HOW TO GET LONGER, STRONGER NAILS + SHOP SKINCARE | NAILS
Not everyone has naturally long, healthy nails. To be fair, not everyone wants long nails. (I'm one. Typing with longs nails makes me crazy!) But there are lots of women who do. If you're one, then this article is for you!
There are a few things that affect whether you have long nails - or not. Genetics and your age (nail growth slows as you get older) definitely play a role. Those are the things you cannot control. Let's talk about the things you can.
How fast do nails grow?
Adult fingernails grow about 0.1 millimeter each day. That's about 1 1/2 inches each year. And the rate differs by finger! The pinky nail grows slowest, while your middle finger grows the fastest. Who knew?!!
The nail matrix is responsible for nail growth and is constantly working. But how fast it works varies. In other words, sometimes your nails grow faster and sometimes they grow slower.
So how can I get longer nails?
To to get longer, stronger nails, your nails need to be healthy. Healthy nails grow quickly. They don't crack, peel or break (so you don't lose length unnecessarily). There are a few things you can do:
1. Eat Protein & Consider Taking Biotin Supplements or Collagen Peptide Supplements.
Your nails are made of keratin. It's also in your hair and the epidermis (top layer) of your skin.
"Biotin, a B-complex vitamin, may play a role in the development of keratin," says Dr. Joshua Zeichner, Director of Cosmetic & Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. People deficient in biotin often have weak nails and hair.
Biotin is also called vitamin B7. It's a water-soluble vitamin, which means our bodies don't store it. Biotin is needed for the function of enzymes called carboxylases - which are used to produce glucose and fatty acids. It's unusual for people to have a Biotin deficiency. When it does happen, it's usually in pregnant women and is mild. Diabetes may also cause low biotin levels.
"Although it is extremely rare to have a biotin deficiency in this country, trends such as juicing can lead to deficiencies. A diet rich in biotin is always a healthy way to go for good nail health." - Dr. Dana Stern, Dermatologist & Nail Specialist in New York.
Anatomy of the basic parts of the human nail. A. Nail plate; B. lunula; C. root; D. sinus; E. matrix; F. nail bed; G. hyponychium; H. free margin.
Illustration courtesy of KDS444 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
You can get biotin from the food you eat. Egg yolks, almonds, cauliflower, cheese, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, and spinach are all high in biotin.
How would I know if I had a biotin deficiency?
There isn't a good test to check for low biotin levels. Signs and symptoms are the best way for doctors to identify this condition: brittle nails; thinning hair (often with loss of hair color); a red scaly rash around the eyes, nose and mouth; depression; tiredness; hallucinations; and a tingling in the arms and legs.
What about biotin supplements?
"Of all the supplements there is the most evidence in the medical literature that biotin is beneficial for nail health. Nails are slow growing and it is recommended that you take Biotin for at least 4 months in order to see a benefit for the fingernails and nine months for the toenails. Biotin is water soluble and therefore what your body doesn't need will be eliminated unlike certain vitamins that can be stored in the body's fat." - Dr. Dana Stern
What dosage is recommended?
In an interview with the Huffington Post, Dr. Richard Scher, a dermatologist known for his expertise on nail care and nail disorders, said the daily recommended dosage of biotin is 2.5 mg (or 2,500 mcg). But he also said that it's not clear what the correct dosage is to get the most benefit. He emphasized the importance of consulting your doctor to avoid overdose. Watch for these signs: slower release of insulin, skin rashes, lower vitamin C and B6 levels, and high blood sugar levels.
Is There Anything Else I Need to Consider Before Taking Biotin?
Biotin is found in multivitamins, prenatal multivitamins, biotin supplements, and supplements for hair, skin, and nails. In November, 2017, the FDA issued a warning to people taking biotin supplements. Many of the supplements with benefits for skin, hair, and nails have levels as high as 650 times the recommended daily dose of biotin. And this isn't apparent from the supplements' name. These high levels may interfere with lab tests. If you are taking biotin, be sure to tell your doctor, especially if you're scheduled for lab tests.
Do Collagen Peptide Supplements help?
A study was published in the August, 2017, Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. During the study, 25 participants took 2.5 mg of Verisol bioactive collagen peptides every day for 24 weeks. A doctor evaluated nail growth, cracking, chipping and brittleness of each participant during the study and 4 weeks after they had discontinued taking Verisol.
What were the results?
- There was a 12% increase in the nail growth rate
- There was a decrease of 42% in the frequency of broken nails.
- 64% of participants got an overall improvement in brittle nails.
- 88% of participants still had improvement 4 weeks after they'd stopped taking Verisol.
- 80% of participants agreed that the use of bioactive collagen peptides improved their nails' appearance, and were completely satisfied with the performance of the treatment.
Learn more about collagen peptide supplements & Verisol in our post, These Collagen Supplements Make Your Skin Act Younger!
Would Calcium & Gelatin Supplements Help?
