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Nail care for guitar players

by Larry

Natural, picks, manicures, acrylics, etc…. What do you use?  I have tried many things to keep my nails healthy and happy because when I lose a nail, I’m not playing guitar as much because it throws off my timing and more importantly, my fingering becomes less effective.

What Hasn’t Worked for Me:

  • I read an interview with Bruce Cockburn where he said that he used to super glue his nails to reinforce them.  Even went as far as getting tissue or toilet paper and cutting them into small strips and glue them onto his nails.  Kind of a type of wallpaper or fiberglass type feel. I tried this and at first it seems to work but overtime it weekend my nails to the point where they would break and chip more often.  Bruce now uses a product called Nail Envy that he’s been using for a long time and swears by it.  I haven’t tried it myself.
  • Haven’t tried acrylics but I did try the trick of cutting up a ping pong ball and shaping a fake nail and then gluing it to my finger.  It worked fairly well but you still run into the weakening of your organic nail because of the glue and I didn’t like the feel of fake nails because I felt a disconnect between me and the string.  It just didn’t feel right.  I didn’t think that acrylics would be any better so I didn’t try.  Plus I was a struggling college student and couldn’t afford them.

What Has Worked:

For me to have healthy nails was really more a lifestyle change rather than a quick fix gadget.

  • I changed the way I do things with my hands.  For example, I wear gloves a lot to protect my hands or when I’m opening doors or drawers, I make sure I have a good grip because I have some of my worst breaks when opening a door or drawer and my hand slips and my nail catches.  That really pisses me off when I break a nail that way.
  • I learned how to manicure my own hands with a nail file and I never use nail clippers.  I can’t remember where I read it but I read that  your nails get stronger if you file them down.  It has worked bunches for me.  I also keep a nail file everywhere I am; car, work, bathroom, etc…
  • When I break a nail, I resist the urge to bite it and I can go all day, if I have to until I get to a nail file.  This one was hard for me since I used to be a chronic nail biter.  If the nail isn’t to bad I use a band-aid to re-enforce the nail until it grows out enough or finally breaks.  This works very well and I can usually buy a couple of weeks with this.
  • I take a good multivitamin, it’s a Costco equivalent of Centrum.  Had to try 3 or 4 different brands until I found one that worked for me.

With all that said, I feel the constant use of a nail file is what has helped the most for me.  I don’t go more than a day or two before I use it.  It keeps my nails clean from snags, chips and I do believe that it has made my nails stronger.   What do you do, please leave a comment and let me know.

Update (10.27.08):  Recently purchased Nail Envy from amazon and have been using it for about a week.  So far, I have been impressed with the results.  More details in a future post.

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[…] axe this evening and it felt good!  Didn’t really worry about how well I played because I broke a nail last week and still getting used to picking with skin instead of nail.   I did become aware that […]


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