Your nails won’t grow overnight. On an average, fingernails grow about 3mm a month while toenails grow just about 1 millimeter.1
Long, shiny, healthy nails are often just as important as a glossy mane or the perfect dress when you’re trying to make an impression. But beyond that, they also reflect how your body’s feeling. Made of dead skin cells and a protein called keratin, nails grow depending on factors such as genes, nutrition, and hormones. Some natural and environmental factors also affect nail growth. For instance, age and serious illnesses can slow it down while hormonal changes before menstruation and during pregnancy appear to spur growth.
Nails also tend to grow faster in hot weather, probably because all metabolic processes quicken in the heat. While it may not be practical to move to the tropics to make your nails grow faster, there are a few things you can try if your nails break off too soon or take forever to grow back.2 3 Fair warning, though: don’t expect dramatic results in a jiffy!
1. Rub Your Nails Together
If you’ve lost a fingernail because of injury, it will take around 5–6 months for it to grow back. A toenail will take even longer – over 18 months.4
Stimulating your nails may encourage healthier and faster growth. Here’s an exercise that you can try every day.
- Place your hands together as though you’re praying and then curl your fingers inward so that the nails of one hand come in contact with the nails of your other hand.
- Rub them back and forth so that you hear a clicking sound.5
2. Buff Your Nails
If you’ve ever used artificial nails, you’d have noticed that your nails grow at a faster rate immediately after the artificial nails are applied. This spurt in growth is caused by stimulation due to buffing. Stimulating circulation in the area of your nail bed and matrix improves the supply of nutrients, removal of waste, and encourages growth. But take care that you don’t thin your nails excessively or generate too much heat during buffing – this can cause your nails to split.6 And in case you’re wondering – wearing artificial nails is not a good idea as they can damage your nails and make them brittle, thin, and dry when used often.7
3. Tap Your Fingers
Another way of stimulating nail growth is by gently striking your nails against a hard surface. So tapping on a keyboard, playing the piano, or just drumming your fingers on the table may all help your nails grow faster.8 Take care not to do this with too much force, though, or you’ll end up chipping your nails.
4. Have A Healthy Balanced Diet
As with the rest of your body, an unhealthy diet can reflect poorly on your nails too, affecting their texture and growth. While how fast they grow is not solely linked to a specific mineral, vitamin, or diet, having a healthy balanced diet is important for the health of your nails. A range of nutrients may have a part to play in keeping your nails long and sturdy.
- Folic acid: This nutrient helps maintain nail strength and flexibility. Whole grains, broccoli, kale, spinach, berries, and citrus fruits will give you folic acid.
- Omega fatty acids: This nutrient can help make your nails more flexible as well as glossier. You can get it from flaxseeds, salmon, nuts like walnut, and leafy vegetables.9
- Silicon: This nutrient can help keep your nails strong and firm. You can get it from onions, whole wheat, oats, strawberries, and avocados.
- Biotin: This essential nutrient can improve the hardness and thickness of your nails, so they don’t chip off easily. One study even found that people with brittle nails found that the thickness of their nails improved when they took biotin supplements. Get biotin from brown rice, soybeans, eggs, peanuts, oats, and fish.10
- Calcium: This mineral is also needed for the growth of healthy nails. Milk, cheese, yogurt, and veggies like kale and Chinese cabbage are good sources of calcium.11
- Vitamin D: This vitamin regulates the absorption of calcium and is therefore important for healthy nails. You can get it from foods such as tuna, salmon, mackerel, cheese, and eggs. And your skin makes vitamin D when it’s exposed to the sun, so get a healthy dose of sunshine every day. 1213 14
5. Take Care Of Your Nails So They Stay Long And Sturdy
Healthy nails are beautiful nails. And proper nail care can go a long way towards making sure that your nails don’t break off or split. Follow these tips to look after your nails so that they stay long and beautiful:
- Trim or file regularly: If you keep your nails short, trim them once a week. And if you prefer long nails, file regularly to ward off splits.
- Moisturize: Moisturizing is not just good for your skin, it’s important for your nails too. Dryness is a common cause of brittle nails. So apply a moisturizer not just to your hands but to your nails too. Experts suggest that moisturizers containing alpha hydroxy acid will be particularly beneficial. A 10-20 minute nail soak in a paraffin wax bath after that can encourage your nails to absorb moisture.15
- Protect your nails: Use rubber gloves lined with cotton during housework to prevent discolored or brittle nails caused by overexposure to water and detergents. And avoid harsh chemicals. For instance, nail polish removers have chemicals which can weaken and dry out your nails. If you need them, limit usage to once a week. Hand sanitizers which contain alcohol too can make your nails dry.16
|↑1||Amazing facts about your skin, hair, and nails. American Academy of Dermatology.|
|↑2, ↑16||Carlson, Karen J., Stephanie A. Eisenstat, and Terra Diane Ziporyn. The new Harvard guide to women’s health. Vol. 1. Harvard University Press, 2004.|
|↑3||O’Rahilly, Ronan, R. Swenson, F. Muller, S. Carpenter, and B. Catlin. “Basic human anatomy.” Philadelphia: WB Saunders 162 (1983).|
|↑4||Amazing facts about your skin, hair, and nails. American Academy of Dermatology.|
|↑5||Newman, Marian. The complete nail technician. Cengage Learning EMEA, 2004.|
|↑6||Newman, Marian. The complete nail technician. Cengage Learning EMEA, 2004.|
|↑7||Artificial nails: Dermatologists’ tips for reducing nail damage. American Academy of Dermatology.|
|↑8||Doherty, Bridget. And Julia VanTine. Growing Younger: Breakthrough Age-defying Secrets for Women. Rodale, 2001.|
|↑9||Omega-3 Fatty Acids: An Essential Contribution. Harvard College.|
|↑10||Hochman, L. G., R. K. Scher, and M. S. Meyerson. “Brittle nails: response to daily biotin supplementation.” Cutis 51, no. 4 (1993): 303-305.|
|↑11||Calcium Fact Sheet for Consumers. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑12||Vitamin D. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑13||DK. Neal’s Yard Remedies Beauty Book. Dorling Kindersley Ltd, 2015.|
|↑14||Turner, Lisa. Perfect ten. Better Nutrition, Jun 2002.|
|↑15||Should I Take a Vitamin for Brittle Nails?. The New York Times.|