"Calcium! The nail is not composed of calcium and that is a big myth. Also, gelatin. Gelatin is an inexpensive form of protein that was used during depression times as a nail treatment when people couldn't afford protein. Today, as long as you are eating a normal diet it is extremely rare to have a protein deficiency in the U.S. and therefore gelatin would not be helpful." - Dr. Dana Stern
2. Stay Away from Gel Manicures & Acrylic Nails.
- Weak or brittle nails may not be able to withstand a gel manicure, particularly the acetone used during the removal process.
- A UV or LED lamp is used to harden the gel polish and bind it to the nail. These lams emit UVA rays - and even though you don't see a sunburn like you would from UVB rays, UVA rays do penetrate the skin. They damage your DNA and collagen, causing premature aging and increasing your risk of skin cancer.
- Improper curing can cause physical damage to your nail or separation of your nail plate from the nail bed.
- The acetone used to remove gel polish can dry out your nail.
- If you try chipping off your gel polish, it will damage your nail.
Acrylic nails aren't a good idea either. When you wear them, you're more likely to get a nail infection AND nail glue contains acrylates:
Acrylates cause so many allergic reactions that they were named "Contact Allergen of the Year" in 2012 by The American Contact Dermatitis Society.
Sometimes there's a gap between the artificial nail and your natural nail. It happens when the artificial nail is damaged, too long, or too rigid. It also happens when your natural nail grows out. The gap is the perfect place for a nail infection because it's warm and moist. And if your artificial nails were applied with tools that weren't sterilized correctly, you're a sitting duck for an infection. Learn more in our post, Is Your Nail Salon Safe?
3. Use the Right Nail File. And Don't Let Your Nails Get Too Long.
Jagged nails snag and break.
"When nails split and peel easily they are also less apt to grow easily and beautifully. Typical drugstore type emery boards can cause tremendous micro-tears at the tip of the nail which prevent the nail from growing well. Instead I always recommend using a crystal file." - Dr. Dana Stern
4. Choose the Right Nail Polish.
"I have discussed the health hazards of nail polish before – many nail polishes continue to contain toxic ingredients. I always recommend using a 5-free nail polish (meaning it does not contain any toluene, formaldehyde, camphor, formaldehyde resin, or DBP which stands for for dibutyl phthalate). DBP is an endocrine disruptor, meaning it is a reproductive toxin that has been related to lifelong male reproductive issues. Toluene can lead to nervous system disorders. Formaldehyde is a suspected carcinogen and while it can help create a harder nail plate, it also lowers flexibility and increases brittleness over time. Furthermore, Formaldehyde can cause nail changes such as bluish discoloration/throbbing pain, infections, and dryness of fingertips.Camphor has a direct effect – it can lead to headaches, dizziness, and nausea, and Formaldehyde Resin is a known allergen and its effects start with the lifting of the nail and can lead to more severe reactions such as burning, itching, irritation, and peeling of the surrounding skin."
"As always, I recommend taking your health into your own hands. Choose products from well established reputable companies where health is emphasized. After all a healthy nail is a beautiful nail." - Dr. Dana Stern
Learn more in our post, 15 Steps to Beautiful, Healthy Nails!
5. Take a Nail Polish Break
Are your nails dry? Are they peeling or breaking? "A nail polish holiday is definitely in order." - Dr. Dana Stern
6. Care for Your Nails Like You Care for Your Face. And Don't Cut Your Cuticles!
If you want long nails that don't break "It requires constant care; it's TLC. During your nighttime routine, add a step in to take care of your nails. So when you're done with your face, put on cuticle oil after that." - Rita Remark, Essie Global Lead Educator
“Make sure you are using “cuticle friendly” ingredients. Just like you moisturise the hair with different ingredients than you use on the skin, the cuticle is a unique anatomical structure that benefits from ingredients that are are rich in fatty acids (like Mauritia fruit oil), high in phospholipids (such as sunflower oil), antioxidants (say, rosemary oil or apricot oil) and that have astringent properties (like grapefruit oils).” - Dr. Dana Stern
Don't cut your cuticles or use a liquid cuticle remover.
“The cuticle is the nail’s natural protective seal and the key to overall nail health. In addition to being a potential nidus (breeding spot) for infection, overly aggressive cuticle manipulation can result in the nail growing in with white patches and surface irregularities.” - Dr. Dana Stern
7. Consider a Nail Health Treatment.
There a LOTS of nail treatments designed to help your nails grow long and strong. Dr. Stern created her own - the Dr. Dana Nail Renewal System. It's owned by the company, Nu Skin. If you're curious, here's a link to a review of Dr. Dana's Nail Renewal System. Scroll down to shop our favorite nail products.
Learn more about nail ridges in our post, 12 Ways to Treat Nail Ridges!
