A set of natural-looking nails are something most women dream of...and today we're going to help you make this dream a reality!
Learning how to grow your nails goes way beyond polishes and filing. The nail is a complex thing and in order for it to grow and strengthen, it must be cared for and nourished correctly.
Editor's Note: This post was originally posted in August 2016 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness in January 2019.
What are the parts of a nail?
Knowledge equals power and nails are no different. A better understanding of the different parts of your nail means a better understanding of what they require to grow and long and strong.
Your nail might look like one solid sheet, but it's actually made up of several different parts and layers. The layers are made of a protein called Keratin, which is also a component of hair and skin. The half-moon at the base of your nail is called the Lunula, and the slither of white that lines the top of your nail is the free edge.
We'll discuss the matrix and cuticle in more detail later on.
How do nails grow?
Nail growth isn't as simple as you'd expect. The part of the nail visible to the human eye is actually dead. The section at the base of the nail, the matrix, is the only area which contains living cells.
Nails grow from the matrix, where new cells are produced. As new ones form, they push old ones along, increasing the length of our nail.
Once these living cells lose contact with the root, they die, which is why we feel no pain when cutting or trimming our nails.
Growing your nails requires learning how to take care of both the matrix and the nail bed.
How to grow your nails faster
There has been much speculation in the past over just what encourages our nails to grow at a set rate. Theories include:
- Metabolism and blood flow - physician, William Bean, discovered his nail growth rate slowed significantly after the age of 50.
- Injury - an Oxford dermatologist named Rodney Dawber saw a lesser rate of growth in a hand that had been injured in a rugby match, than the other, uninjured hand. This suggested that the prominent hand achieved a faster rate of growth, as the blood vessels were more stimulated.
- Usage - how often we use our body parts could also explain why our fingernails grow faster than our toenails.
While more active fingers, a higher metabolism and avoiding injury may indeed contribute to longer nails, they're not very reliable or realistic methods of growing yourself a set of fabulous fingernails. It's time to find out what you can do to improve your nail health and get the nails you've always dreamed of.
Pick the right emery board
Regular filing is essential to keep nails strong, prevent tears, and promote growth.
An ideal emery board shouldn't be too rough, as this can lead to small fissures and cracks that cause your nail to tear. Instead, go for something semi-smooth that can be used to gently and slowly file your nail down into the desired shape.
Have you noticed that your nails look almost opaque after cleaning the house? The chemicals in the majority of cleaning products will have an adverse effect on the strength of your nails, causing dryness and damage - just as they would the skin.
Wearing a pair of rubber gloves is an easy way to prevent this and help you on your quest to grow long nails.
Don't cut your cuticles
Despite what you may have heard, cutting your cuticles is never a good idea.
The cuticle is the layer of skin that covers and protects the matrix (remember, this is where the new nail cells grow from) so it's important to care for it properly and keep it intact.
By removing it completely, we leave the matrix exposed to germs and bacteria, which can lead to fungal infections - not exactly the modelesque manicure you had in mind!
These infections will lead to weak cells and dimish your hopes of growing long, strong nails.
We're not done here yet! Keep learning how to get long nails with more great beauty tips below.
Moisturise dry cuticles
Instead of removing your cuticles, focus on caring for them. Without any TLC, they'll become stiff and may also get stuck to the nail plate, preventing them from doing their job properly.
In order to keep your cuticles supple, matrix protected, and grow healthy new nail cells, you should moisturise your cuticles daily. They should also be gently pushed back on a regular basis - a process most easily carried out after you've showered and they have softened.
How to grow your nails faster with supplements
The key to natural nails is natural goodness!
We know that vitamins are good for us, but with regards to nail health, it's a particular member of the vitamin B family that will really do wonders.
Biotin has been found to increase nail thickness in several studies. A thicker nail means less chance of breakages or splitting so your nails will stay longer...for longer.
If you're worried you're not getting enough, why not try taking a daily supplement of 2.5 mg? It'll help your hair grow too! You can pick tablets up at most health stores and online too.
Don't use your nails as tools
Are you guilty of turning to your nails when you need to scratch off a stubborn sticker or remove a stuck object?
While your nails may feel strong, the delicate layers are easily damaged! Treating them gently will prevent splitting and flaking and mean you don't have to get those clippers out.
File your nails correctly
Remember, your nails are made up of very thin layers, which means they must be treated delicately - that goes for filing too.
Save the sawing back and forth for your woodwork - your nail file should be used in one direction only, with only a small amount of pressure applied to ensure even, gentle filing.
Keep your nails as dry as possible
After a long, hot soak in the bath, you'll notice that your nails are softer and more flexible. This is OK every now and then, but prolonged or regular exposure to water will weaken your nails and contribute to splitting.
