One of the most frequent comments I get--here, on Instagram, at the grocery store--is something along the lines of “OMG YOUR NAILS. Are they real?" (Yes.) This is closely followed by "How do you get them that long without them breaking?”
I have a confession to make: They do break. They break ALL the time. You know those people who have incredibly strong nails that go from nubs to talons overnight? Yeah, I'm not one of them. My nails are really thin and papery. They crack, split and peel like crazy. The only thing they have going for them are long nail beds, and that’s it.
So how have I managed to coax my nails into the long, gorgeous shape they are in today? Don’t I spend almost all day banging on a keyboard? Aren’t I the clumsiest human being on Earth? How do I not have 10 broken-down stubs at the ends of my fingers?
It’s because I have the secret to foolproof nail repair, and thus the keys to the Kingdom of Perfect Nails.
I call them tea bag wraps, because that’s what you use: a tea bag.
It’s super easy and totally weird, which are my two favourite things when it comes to beauty. And the best part: you probably have all the required materials at your house already.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- A tea bag. Any kind will work as long as it’s made of paper.
- A fine to medium-grain nail file.
- A VERY fine-grained nail file, and probably also a buffer. I'm using a four-in-one file, which is handy.
- A base coat. Nutra Nail Strengthener with Green Tea is the best.
You’ll also need whatever colour you’d like to paint your nails afterwards, and a top coat. I’m going to use Gilda by Zoya and Sally Hansen Insta-Dri--or, as it’s called in my house, “the greatest top coat in history.”
So let’s say you’re playing with your dog and you crack a nail. Ow.
Take your tea bag and cut the top off. Empty out the guts, because you won’t need them.
Cut out a small, rectangular section of the tea bag. It should be about the width and length of your nail. Err on the side of making it longer if you’re unsure.
Some people tell you to cover your entire nail with the paper, but they are wrong. I’ve tried it and it’s an incredible hassle. My rule of thumb (har har): Cover the nail halfway if it’s a crack, and a third of the way if the tip is peeling or super-weak.
Apply the basecoat. While it’s still mostly wet, position the rectangle of tea bag so that it completely covers the crack with room to spare underneath. That’s for extra strength.
Press the tea bag down with your fingers to make sure everything is smooth. You don’t want wrinkles or bubbles, and it doesn’t matter if stuff gets a little messy at this stage. Let it dry, then shellack the entire thing down with another layer of basecoat. The tea bag will start to turn slightly transparent--this is what you want.
You can cut off some of the length if you want. I find that if I have to wrap multiple nails, it’s easier if I trim the tips of the paper off as I go, just for dexterity's sake. If holding scissors in your non-dominant hand makes you feel like you might accidentally cut your finger off, though, it’s not super-important.
Now that everything’s dry, use your regular nail file and file away the paper overhang at the tip. It’ll come right off, and you’ll be like “Man, that was easy.”
I always tell people never to file the face of their nails because it weakens them, but here is the exception. Take your superfine file and GENTLY smooth the area where you just stuck the tea bag. You’re not sanding anything away; you’re blending the two parts together and making sure there aren’t any hard lines denoting where the tea bag starts. This is also a good way to get rid of any lumps or bumps that may have snuck in while you were sticking it down. Use your buffer to smooth and shine everything to finish.
Now apply another layer of basecoat and let it dry. You’ll probably look at this and be like, “Huh, this looks kind of bizarre.” Which, yeah, it doesn’t look exactly like your regular nail. That’s why we’re going to paint over it.
Wait until your base coat is totally dry. (Nail polish is totally dry when you can lightly touch it to your lower lip and it doesn’t feel cold, sticky or tacky.) It usually takes between five and 15 minutes, and no, you can’t rush it.
If you run your finger over your repaired nail now, you should feel nothing but a smooth surface. No cracks, bumps, ridges, lumps or lines. If it doesn’t feel totally smooth, no big deal; just gently file the surface again, then apply another base coat.
Now the fun part: Paint your nails like you normally would. Two to three coats of polish, followed by a topcoat. I decided my nails needed more sparkle, so I threw a dusting of holographic glitter over my bright pink, because sometimes I want to look like I live in the Dreamhouse.
When you’re done, you will see literally no difference between your repaired nail and the your natural, uncracked nails. This is the beauty of tea bag wraps.
It’s that easy.
The best thing about teabag wraps is that the entire thing comes off with nail polish remover. You have to rub a little bit, but you don’t need to worry about destroying your nail bed.
The first time I tried this, I used nail glue instead of base coat, and it was terrible. The nail glue didn’t provide better hold and it doesn’t last longer--all it does is get all over your fingers and leave horrible blobs of congealed paper and glue all over your nails. I ruined two nails trying to scrub, soak, file and pick it off. Please stick to base coat, is what I’m saying.
This also means that you’ll have to redo your teabag wraps when you remove your nail polish, but after you know what you’re doing, it takes about five minutes. Just be careful when you’re taking it off so that you don’t accidentally catch a corner of the cracked nail and make it worse.
And since you’ve bought a bunch of tea for the bags, now you can drink it. Which is awesome, because tea is the best.
And that’s that! Out of all the various DIY beauty tricks I’ve learned over the years, this one is the best. It's come in handy so many times, including once when one of my nails broke clean in two and I was able to reattach the tip! Because why cut off the other nine nails because one breaks, when you can fix it? And who wants to pay 60 bucks at a nail salon? EXACTLY.
How do you guys deal with broken nails? Do you just file ‘em off and cut your losses? Are you a coffee or a tea person? What’s the dumbest way you’ve ever broken a nail? Mine was when I got two fingers caught in the hinge of a door...while I was explaining to someone that I wasn’t a dumb blonde. It wasn’t my proudest moment.