Having longer, healthier fingernails can make the hands look better, and make it easier to type, play a musical instrument, or perform daily tasks.
Nail growth remedies will not typically make the nails grow faster. Instead, they prevent the nails from breaking, helping them look healthier and grow longer.
How fingernails grow
A healthy nail bed will ensure the nail plate itself grows properly.
Understanding how the nails grow can make it easier to make lifestyle changes that support nail health.
The hard part of the nail is called the nail plate. The nail plate, much like hair, is made primarily from a protein called keratin.
The nail plate is not made of living tissue, so it is not possible to improve the health of the nail plate. While it is possible to prevent breakage of the nail plate, nail health begins in the nail bed.
The nail bed is the tissue underneath the nail. If the nail breaks off below the fingertip, the nail bed can be exposed. This painful experience makes it clear that the nail bed is living tissue.
At the base of the nail is a structure called the nail matrix, which is where growth begins.
Long-term approaches to nail health support the body to keep the nail and surrounding skin healthy, enabling the nails to grow longer and stronger.
Myths about nail growth
The nail tissue is already dead by the time it is long enough to be painted, so painting will not affect growth.
It is also a myth that applying vitamins directly to the nails can help them grow. These remedies are unlikely to help. At best, they strengthen the nail and prevent it from breaking.
No specific nail polish, such as a gel or powder, can improve nail health. In fact, some products, particularly those that require harsh methods for removal, can even destroy nail health. The acetone used to remove gel nails can weaken nails despite the gel polish making them look strong and healthy.
Diet and nail health
Dried fruits and nuts contain iron and protein, which may support the health growth of nails.
Like the rest of the body, the nails need a balanced diet to grow, including protein, water, fruits, vegetables, and a wide array of vitamins and minerals.
People who do not get enough iron, for instance, may have brittle nails, or nails with dents. Protein deficiency may cause ridges in the nails.
Some specific diet changes can strengthen the nails and promote growth. Those include:
Some over-the-counter nail supplements contain calcium. Some people think that because calcium strengthens the bones, it might also strengthen the nails.
Some research has found that postmenopausal women with a condition called osteoporosis—which is often due to inadequate calcium intake—experience nail changes.
However, few studies have definitively proven whether or not calcium improves nail health. People at risk of calcium deficiency should consider supplementing their diet with this essential mineral.
As the nails are made of protein, some people think that not including enough protein in the diet may affect nail health.
To increase the amount of protein in the diet, choose lean meats, such as chicken, and fish. Vegetarian sources of protein include lentils, peanuts, nuts, and dairy products, such as cheese and milk.
Biotin is a B-complex vitamin that proponents say can promote healthy hair and nail growth. Biotin may strengthen brittle nails, preventing them from breaking, but there is little evidence that biotin supplements will help the nails grow faster.
The following home remedies might improve nail health and protect against breakage. These remedies will not make the nails grow faster but may help improve the overall health of nails for optimum growth rates:
Preventing and treating dry skin
Applying moisturizer to the hands and the skin around the nails may help to encourage healthy nail growth.
Dry skin often means dry nails. Very dry skin can even crack open and bleed, exposing the nails to fungal and bacterial infections.
When the skin surrounding the nail bed or nail matrix is dry, it may even damage the nails as they grow.
Keep hands and nails moisturized during the winter months. Apply lotion after washing hands. People who have eczema should choose eczema-friendly creams that are highly moisturizing.
Keeping the nails dry
Water can weaken the nails, making them soft and brittle. Keep the nails dry by toweling off after swimming or showering.
When washing dishes, clothes, the bathroom, the kitchen floor, the car, or anything else wear gloves to prevent water or cleaning products from sitting on top of the nails.
Filing and grooming the nails
Keeping the nails filed in a natural shape—slightly rounded or squared—can prevent nails from snagging and breaking.
Good nail grooming may also discourage biting and picking.
Medical conditions such as diabetes can reduce circulation to the nails, making them weaker.
While this is more likely to affect the toenails than the fingernails, gentle massage can promote circulation to the nails, offsetting the effects of diabetes and other circulatory issues.
Protecting the cuticles
The cuticles are thin pieces of skin that protect the nail matrix. Cutting them very short can expose the nail matrix or nail bed, damaging the nails and causing infections.
Instead, keep the cuticles moisturized. Do not cut them.
Be cautious about manicures
Some nail salons are sources of nail infections. Aggressive manicure techniques, such as cutting the cuticles very short, can allow bacteria to enter the nail bed and weaken the nails.
Take personal tools to the nail salon, and check a salon’s reputation by reading reviews. If something hurts, ask the technician to stop. Manicures should not be painful.
Avoid harsh polish removers
Acetone polish remover can dry and weaken the nails. Avoid using it, and steer clear of nail polishes that require its use.
If acetone is the only option, avoid soaking the nails in acetone. Instead, rub them with the polish remover, then thoroughly wash and moisturize the hands.
Manage medical conditions
Medical conditions such as diabetes and psoriasis can affect the skin and nails. Instead of treating the nails, address the problem at its source by following a doctor’s treatment recommendations.
If symptoms change or get worse, or if someone has a chronic disease accompanied by nail problems, see a doctor.
The nails can provide an early warning sign to some health problems, such as nutritional deficiencies and diabetes.
If home remedies do not improve the look of the nails, talk to a dermatologist. Treatment for an underlying condition might be the path to better nails.
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