When did having natural or slightly imperfect nails become something to apologize for?
“I’m sorry, my nails look terrible.” This phrase seems to be uttered more frequently by women who feel self-conscious about drawing attention to their fingers. Whether it’s chipped nail polish, nail-biting habits, a slightly outdated manicure, or simply opting for a bare, “naked” look, the need to apologize for our nails has become a common occurrence.
This sentiment was recently expressed by the online Spanish comic strip, Moderna de Pueblo, as the author recounted a coworker’s remark: “I was taken aback. I had heard apologies for clothing choices, apologies for having hair out of place, apologies for being tired… but apologizing for our nails?”
Over the past few decades, professional manicures have surged in popularity. People have shifted from filing and polishing their own nails at home or neglecting them altogether to seeking out specialized salons. This rise can be attributed to the democratization of manicures, making them more accessible and leading to the emergence of nail art designs.
However, amidst the era of self-care, this trend might be misconstrued. Investing time and money in oneself is lauded, but should getting a manicure be equated with exercising, practicing mindfulness, or setting boundaries?
Getting a manicure is a choice, and for many, a luxury that demands both time and financial resources. It should never be an obligation. Apologizing for the appearance of our nails is akin to apologizing for an acne breakout or showing up with slightly greasy hair—an utterly absurd notion. Furthermore, this apology is predominantly gendered; it’s unlikely that a man would ever apologize for the state of his nails. So why should we feel the need to apologize? Is it truly offensive to others?
Until now, clean and neatly trimmed nails were regarded as a sign of respect and self-respect, and that was deemed sufficient. Has a professional manicure now become the new standard?
“I miss the indie times when torn stockings and chipped nails were celebrated. It was easy to follow the trend,” reminisces Raquel Córcoles, the creator of Moderna de Pueblo. She alludes to a period when even Shakira confidently embraced chipped nails, evoking a sense of rebellion. Not every fashion-forward individual requires a manicure—Sarah Jessica Parker, both in her personal life and as her Sex and the City character Carrie, famously favors undone nails.
While it’s natural to follow manicure trends, let’s not forget the importance of embracing our nails in the way that feels right for us. Neglecting our nails should never be misconstrued as the opposite of self-care. It’s been said that hands, like shoes, speak volumes about us—our self-care routines, lifestyle choices, and personal tastes. However, the absence of a manicure can also be seen as a statement: “I’m taking a break from gel nails to focus on caring for my hands and my budget.” And that, my friends, is entirely respectable.