8. Wear Nitrile Gloves While Cleaning.
“In general, cleaning products can be harsh on the skin. At least once or twice a week, I see patients with dry, cracked skin on their fingers - this can be due to chemicals found in common household cleaning products or not protecting hands when repeatedly doing the dishes. The products can be drying and compromise the integrity of your skin’s outer layer.” - Dr. Dhaval Bhanusali, Dermatologist in New York City
“Over-exposure to water, friction, dry air, soaps, detergents, solvents, cleaning agents, personal care products, and chemicals used in the workplace are all potential causes of hand rashes and hand dermatitis (a dry, swollen, red, itchy, inflamed rash). Once the skin becomes red and dry, even so-called ‘harmless’ things - like water from frequent hand-washing - can be irritating rather than soothing.” - Dr. Patricia Norris, Dermatologist & Assistant Professor of Dermatology at Oregon Health & Science University
Believe it or not - there is a "best way" to wear gloves. If you wear cleaning gloves for any amount of time, your hands will start to sweat. Because your hands are wet - with no place for the moisture to go - you can develop a rash. In the case of powdered gloves, your hands repeatedly sweat, then dry (the corn-starch powder in them dries your skin). All that sweating and drying can cause a rash too. The best way to avoid this is to use a sweat-absorbing fabric liner, like a thin cotton glove - and to skip powdered gloves altogether.
Then there are some people who are allergic to the gloves.
- A latex allergy is VERY serious. It can cause a life-threatening condition called anaphylaxis. So it's probably a good idea to skip latex gloves.
- In the case of nitrile (a kind of man-made rubber) gloves, the allergens (things that cause the allergic reaction) are chemicals called accelerators. They're used to make the gloves. Accelerators transform the liquid rubber into a thin, strong and elastic glove film, and stabilize the material. Accelerator-free nitrile gloves (sometimes called N-Dex free or N-Dex) are the best choice for people who are sensitive to these additives.
9. Prevent Dry, Red Hands (Dermatitis) by Following These Steps:
- Remove your rings before you wash your hands (Any soap and moisture that get trapped beneath your jewelry can cause skin irritation).
- Wash your hands with lukewarm water.
- Use a skin friendly soap. That means NO detergents, perfumed soaps, harsh soaps, or deodorant soaps. They reduce the natural oils in your skin and, when used frequently, can cause more dryness. Instead, look for soaps with moisturizers like CeraVe, Cetaphil, and Vanicream. Even better - wash with Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser or try Aquanil Cleanser instead of water. They're made for sensitive skin and are soap- and lipid-free. They don't need to be rinsed off with water.
- Rinse your hands well after washing.When drying your hands, blot dry with a towel.
- Immediately moisturize your hands. A moisturizer will penetrate better while your skin is still damp. Look for a thick, greasy moisturizer. Use products like plain Vaseline petroleum jelly, CeraVe, Cetaphil Cream, or Vanicream. Keep a hand moisturizer next to the sink, in your purse, and at your desk!
- Moisturize your hands and nails throughout the day. You should moisturize immediately after washing your hands, removing gloves, and showering.
- You can improve your dry hands by using a thick, greasy moisturizer. Apply it to your hands, then cover them with cotton gloves. This works really well at night. Lotions just don't work as well because many are 80% water. So the main ingredient, water, evaporates making your skin even drier over time.
BELOW ARE SOME NAIL PRODUCTS THAT I THINK YOU MIGHT LIKE.
All the products are 5 - free (meaning they don't contain any toluene, formaldehyde, camphor, formaldehyde resin, or DBP - which stands for for dibutyl phthalate). Some of them I've used, other's I haven't. For example, I use the Foxbrim Argan oil on my cuticles every night and I love it! But I've read great things about CND SolarOil for cuticles. Turns out lots of nail technicians use it on their clients - and it gets great reviews! So I'd like to try it next.
I hope these products will give you the healthy, beautiful nails you want! Thanks for reading!
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Amy Takken is a registered nurse with 20+ years of experience helping people improve their health. Her in-depth skincare articles have been featured on Nazarian Plastic Surgery and The Palm Beach Center for Facial Plastic & Laser Surgery. Amy loves research and constantly watches for new products and treatments to help you improve your skin’s health – because healthy skin is beautiful! To reach Amy, visit our contact page.
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Hexsel, D., Zague, V., Schunck, M., Siega, C., Camozzato, F. O., & Oesser, S. (2017). Oral supplementation with specific bioactive collagen peptides improves nail growth and reduces symptoms of brittle nails [Abstract]. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 16(4), 520-526. doi:10.1111/jocd.12393
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17763607 Vitamins and minerals: their role in nail health and disease.
https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1468-3083.2009.03426.x Growth rate of human fingernails and toenails in healthy American young adults
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318724.php What are the health benefits of biotin?
The Information provided on our website is not medical advice and should not be viewed as such. By law, only a medical doctor can diagnose or give medical advice. As a registered nurse, my goal is to educate, so I provide information on skin care, skin care products, and skin care treatments. If you have any condition that concerns you, please see a medical doctor. While most skin conditions are benign, some - like melanoma - can be deadly. If there is any doubt, please, please consult your physician. Thank you!