How Long Should Fingernails Be?

If you're fortunate enough to have fingernails that grow fairly easily, you may be wondering how long they should be. We've researched in depth what the ideal fingernail length is and have the answer for you.

At a minimum, your fingernails should extend past your fingertips by at least the slither of white on the ends of your nails. How long you grow them past that point will depend on your personal preferences and whether you need to keep them trimmed for your job or other tasks that long nails would impede. 

We've given you the basic length your nails should be but keep reading as we elaborate on this and answer some more questions you might have about your fingernails. We'll also include some important tips for strengthening your fingernails!

young teen hands holding a nail clipper about to trim fingernails, How Long Should Fingernails Be

Fingernail Length

hands with clean fingernails crossed on a towel

Fingernail length is a personal preference, but you shouldn't opt for shorter than slightly past the nail. Your nails should be at least longer than they are wide. Square nails, where the length is not longer than the width, will make your hands and fingers look shorter and thicker. Longer nails will make your fingers seem longer and more slender.

Having long nails can make some jobs and tasks difficult and could even result in an injury. Jobs that require typing might be difficult to do if your nails are too long. It would be frustrating trying to type on a keyboard when your nails are hitting other keys too.

Similarly, if you work in a factory setting that requires a lot of use from your hands, you might be at risk of ripping off a fingernail. There are also hygienic reasons to keep your nails relatively short. Bacteria collects under fingernails, so imagine how much you can store under there if you have longer nails! Keep your daily tasks and personal preferences in mind as you think about your fingernail length.

How Should Fingernails Be Cut?

woman about to cut fingernails using nail clipper

First, you should prepare your nails for cutting by softening your nails. You can do this by letting them soak in a bowl of warm water. You don't have to do this if you plan to cut your fingernails after showering. The warm water from bathing will do the work for you.

When cutting your fingernails, it is important to use a fingernail clipper or nail scissors. These can be found in a manicure/pedicure set. Fingernail clippers are generally smaller than toenail clippers and have more of a rounded shape. Cut your nails almost straight across and then use a file to round off the edges into the shape you want.

If you wish to push back your cuticles, you can, but you should never cut them. In fact, it's best if you just leave them alone. Your cuticles have a purpose and cutting them can lead to infection.

After you finish cutting your nails, you should apply moisturizer. Whenever you apply moisturizer to your hands, make an effort to focus some on your nails. This will help prevent them from getting dry.

Click here to see this mani/pedi set on Amazon.

How Do You Know When Your Nails Are Too Long?

Your nails are too long when they begin to give you problems. They might start breaking more easily, or doing everyday tasks might become more difficult. You might notice that it's harder to grip a dumbbell at the gym because your nails dig into your palm. If you work in an office setting, long nails might impede your typing.

If you start to notice your nails are collecting a lot more dirt than usual, it might be another sign that it's time to trim them. As we mentioned earlier, bacteria love to grow under nails, so it is important not to let them get too long.

Is It Better To Cut Or File Nails?

woman doing manicure with nail file

There seems to be some debate as to whether it is better for your nails to file or cut them.

Some professionals swear that you should always file your nails and never cut them, but if you have brittle nails, filing them first might cause them to break. If you have strong nails, cutting them first might also be faster. So this might take some experimenting to figure out your personal preferences and needs.

If you need to change the length by a fair amount, cutting your nails first and then filing them to your desired shape is a good option. If you only need to change the length slightly, filing is the way to go. If you maintain the length by filing frequently, you will not have to reach for clippers as often and maybe not at all.

If you're wondering whether you can file your nails while they are polished, check out this post: Can You File Nails With Nail Polish On?

What Nail Shape Lasts The Longest?

illustration of types of nail shapes

In architecture, the triangle is known as being one of the strongest shapes. When it comes to fingernails, this is not the case. In fact, the longer and pointier it is, the more likely it will break. Shorter is stronger, so keeping your nails short will help with durability.

If you want a nail shape that is durable and will last the longest, opt for a squoval or square shape. The squoval is a combination of the square and oval shapes and is essentially a square with round edges. It is also a great option if you're looking for a natural-looking shape because it copies the shape of your cuticle.

So, what we're really saying is, the less surface area your nail has, the less likely it is to break.

How Do You Strengthen Your Nails?

Weak nails can be frustrating. They become brittle and break and peel and leave you with unattractive looking fingernails and hands. If you want to strengthen your nails, there are some things you can try! Let's take a look.


We mentioned earlier that moisturizing your nails after cutting them is important to keep them from becoming dry. It will also help strengthen your nails. Try to apply a hand cream often.

Click here to see this hand cream on Amazon.

Avoid Water

While it's good to keep your fingernails hydrated with moisturizer, too much contact with water can weaken your nails. Try to avoid submerging your hands for long periods of time. Purchase some rubber gloves for when you have to clean the dishes and try to keep your fingernails out of the tub when you bathe.

File In One Direction

If you decide to file your nails, make sure you are filing them in one direction. Filing your nails back and forth will do more harm than good and can cause your nails to break or split.

Avoid Artificial Nails and Gel Polishes

Although it might be tempting to go straight for artificial nails if your nails won't grow, they will actually hurt your chances of growing and strengthening your natural nail. The products and UV light used will weaken your fingernails. If you do decide to get artificial nails or gel polish, you should take a break occasionally.

For more information about this, check out our blog post: Does Shellac Ruin Your Nails (And Do You Need A Break From Them)

Keep Them Short

You might be tired of hearing us say that shorter nails are better, but they are less likely to get caught on things and break than longer nails. So, a shorter length will keep your fingernails stronger.

Watch Your Health

The conditions of your nails can also be an indicator of your health. Make sure you are eating a balanced diet as weak nails can be a sign of a vitamin deficiency.

Biotin and Other Supplements

Make sure to check with your doctor or health professional before starting any new supplements, but biotin is often well recommended for strengthening your nails. There are also supplements specifically made for targeting your fingernails. They will usually include vitamins that promote nail growth.

Click here to see these hair, skin, and nails with biotin vitamins on Amazon.

Final Thoughts

You should keep your nails at a length that looks appropriate, is hygienic, and is practical for your lifestyle. Hopefully, the information we've provided has been helpful in helping you decide how long your fingernails should be!


  1. Hi, nice post. My nails are 10 mm long and I’m facing no such issues with them performing my daily routine. I was just wondering at what length I should stop growing them and make it my standard length. Your article helps me to know that I should keep them growing until they start being obstacle in my work. Thank you.

  2. Square nails are not strong, they are relatively weak because they have two sharp points that can bump on things and snap. Anything with sharp angles is weak. Round and oval are the strongest shapes, as any pressure is distributed evenly across the edge.

  3. Having attended finishing school in London many moons ago, we were taught that a lady never wears her fingernails longer the half the length of the nail bed. That has stuck with me my entire life, and while I appreciate each to their own, those Dr. Fu Manchu nails I honestly find just unattractive and outright tacky.

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