Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated September 6, 2021)
We all know the look—long, beautiful nails that give the appearance of culture and sophistication. Many seek that look, and some actually attain it. But there are things that can work against you as you try to get the fingernails you want.
For instance, when you look at your nails, do you see either vertical or horizontal ridges? These can be unsightly reminders that your nails are not as perfect as you may want them to be. It is helpful to understand what causes these ridges, and in that way you can better understand how to remove them.
If you have horizontal ridges in your nails—ridges that are crossways to the natural growth direction of your nails—these are normally caused by trauma to the area just below the cuticle at the base of your fingernail. It is in this area where new nail cells are formed, and if that formation is disrupted by some sort of trauma, then a horizontal ridge may form. Horizontal ridges can also be caused by some illnesses and medications. (If you have horizontal ridges and know of no trauma or medication that caused them, you may want to consult with your physician.)
Vertical ridges—those that are parallel to the natural growth direction of your nails—may be caused by genetic predisposition or by some sort of permanent injury to the area where the nail is formed. Small vertical ridges are quite common, and can become more common as you age.
If your ridges are visible but not dramatic, then you can simply cover them. As you apply polish, it will fill in the ridges before drying. Deeper ridges may take several coats, but most of them can be covered with only a little effort.
More dramatic ridges may require some additional effort. You might try using a very fine emery board to remove the ridges, but be careful that you don't "grind down" the nail thickness too much. Doing so may replace a small problem (the ridges) with a bigger problem (too-thin nails). After using the emery board to smooth out the ridges, rinse the nail with clean water, dry it completely, and then apply nail polish as you normally would.
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