Wednesday 9 September 2015

Nailed It! - Pro Beauty Tip for DIY-ers

Thankfully, this is not my thumb.
Image courtesy of

If the above image disturbs you as much as it does me, then you may understand my motivation in trying to avoid a similar outcome when one of my nails got damaged. Further, you might appreciate my genius solution, as well as the aplomb with which I conducted myself throughout this ordeal.

You wouldn't think so to look at my work, but I have built a lot of stone structures in my time. Mine are not the most elegant. I prefer a more natural, less uniform look which, incidentally, is most compatible with my skill set. I am also a cheapskate when it comes to building materials.

Because it costs $50 just to have a truck haul a load, I ordered a full load of sand as well as a load of rocks, both delivered in a single truck, ten years ago. I separated the rocks from the sand and hid both in unused areas of the yard. What's left of my mortar contains pleasant surprises like leaves, wood chips, mouse bones, plastic army men and, sometimes, cat poop. My rock supply is running low,  and so beyond rocks, I now incorporate into my projects chunks of old concrete, broken bricks, containers from the recycle bin and the odd, slow-moving child. (I never use the normal slow moving children, they won't let me.) "Rustic" is the descriptive word people choose most often, while I'm within earshot.

A few months ago, while working on a small pond in my backyard, a large rock slipped and pinched what my kids call my "swear finger," just behind the cuticle.The pain was sharp and intense. Naturally the kids started laughing. "That's funny Daddy because you're swearing at your swear finger." As I have never flipped anyone the bird, I am now wondering where my kids learned that reference and am a little worried about my wife's driving.

The pain quickly subsided, so I thought nothing of it. A few weeks later, a dark spot emerged under my fingernail, from the cuticle. Just a spot of blood, I thought. No biggie.

A few weeks after that, the true damage began to reveal itself. The rock had pierced the nail and I could see a small hole, dead center.

This is not my nail, but very close to the same level of damage.
Image courtesy of

In the fall and winter I am about as active as lichen and do little more than sit in my office and write. (Occasionally I produce spores—I won't go into detail because I don't want this to get seedy.) But in spring and summer, I tend to do a lot of yard work and know from experience that even a small hangnail will get caught on something, and ripped.

My 8-year-old daughter sealed my nail with a coat of her fingernail polish. The closest colour she had to something natural was a beige-y-pink which looked pretty good—and glittery! At the time, it seemed like a decent quick-fix. Strangely, the nail polish made things worse. As the nail grew, the hole slowly tore into a wide gash. I'm not sure why. My only theory is that the nail polish glued unevenly and as the nail moved, unsecured portions tore away from parts that were more securely bonded.

At any rate, it was obvious that the tear was expanding and already coming awfully close to the edge of the nail. If it made it there, it would be only a matter of days before I accidentally snagged it and ripped away half the nail. Though I am not really what you would call a "man's man," neither am I a complete sissy. I endure pain quite well when it happens, but will do just about anything to avoid the possibility of pain, regardless of inconvenience, expense or humiliation—or the low level of the anticipated pain. As a temporary measure, my daughter tenderly wrapped my fingertip in a Barbie bandage.

A quick Google search led me to the idea of applying an artificial gel-nail, but after reading about the process, I realized that it would involve a lot of time, trouble and expense, just for the sake of one nail. Sarah, a young coworker suggested a salon.

Sarah. (I'll use any excuse to include a pretty girl.)

I described my plan to my wife. Turns out that the phrase, "I am going to have my nail done" is impossible to say with any degree of machismo. The fact that it involves only one of ten nails doesn't seem to make it any better. Still, there are times when extreme measures are called for, so I gritted my teeth, tightened the Barbie bandage, saddled up and headed for the nearest salon.

My favorite nail salon, and, incidentally, the first salon I came across. Also, the only salon I know of.
It was an interesting experience; oddly relaxing, sitting amongst all the cute girls while a pretty asian woman pampered my injured finger. Though I fit in here less than Donald Trump in a Presidential Election, I could suddenly understand why women enjoyed the experience. I resolved to take my 8-year-old daughter, one day—a momentary lapse—after which, I resolved to suggest that my wife take my daughter.

Five dollars and ten minutes later, I left "Nail Art 360" with that one nail looking almost as perfect as all the other nine. Beyond the dark spot of blood, the naked eye would not be able to detect a problem. More importantly, all the surfaces were shiny and smooth. For now, the nail was secure.

My only worry was about the durability of the artificial nail. I intended to baby it a bit, but it proved such a perfect solution that I mostly forgot there was an issue. It survived two months of summer activities including more rustic rock wall work, remodeling the rustic garage doors and building a rustic swimming pool.

As the nail grew out, I trimmed it, of course, and so there came a point when there was only a small bit of the fake nail left clinging to the top of the damage. One day, I noticed the gel-nail was gone. It had popped off sometime while I was doing yard work and, fortunately, not while I was baking muffins for a school bake sale—which, by the way, I would never do as my cooking skills top out somewhere below my masonry skills and people don't tend to prefer "rustic" muffins. Also, my kids are home schooled.

I returned to the mall, this time, secretly looking forward to more me-time with the girls. Unfortunately, the second technician who applied a gel-nail was not much of a structural engineer. Instead of covering the entire nail, she chose to apply a small fix over the remaining damage. I did not think that this was a good idea and would have told her so, but she spoke little English and, as well, she was cute and I didn't want to offend her. For $5, I figured, I would not mind having to come back to get pampered again, if this fix did not "take."

Within days, I noticed the new gel-nail beginning to lift. It quickly became more of a liability than the damage it was designed to protect and so I was quite happy when it popped off, again while doing yard work. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the damaged area had now grown out and I was able to trim it away.

With minimal capital outlay and inconvenience, I had avoided the minimal pain and inconvenience of having a broken nail. I consider this a victory for modern science and cosmetology, as well as for myself, and have added this DIY-ers pro-beauty tip to my repertoire.

After two months of abuse the first gel-nail still looks pretty good. You can see the blood under the nail
but the real damage—the ugly gash—is invisible.
As the nail grew out and as I trimmed it, the remaining gel-nail
became less and less securely mounted.
Moments after the second "fix."
Second fix: a few days later, after some trimming.
Second fix: one week later. The gel-nail begins to lift. Had they applied a full nail
I think it would have lasted much longer.

If you appreciated this Pro Beauty Tip then...
Why not buy my time travel, action/adventure novel?

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