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Emergency Nail Repair
The first thing to do is to secure the nail to prevent further damage until you can get home or to a nail salon. If the nail is torn or not completely broken off, try wrapping the fingertip with tape or Band-Aids; first up and over the tip and then around the nail. Make sure to keep a bit of slack inside so the nail is not being bent. I have seen Band-Aids especially designed for fingertips - they work best.
An added benefit to covering the fingertip is that you will naturally avoid using that finger, thus minimizing further trauma.
Once home, use a small scissors to gently cut away the tape. Now you can assess the damage. Don't pick at the nail!!
If it is just a slight tear on the side, you may get by with just using extra coats of a nail strengthener that contains nylon fibers. It may also be a good idea to slightly shorten the nail so that it will not be as likely to bang into things, causing more damage.
If the nail is completely off, or torn more than one-quarter the width of the nail, then you need to take more serious measures. Always keep on hand an emergency nail repair kit that contains both powdered and liquid acrylic, as well as a good quality circular nail buff. (Buy this stuff now so you have it when you need it!!)
First clean the nail with soap and water and then rubbing alcohol. Rinse the nail with water and let dry.
Apply the acrylic according to directions, in a thick coat that covers the entire nail. Let this dry completely, and then very carefully buff the nail down to a smooth surface so that it forms a cap over the broken nail. I suggest keeping the nail itself as short as possible - the longer the nail, the more likely you will bang it.
Apply a second coat and buff it down again. Some kits come with a thin silk or nylon sheet that can be placed between the coats for added strength. Take your time so that you can create a "cap" over the nail that looks real. I've also had some luck applying a thin coat on the underside of the nail, but this may stick to your skin and feel weird.
Typically this material will dry somewhat "natural looking", especially once a layer of clear polish is applied. It will probably look more natural with a color coat, however.
Once dried, make sure to religiously apply a coat of hardener with nylon fibers daily. When the natural nail has grown long enough, remove the cap by soaking it in polish remover and very slowly and carefully prying
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