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Nail Survival Guide

Learn how to use your fingers! Get into the habit of using your fingers as if you just applied a fresh coat of nail polish. The more trauma nails suffer, the more likely the tips will break. People are often surprised at how easily nails can break, yet few realize that the damage began days - even weeks - earlier.

For the typists out there, I wish I had an easy answer for you. I am currently looking to see if there are keyboards designed for people with long nails (hey, you never know). If your nails interfere with typing, chances are you will need to compromise and slowly shorten the nails until they are at a length you can accept yet not long enough to cause constant typos. You also need to make sure you press the keys with your finger pads, not the nail tips or you can weaken the nails. Palmtops and organizers will always be a pain, although you can use the type with the large LCD screens that read your handwriting (like the PalmPilot by 3Com).

Below is a quick list of general reminders:

Don't use nail tips to untie knots or loosen shoe laces. Boots can be the bane of nails in that we are more likely to need to loosen the laces to remove them and often need to grip the boot and pull to get the boots on.
Use the sides of your fingers to open car doors. This one has gotten me many times!
Don't dial the telephone with your fingers. Use a pen, pencil or some other body appendage (send me pictures if you choose the later!).
Use your knuckles to press buttons, such as in elevators, crosswalks or self-destruct buttons.
Use a knife or razor to open boxes and packages, not your nails. (I know it is neat, but it will weaken them). On the same note, nails were not meant as screw drivers, apple corers or hors d'oeuvre utensils. (Ok, I may have used my pinky nails for that last one when they were out of toothpicks!)
Use the pads of your fingers - not the nails - when picking up or handling objects or while typing.
Always use rubber gloves when handling household cleaners as well as bleach. These chemicals will quickly dry out nails, leaving them brittle. Gloves also give the nails a bit of padding, but don't assume they are now impervious to breaks; Scratching dirt off a counter top while wearing gloves can still cause a break.
Particularly a problem for us candle freaks: watch out when lighting candles. I've learned to keep track of the flame on the match because my nails were so long I would not feel them burning as the flame singed the tips of my nails. If you have long nails you'll have to learn how to hold a match safely. Votive candles can be real killers when you have to reach deep into the glass to get at the wick. Light a taper candle and use that to light the other candles or buy one of those lighters used for gas stoves and charcoal grills (basically a lighter with a long metallic tip). I love the sound of a match being lit in a silent room so I tend to just use extreme care. Also, use common sense: never screw around with fire when your nail polish is not dry!
Jewelry latches can be your nemesis! It's hard enough trying to handle latches with long nails, but picking at latches with the side of your nail spells trouble. Use some sort of tool, like a small hand-held bottle cap remover.
Remove wet clothes from the washing machine with slow and deliberate movements. You can also make use of barbeque tongs when pulling wet clothes out to minimize risk of nail breaks.
When putting on your fishnets (or any pantyhose for that matter) keep the index fingers turned under and use the middle portion of the thumb to pull them up. This won't only save your nail, but increase the life of your pantyhose as well.
Don't bother trying to pick up flat items (like coins) off a smooth surface since that can be very frustating and you'll look silly. It can also lead to breaks. Instead, slide them off with the edge with your hand or use a business card or some paper money to scrape it up.

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