When they do become soft, stay away from arduous tasks for a while until they have regained their prior strength.
Treat hangnails with care
We've all been there: a little hangnail we think will tear away easily ends up taking half of our nail off with it, leaving it half the size it was before. Not only does this process shorten your nail, but it will damage the delicate layers it's composed of too.
We know it can be tempting to pull these annoying tears straight off, but you'll do much more damage than good in the process.
If you're committed to getting long nails, be sure to carry a nail file in your handbag at all times, and you'll never have to deal with the mess - or pain - of a torn hangnail again.
Avoid nail polish
There's quite a lot of controversy regarding whether a layer of protective nail varnish is beneficial or detrimental to nail health.
We know it looks pretty but don't go overboard with glamming up your nails. The chemicals in polish and nail varnish remover don't do nails any good, especially if they're already brittle.
Learn to nourish and look after your nails correctly, and you'll find they look just as lovely au-natural.
How to grow your nails fast with food
It may be last but it's certainly not least. Like most things beauty, diet is probably the biggest contributing factor when it comes to nail growth.
We can't stress enough how important a varied, nutritious diet is to overall nail health. Even if you slack off on your nail maintenance, a healthy diet will always provide the building bricks to start back strong.
Some of the most important nutrients for nail growth and health include:
- Protein - keratin, the tough, protective material our nails are made of is a protein, which is why eating enough protein is so important to nail growth. Ensure you get the recommended daily allowance of 0.8g per kilogram of body weight.
- Fruit and vegetables - fresh produce contains many essential nutrients, including many vitamins and minerals.
- Magnesium - pumpkin seeds (sigh) and dark chocolate (wahoo!) serve as all-natural anti-stress solutions, preventing things like ridges from appearing on your nail plate.
- Seafood - prawns and other shellfish contains heaps of zinc, which is essential in the biological production of the protein which forms and maintains nails.
- Biotin - Remember that biotin we were talking about earlier? Well, it can be found in one of our favourite breakfast foods - eggs.
The most important things to bear in mind with regards to growing long, strong nails is that they are just as much a part of you as any other body part.
Just as your teeth will rot if you have a poor diet and don't brush them, your nails will grow weak and grow less if they are not cared for.
If you're really determined to get gorgeous nails, nourish your body and your nails will be nourished too. Once they lengthen, look after them - it really is that simple!
How much do your nails grow in a week?
The average nail grows around 2-3mm a month (so around 0.6mm a week) however, some people find their nails growing at a much faster or slower rate.
Is Vaseline good for nails?
It is thought petroleum jelly such as Vaseline could help benefit the nails by preventing moisture loss and nourishing cuticles, helping them to grow faster.
Does toothpaste help the nail to grow?
There is no scientific evidence to show that toothpaste can make your nails grow faster. However, some people claim when scrubbed onto nails, it whitens them to improve their appearance.
I hope my tips help you get the long strong nails you've always dreamed of! Do you have any tips and tricks that work for your own nails
Eating jelly and cabbage make your nails strong
Hi Enid. It's actually a myth that jelly makes your nails strong! However a healthy, balanced diet with lots of veg including cabbage will definitely help :)
But jelly has collagen and hair and nails need lots of this as we get older and make less naturally. Your article doesn't mention collagen.
Gelatin is a protein derived from collagen found in animal connective tissues. Some people believe that consuming gelatin may promote nail growth and strength, but limited scientific evidence supports this claim.
I've had strong white nails since I was born. I've found that drinking milk (straight not in a tea or coffee) keeps them bright white and strong. I've only ever snapped them once and that was because someone at work dropped a box of 12 (1litre) orange juices on them.
Hi Tracey! Yes, many people say that the calcium in milk is really good for nails. I, however, don't drink milk and my nails are still very strong. I think a healthy, varied diet is the most important thing here :)
I wonder if you should warn readers about nail bars? Most of the nail "technicians" are not manicurists, they might have been trained to apply gel/shellac and stick sequins on but any training about the actual nails is pretty basic and they do not know how to file nails properly. They have a limited time with each customer, so quickly saw nails back and forth with an emery board to reduce the length as quickly as possible. In my area they are concealed by a surgical mask and do not speak English, so very difficult to communicate with. I should mention my nails are long and strong but 2 years ago a "technician" pushed back too hard on one of my cuticles. It was very painful at the time and damaged the nail bed, since then the nail only grows to a certain length and then breaks on the nail bed giving me weeks of pain before I can take it off and then weeks of looking odd with a short nail.
