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Why we love our super-long nails

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An average woman in my salon will spend about Sh20,000 a month, including the manicure and pedicure.

Photo credit: Pool

Long nails are a major trend these days, seen on the hands of celebrities and impressionable women. Do these long nails increase one's appeal?

Lifestyle spoke to a group of women and men.

For Susan Kaitanny, the CEO of Posh Palace, a beauty parlour in Nairobi, a beautiful woman can be identified not only by how she presents herself but also by the elegance of her nails.

“Right now, I have hot pink polish on my natural nails because I recently had my wedding. So, I am in the mood for love and happiness,” she says.

Women with long nails are often seen as high-maintenance, suggesting they spend a lot of time and money on their appearance, she says, but beautiful nails boost one’s esteem.

“When I make my nails and put on jewellery, I feel so beautiful. You can tell the value of a woman based on how she grooms herself,” she says.

Ballerina nails

Ballerina nails.

Photo credit: Pool

Contrary to critics, Susan insists that long nails do not hinder her from performing daily tasks.

“I do chores with my extra-long nails. It’s just like walking in heels—you can still do your work. I don’t wash my clothes, though, so I can keep my nails long," she says.

The cost?

“An average woman in my salon will spend about Sh20,000 a month, including the manicure and pedicure,” Susan says.

And does she ever forego her artificial nails?

“Many times. I also take care of my natural nails. I have nice natural nails but sometimes women want to spice it up. I change my nails every two weeks, my nails complement my dress code.”

Nimo Gachuiri, a gospel musician and the wife of artiste Mr Seed, has had artificial nails for a decade now.

“Putting on artificial nails is addictive. You reach a point you can’t stay without them. I have always loved some length on my fingernails. I started with stick-ons,” she says.

Despite her glamorous nails, Nimo says she can handle all her house chores effortlessly.

“I know which technique to use when making dough, how to flush the toilet, and how to pick a coin off the floor. I keep the nails long because they are beautiful. Nails are my main fashion accessory,” says Nimo, who changes her nail designs depending on the seasons.

The coffin nail look.

The coffin nail look.

Photo credit: Pool

“During my grandma’s burial, I had black nails. On Valentine’s Day, I do red colour, and I also have Christmas themes. It all depends on the mood. There are times I want to look chilled, and I put on nude colours,” says Nimo who has had four nail technicians over the last 10 years, with a preference for male one.

The pressure to have extra-long nail extensions, she says, is particularly high among celebrities, driven by fans’ expectations.

“Many celebrities are usually under pressure on social media because people expect you to look a certain way. If you don’t meet their expectations, criticism follows.  If you don’t do your nails, trolls call you kienyeji, [a slang term to me uncivilised],” she says.

Sandra Mbuvi, daughter of the former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko, cannot imagine leaving her house without perfect nails.

Her passion for nail art inspired her to start a nail cosmetic shop, SH-Beauty, targeting young women.

“I have always loved long nails because they boost the bad girl vibe in me. Ever since I was a teenager, I have always had long nails. It adds class. I started an online cosmetic line called SH-Beauty because so many girls used to ask me where I was getting my nails,” says Sandra.

“My customers are mostly the Gen Zs. They like crazy colours and shapes. On a good month, I can make Sh60,000, and on the lowest, it’s Sh20,000.”

Like many extra-long nail extensions lovers, the length and colour of her nails vary with her mood and the occasion.

So does she do chores with the extra-long nails?

Sandra says her lifestyle as a ‘baby girl’ means she does not do house chores, which allows her to maintain her long nails.
“I don’t do house chores. So, long nails have never been a burden to me. I used to find it hard to stay with them, but that is no longer an issue,’’ she says.

Men's take
Are men attracted to these long nails? The men that Lifestyle spoke to had mixed reactions. Some love them. Others said the long nails are impractical, and unprofessional and depict immorality.

Shadrack Oguta, says his friend used to have long nails, and he thinks this led to her performing poorly in examinations.

“She was a student doing a technical course. She would struggle to do practical classes. She couldn’t handle the cameras well and the nails slowed her down, she could video-edit as fast,” says Shadrack who prefers shorter, boyish, well-manicured nails on women.

tapered square nail

 The tapered square nail look.

Photo credit: Pool

“The problem comes when the length of the nail is extra long.”

Kevin Ikua, says longer fingernails make one question someone’s hygiene.

“Long nails harbour bacteria. And how do you scrub your body when you shower?," he said.

“These long nails also look weird. Most of these women who have them live a fake life, they are attention-seeking just to fit in with the latest fashion trends. I pity them most times.  A majority of them are wannabes,” he added.

For Moses Bill, he would date a woman with long nails because they are high-maintenance.

“I tend to have a prejudged assumption that they are more well-off than I...thus I may not be able to measure up to her lifestyle standards and manage it as her man,” he said.

For Brian Onyango, women with long nails are more feminine and attractive.

Sandra Mbuvi

Former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko's daughter, Sandra Mbuvi poses for a photo during the Medigah London Hair(MLH) App launch at Social House Hotel Lavington Nairobi on August 24, 2023.

Photo credit: Wilfred Nyangaresi | Nation Media Group

“They get to express their femininity more.  However, at the office, they cannot be relied upon when paperwork is urgent,” he says.

Thirty-nine-year-old, Edwin Murunga, says, “How do they even maintain their hygiene if scrubbing their backs when showering is a problem? Is it that parenting has changed in our societies? It is unfortunate,” the university lecturer says.

Dark side
The nails art has its dark side too. Susan speaks of concerns about the use of UV lamps in nail treatments.

“There is the use of the UV lamp, and it has been said it is not good for our health. There is so much use of the UV lamp without using protectives like sunscreen on your hands. This can damage your hands,” she said.

Excessive buffing of nails is another issue that can lead to thin, weak nails, and even nail loss. Susan advises, “My advice is to give their nails a break.”

Nail industry

Despite the debate about whether to have long nails or not, the industry is growing attracting young entrepreneurs.

Lamek Ibrahim, known as Ibra Nails, started his journey by searching for customers in Nairobi’s Central Business District (CBD).
Ibra says some days he would close business with no earnings.

“I used to look for customers in town, approaching people in the CBD,” Ibra recalls.

“At that time, I did not know how to do nails because I was fresh from school.”

He shifted his focus towards working with celebrities, leveraging their influence to boost his profile.

"I have made nails for many celebrities in town including Sandra Mbuvi, Michelle Ntalami, Reverend Lucy Natasha, among others. Most of the time, I offer the service free of charge, but we agree on them marketing me,” he says.

Today, Ibra is a successful mobile nail technician. On a good day, he says, he earns over Sh30,000.

“There is money in the nail beauty business. All you need is just a little patience,” Ibra advises aspiring nail technicians.