This week our goal with the blog is to provide you with a bit of advice as to how you can make your nails grow longer and stronger. Maintaining a healthy nutritious diet is always a good idea, but there are other things that you can do (or stop doing) that will help your nail growth and strength. Keep in mind this can be a bit easier said than done, as our nails do take a bit of a beating over the course of a few days when you factor in normal wear and tear that can result in nail chips and snags, while frequently changing nail polish colors can dry out your nails.
So let’s get right to it beginning with diet. As we already mentioned, you can never go wrong with a healthy diet, and the health of your nails can act as a good warning sign if your diet is lacking in important nutrients. But to specifically target nail growth and health, you can consider packing a bit more protein into your diet from meat, lentils and broccoli, more biotin from salmon, eggs and peanuts, a bit more zinc from shellfish, green beans and cashews and more iron from foods such as legumes or beef. But be a bit wary if you are on a ketogenic diet or an Atkin’s diet that are low in carbohydrates and high in fat. These diets consume high quantities of biotin during the process of turning fatty acids (rather than carbohydrates) into energy. So if you happen to be on one of these diets, by choice or under medical supervision, it would be wise to discuss with your physician if you should be supplementing with biotin.
It is also important to maintain cuticle health as healthy cuticles generally translate to healthy nails, just as a healthy scalp leads to beautiful hair. Avoid trimming and picking your cuticles in any way as they serve a very important function, acting as a seal to both keep in hydration and keep out possible bacterial infections. If you cut them, you run the risk of irritating them or even worse, infecting them. So rather than trimming your cuticles, just gently push them back. And speaking of keeping in hydration, it is also important to moisturize our hands and nails, something we often forget to do. We frequently apply a moisturizer after washing our face, but often our hands do not receive that same level of care. Cuticle oils can help here as well, and if you really want to help your nails, wear gloves when working around the house to protect your nails from harsh detergents and hot water that are often a part of our daily chores.
Another area that can really help with increasing nail growth and strength is choice of nail polish remover. When you begin to get tired of that manicure or it is beginning to chip, it is so tempting to pop into the drugstore and buy that cheap nail polish remover in the glass bottle. But do you know why nail polish removers are often in glass bottles? It is because one of their main ingredients, acetone, dissolves many plastics. Does that sound like something you’d like to put on your nails? I didn’t think so. Not only will it remove the polish, but most of the hydration and moisture in your nails as well and lead to flaking and splitting. Fortunately, there are alternatives to acetone-based nail polish removers so keep an eye out for those instead. Along these lines, in one of our previous blogs we discussed potentially toxic compounds that can still be found in beauty products, and nail polishes are no exception. There are now “free from” versions of nail polishes usually associated with some number indicating how many of the potentially harmful compounds have been eliminated from the product. And just as you would not want to apply acetone to your nails, the glue in glue-on nails is just as bad so you should avoid their use as well. With a little effort and consistent care, your nails can be naturally even more beautiful.
Nail grooming, how we go about it and the tools we use can also have a great impact on the growth and health of our nails. Nail buffing and nail filing are the two main components to grooming. Nail buffing is more like an exfoliation of the nail to give it a shiny and uniform appearance. Like exfoliation, nail buffing will help remove dead surface skin and assist in the replenishment of moisture and other nutrients to promote growth. It also helps smooth the rough edges on your nails, and such a smooth surface will allow for better nail polish adherence. On the other hand, nail files are made for grinding down long or broken nails. This has traditionally been the job of the emery board, but more advanced filing materials have entered the space. These “glass” or “crystal” nail files allows for a more gentle filing that can help reduce damage to the nail bed, which in extreme cases can be irreversible. Emery boards have a larger grit, which can sometimes damage the pores and structure within the nail, making it more prone to nail fungus. The glass nail file is also a bit more forgiving in how you use it, in that it may be used in multiple directions whereas if an emery board is used in more than one direction, breakage can occur. Debate still remains as to which type of file is better, but a big advantage of the glass nail files is that they are easily cleaned and disinfected.
Take away message
In this week’s blog we suggest a number of things that you can do to make your nails grow stronger and longer. Like most things, it starts with maintaining a healthy diet but you may wish to consider adding a keratin and/or biotin supplement, and particularly biotin if you are on a ketogenic or Atkin’s diet as you may become more susceptible to a biotin deficiency on these types of diets. We also pointed out how some of the nail products you use may also have a harmful effect on general nail health and growth and provided a few ideas for alternatives. But just remember, it takes at least 12 weeks for a nail to fully regrow, so when you start along this path to healthy and prettier nails, patience and consistency of care are the most important parameters, but the results will be worth it!