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How Long Should a Man’s Fingernails Be?

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How long should a man’s fingernails be? As short as possible? A bit of white showing? Here’s what I think, and why.

Here’s my quick and short answer:

The best fingernail length for the vast majority of men out there is probably going to be short, but with just a bit of white showing. My reasons for this are quite simple; shorter nails are easier to keep clean, more hygienic, better looking, and because they aren’t TOO short, can also be practical.

I’ll explain why.

Medium to long length fingernails, for most men, just come with too many problems:

  • Long fingernails get dirty very quickly. They can also be quite distracting, depending on how dirty and unkempt they are.
  • Many women equate longer fingernails with femininity. This may or may not be a factor for you.
  • Longer fingernails that are in poor health (such as being too yellow) can look quite disgusting.
  • Long fingernails are very impractical, especially if are doing any type of labor or physical work.

Shorter fingernails on the other hand have a ton of advantages:

  • They are easier to keep clean.
  • They look more hygienic.
  • They are more practical for being more friendly. For example, long fingernails can accidentally cut or scratch your partner, not just on the arm or leg, but elsewhere…

However, if your fingernails are too short, this can also be problematic, as:

  • Extremely short fingernails tend to be more prone to hang-nails.

This is why I would suggest to cut them short, but not so short that all of the “white” on your nails is gone.

This will let your fingers have a “bit of grab” on them, in order to pop open a can of Coke, for instance.

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Now that that’s out of the way, it might be a good idea for you to know a little bit about how your nails work, as this can be important to helping you implement any changes to your fingernail hygiene.

How Your Nails Work
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Your fingernails are made up of a bunch of different parts, the most important ones of which are:

  • The matrix
  • The cuticle
  • The lunula
  • The nail plate and nail bed

Think of the matrix as basically where your nail is “born”. It is essentially where your nail comes from. You can’t see it because it is underneath your skin. This matrix is continually pumping out new cells, which bump up and pack into the cells next to them to make and push out your nails. It is this constant creation of new cells that continually drives nail growth.

The cuticle is basically the bit of thin-skin that connects the skin from your finger, to that of the nail. It’s actually quite important; it protects your fingers from bacteria and infection.

The lunula, on the other hand, is the visible part of the matrix. If you can see it, it will usually be on the very bottom of your index fingernail and thumbnail. A lot of people can’t see it, but this is normal.

And then there is the nail plate and nail bed. The nail plate is basically just your nail, which gets its hard-like substance from something called keratin, and the nail-bed, which like the name suggests, is where your nail “sits”.

And that bit of white at the end of your nails? That is called the “free edge”. It’s white because it is dry. In fact, the whiter, the drier.

Why is knowing all of this important? For a few reasons:

  1. To remind you that you should never cut your cuticles, as they protect you from infection.
  2. This will enable you to clip your fingernails better.

Here’s why.

How to Properly Cut Your Fingernails

You may be wondering why I’m adding a section on how to cut your fingernails, since you’ve probably been cutting them for years, possibly decades, already.

The reason is that, in my opinion, most men have been given bad advice on how to cut them.

I’ll explain.

If you’re like me, you were probably taught to cut your nails straight across.

This is wrong.

It’s wrong because this method is doing 2 things:

  1. It’s damaging your nails.
  2. It’s making you more prone to hang-nails.

When you cut straight across, especially using an ordinary compound-lever nail clipper, you are actually doing a lot of damage to your nails. And while your nails are technically dead, this can lead to cracks as well as hang-nails.

Instead, I would recommend doing this:

  1. Try to “mirror” the shape of your cuticles when you cut your fingernails. You won’t get a perfect match, but it will really cut down on hang-nails.
  2. Leave just a bit of white. Some websites suggest measuring the bit of white to about 1 or 2 mm. I think that’s a bit overboard. I would suggest either cutting all of it off (if you need to type a lot), or cutting most of it off. This will leave a bit of nail for you to work with, if you need it.
  3. Use a nail-filer. It took me a long time to do this because I have always equated a nail-filer with something only a woman does. But here’s the thing, it will help smooth out and protect the edges of your nails from cracks, as well as scratching or cutting your significant other. Some advice; don’t use the rough side, and go in only 1 direction.
  4. Never cut your cuticles. Lastly, you’ll want to leave this either as is, or push it up gently after a hot shower, when your skin is still moist. For most men, this is probably a bit much, and they would rather leave them be. Whatever you do, don’t cut them.

How Often Should a Man Clip His Fingernails?

Knowing all of this, I figured this may as well be a good spot to answer this related question.

Here’s the thing; if you are following my advice, to keep them short, but with just a bit of white showing, this will mean that you’ll probably need to clip your fingernails every few days.

The rate and speed of fingernail growth depends on several different factors, such as:

  • Gender, as mens’ nails grow faster than womens’.
  • Genetics.
  • What hand, as the nails from your dominant hand grow faster than your less dominant hand.
  • Your personal health*, as sometimes people with certain vitamin deficiencies can lead to slower nail growth (although this appears to be unproven, as far as what I have read).

On average, fingernails tend to grow at a rate of 3 to 3.5 millimeters per month. Mine seems to grow faster.

In plainspeak, this means that for most men out there, if your goal is to keep them short, hygienic, clean and looking good, you’ll probably have to clip them every few days or so.

To summarize:

  1. The best fingernail length for most men is probably going to be short, but with just a tad of white (free edge) showing.
  2. The reasons for this are as follows: it is easier to keep them clean, more hygienic, allows for easier intimacy with others but still allows you to use your nails when the occasion arises.
  3. When you cut your nails, try to cut them by mirroring the shape of your cuticles. Whatever you do, don’t cut them.
  4. For most men, in order to maintain this length, you’ll need to clip them every few days or so.

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