The £14 secret to longer, stronger nails in lockdown

A few minutes of caring for your nails every day can vastly improve the look of your hands

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What nail technician Marian Newman doesn’t know about nails isn’t worth knowing. So when Marian tells me long nails are back in fashion for women in their 40s, 50s and beyond, I take it seriously. “Just about everyone I know has been growing out their nails,” Newman says. She puts it down to two things: lockdown meant that many of us were going longer without nail appointments, and the fact that during lockdown “we weren’t all rushing around as much as we used to, so there was a lot more at-home nail care going on,” she adds. 

While the rise in using alcohol-based hand gels and frequent hand-washing over the past year resulted in dryer hands and nails, for many of Newman’s clients it drove them to use more hand cream and cuticle products to re-nourish the skin. Newman tells me, “when you follow a good routine for your particular nail condition, it can help the nail growth enormously.”

I for one have been using cuticle oil after every hand wash for the past month, and I'm astonished at how much the condition of my nails has improved. My nails would always snap once they reached a certain length, however now they feel stronger and more resistant to breakage. The happy result is longer nails with a much healthier nail bed. "Cuticle oil acts like a natural waterproofing for your nails," says Newman, which makes sense - water expands the nail plate, making it more brittle and prone to damage. I have been using the Solar Oil by CND (£13.95, above) religiously - it penetrates into the nail plate, to help keep the nail strong yet flexible. So what are the other new nail rules? 

A departure from ‘short and chic’

So are longer nails really in fashion? Despite it being a big trend for Gen Z-ers, Newman has seen the tide turn from ‘short and chic’ nails being de rigueur for women over forty to longer, more ‘manicured’ looking nails.

“Trends all go around in cycles and for a long time we have been used to the idea that long nails aren’t chic. However a longer and more rounded shape now looks very elegant. It has almost happened by accident and now older people - myself included - are preferring a longer shape,” says Newman.  While 20-somethings favour more of a pointed ‘stiletto’ shape, an easier-to-maintain longer length is a softer, almond shape.  

Keep your length past the ‘breaking point’

“There is no better remedy to lengthen nails than a good nail oil,” says Newman, and she tells me that frequent washing of hands and excess water makes the nails soft, bendy and expands the nail plate. This is bad news if you want to grow your nails long and strong, so I can certainly vouch for Newman’s advice to use a good cuticle oil a few times a day to help make your nails grow past their usual ‘breaking point’.

The colour of the moment

As you’d expect, a neutral palette will always work, and if you aren’t keen on doing a DIY job at home, Newman suggests using a fool-proof nail brightener that instantly lifts the look of the nails. A product such as the Je Glow by Le Mini Macaron (£12.99) “makes your nails look so much healthier than if you don’t use it,” says Newman.

“It makes the pink of your nails look pinker and the white of your nails look whiter, like an easy natural french manicure.” It’s slightly lilac in certain light, but is a great nail brightener for all complexions. If you prefer a bolder pop of colour, red nails will always look chic, as long as you keep your nails in good condition.