nail Polish Did to My Nails
My most common complaint in my nail polish days was that I couldn't get my nail polish to stay for longer than 3 days and if I took my nail polish off, my nails would peel in sheets, the layers of my nail separating from each other. My nails would get so weak from the peeling layers (which I would file to try and normalize, but it did nothing) that they would resemble wet paper; even if I wanted to use them to, say, peel a label off something or open something, they would just bend back or up.
It finally got to the point that I was so fed up with my nails, I didn't see a point in painting them anymore. So I stopped. I ignored them. I unfollowed all the nail artists on Instagram because it made me irrationally jealous (why do they get such nice nails and mine can't grow past my fingertip without peeling?). I put my nail polish in a drawer and forgot about it.
Then I got pregnant and had Forrest. I painted my nails occasionally through that time, but didn't do any fancy nail art, as I had been doing, and I definitely wasn't buying new polishes. I decided to just let my nails heal for a while and, in the flux of having a newborn, didn't have time to paint my nails anyway.
As I got more into skincare and makeup again, I ignored my nails. They seemed to stop peeling so much. And then, in November, I looked down and noticed them. Because they were long. My nails, which had always been short, short, short... were long. They were so long I immediately thought, "I need to file them, this is ridiculous." I started looking for care tips and applying jojoba oil and vitamin E gel to my nails every morning and night. It made a huge difference.
But the biggest difference, I've noticed is that it was only when I went over a year without nail polish, letting my poor, ragged nails heal, did they get healthy enough to actually grow.
My husband can attest to the fact that for the first years of our relationship, I never clipped my nails. Never. I didn't need to. They stayed short naturally. I didn't file them either, except to file the tips to try and reseal the layers of my nail that peeled up constantly.
When I painted my nails frequently, my nails were garbage. They were bad, weak, and honestly ugly to look at. When I stopped, my nails improved so much that now I actually wish I could paint them. (But I don't because I don't want to undo all that hard work!)
Am I Sure It Was the Nail Polish?
When I was explaining this story to someone recently (who had noticed my nails), they asked, "How can you be sure it was because of nail polish?"
The truth is: I don't know. But knowing what I know about nail types, I have to assume it was the cause. Sensitive nails peel and weaken when they are exposed to harsh chemicals, like those in nail polish. (As a note, nail polish is absolutely safe; I do not believe it is absorbed or dangerous. But for some nail types, it's just not healthy for those nails.) That's what my nails did; they peeled so badly that people noticed and my nails got so weak that I couldn't do anything with them.
It's possible it was something else environmental, but it's hard to be 100% sure. That being said, I'm pretty confident in my decision to drop nail polish for good from this point on in my life. While it's beautiful, and I love it and wish I could wear it, I also really love having nice nails now!