Hi Norma, Thanks a lot for pointing this out. You do really have to be really careful with nail technicians, as you're right when you say they often have to rush through clients and don't always use best practises. I hope my blog post helps people to realise the right and wrong ways to care for your nails, and therefore makes it easier for them to recognise a good nail technician from a bad!?
I prefer natural nails and have never been keen on the idea of acrylics, gels etc after seeing my friends nails ruined at one of these so called salons. I have long,natural healthy nails with using really good products, OPI avoplex cuticle oil and hand cream and Nail Envy which is brilliant. Also wearing rubber gloves to wash up. My nails are the best they'very ever looked with these treatments.
Hi Christine :) I've never tried fake nails or gels either - the occasional nail paint is all I go for - and my nails have always been strong because of it. Thanks a lot for sharing some of the products you've seen success with - maybe I'll try some!
Also, be gentle when removing gel nails or acrylics. Using force to remove nail enchantments could ruin your natural nails so it's important to use the least aggressive method.
Hi Polish Perfect. Thanks for additional tips! :)
Hi Stephanie Em this will sound really weird but my digging your teeth into the top of the nail and repeating it seem to make them grow??
This DOES sound a bit peculiar! Whatever works for you :)
Dont know why but my thumb nails are realy hard and never seem to break but other nails are soft and break quite easily. Anyone know why 1
Hi Susan. My guess is that this is because we often use our finger nails to open/remove things. This chips away at them and can cause them to break. It's also because naturally, the thumbnails are wider than other nails, making them much less fragile. I hope this helps :)
My thumb nail grows faster than the other nails
Ive been using to much nail polish and acetone to remove it every 2 weeks my nails are getting to week it seems i dont have a,layer of nail what can i do
Hi Tamara. I would, first of all, recommend giving your nails a break. Then you could introduce some nail oil to renourish the living part of your nail, and cuticle to encourage nail growth and health. Regular trimming and filing will also help. When they're beginning to look strong again, I suggest investing in a clear polish for everyday use, with additional hardening/nourishing properties that will benefit your nails in the long term. Try and reserve bright colours and lots of removal for special occasions. Once your nails are healthy, you'll find they look just as lovely natural. I hope this helps :)
Diet and state of mind can have a huge effect on nails. I became vegetarian over 40 years ago, prior to this my mails were brittle and flaky, however a few months after turning veggie I noticed how strong they had become - and sill are. When I go away on holiday for any length of time my diet inevitable changes - still veggie - but many countries and cultures have a different way of doing things, and this has an impact on my nails. I can tell when this change takes place by the horizontal ridges growing from the nail bed. This is also true if I get stressed, which isn't often, but I was caring for my very elderly mother until her death a few months ago, and my nails, although still strong are ridged all the way up to the edge, a clear indicator of the stress I was going through. I can see where the new, smooth nail is growing in (or out!) from the base. I rarely wear nail polish, but buff my nails with a buffer every so often, and never, ever, use a metal nail file. I find a fine emery board is best.
Hi Jay. It sounds like your change in diet had a really beneficial impact on your nails. This is no surprise, as eating more vegetables will up your vitamin and mineral intake, providing your nails with all they need to grow long and strong. Sorry to hear you went through a stressful time. I hope you, and your nails, will recover soon. :)
please i need a long nails
My nails aren't brittle they are just too soft to an extent they cant bend with no pain , how can i make them stronger at home
Hi Lynn, This sounds like a dietary issue. Are you currently having a varied diet, including lots of fruit and veggies? These are absolutely essential to provide your nails with the vitamins and minerals they need to grow strong.
I eat a lot of fruit and veg within my diet. Meats, fish etc. I rarely become ill anymore (docs advised to take vitamin supplements) so I changed my diet instead and eat better which has massively benefitted me however my nails are still soft, thin and break easily! I don't have great circulation in my hands and feet which may not help! Anything i can do?? I love having long, strong, elegant nails but they just never get there!
Hi Becky. Do you use harsh chemicals? I find that even washing up can take a toll on my nails. Always try to wear rubber gloves when cleaning, and this should help keep your nails strong.
I am 68 and have very long very strong nails naturally. Know I am fortunate! Only get my nails painted at salon, with my own polish. Years ago suffered a bad infection after the girl snipped my cuticle, took so long to heal. Rarely file them, the longer you leave them alone the stronger they remain. Sliver, not slither, that’s what snakes do. Contend not contained.
Hi Stephanie, My nails will grow strong and long, but when I polish them (very, very rarely) they become brittle and break and then they start to peel. I now use a non-acetone remover. Could you tell me the safest nail polish and polish remover for the few times I do wear polish? I volunteer and sometimes I like to have my nails look nice.
Hi Cher. We can't say we know "the safest" nail polish and remover, but anything that claims to be strengthening will help to stop your nails from being brittle and breaking. Hope this helps!
I bite my nails so they are always short do you have anything or idea for me not to bite myself nails also my non nail bitting nail polish can be used to grow nails since it has lemon it does not work for me though
Hi Grace! Have you tried the tips in this blog post?
Hi Steph. I have only ever seen nail growth when I literally 'hid' my nails under polygel (painted onto tips). In a couple of weeks I saw my nails grow for the first time ever, meaning they are actually capable of growth. I now want to always have polygel tips so that underneath, I always have real nails. It's like my nails can't withstand exposure to anything - even the 10 minutes in the shower weakens them. They peel and split all day, regardless of my being on an excellent diet (all the foods mentioned here), taking biotin, applying top-end hand and nail creams repeatedly and rubbing in coconut oil at night. They still peel constantly and remain thin and short. ls it a bad idea to resort to always having tips? I want to keep the tips because it is the first time in 44 years I have ever seen my nails grow.
Hi Shoane! Whilst normally any sort of false nail would damage your nail, it sounds like it's actually helping yours. Ultimately you should do what makes you feel happy and gives you the results you want. We're glad you found something that helped your nails to grow!
my nails are very very short...actually i used to bite them a lot but now i've stopped it but they are not showing any growth or they are growing but at a very slow rate...i want to grow my nails within half or 1 one month....so please tell me what can i do??
Hi there, Shirley! What have you tried so far?
I hope these tips also work for hair or thinning hair? Btw, I always wondered if nails ever stop growing if one stops cutting them, I read they don't but hair does. But then hair also shed, so they are different in that respect :).
Hi there! Some of these tips will certainly help with thinning hair. As for your second question, if you stop cutting your nails, they will continue to grow.
Hi, I didn't see this answer, thanks. Yeah I know they keep growing, but seems like head hair has a limit despite it continues to grow, once it's able to reach it, I was also curious if the same happens for nails and eventually also stop. I often happen to think that if researchers pay me a good living I'd let them grow to find out, but not so sure which price would be enough for the discomfort :D, but there's a woman who grew them really long and just for herself o_o. 2. While in this case, being a male I might want to keep my nails and toenails reasonably short, I'd still want them to be healthy and nice, so I guess these tips turn handy. Though could I safely paint them black for a while?
Hair does actually grow continuously but it might appear to stop because of breakage. I'm unsure what you mean about painting them black. What are your concerns?
Hi, cool, same happens for body hair of is it different? I know about the breakage from split ends, or you mean at the root? Nails don't break as easily because of their thickness, I guess, sure :). Sorry, for the second part, I made it unclear, I meant with black nail polish, but just because you recomment not to, and that it might damage the nails, which I also read about, but it's mostly be overdoing it too often and regularly, though maybe once in a while would be ok?
Once in a while is okay! If you're using black, I'd suggest using a nourishing base coat to protect your natural nail. Certain colours of nail polish can stain.
ok nice, thanks for the tip :). With base coat or just once in a while. And so sorry, just one last thing, but while my nails have little to no cuticles, no white spots and are regular enough, they have some some minimal vertical ridges, so not completely smooth and regular, not that I mind or is a big deal at all, but I wonder the causes or what it means? Thanks again for your time, I won't bother again and only answer when you feel like it.
It's okay to paint your nails once in a while. Just be aware of the impact it can have on your natural nails! Ridges on nails can be a sign of deficiencies, ageing or trauma to the nail. it's pretty common to have some ridges but, if it is a concern to you, you can see a GP to get it checked.
I am allergic of eggs...is there a substitute to get biotin....and is coconut oil good for the cuticle?
Hi Adyasha! There are quite a few different foods that are rich in biotin. These include liver, nuts, seeds, salmon, avocado, sweet potato, and cauliflower. Alternatively, you could take biotin tablets. Coconut oil is very good for your cuticles.
hey STEPHANIE, All the tips are vry useful i used it also nd 2day i have vry long nd strong nails.
That's great to hear, Anna!
This was helpful! Also, is coconut oil the best for your nails?
Glad to hear it, Maira! Coconut oil is great for nourishing your cuticles.
I've had a lifelong biting problem. Having my nails painted (preferably with gel for longevity) has been my only way to break my habit. When the gel finally chips and I don't get them redone, I start picking. Would repeated exposure to gel and manicure lighting be preferable to biting? Just curious of your opinion. Thanks :)
It really depends on the individual. Biting can cause your teeth to shift and could be harmful to your health - just think about the gunk that gets under your nails! The risks of exposing yourself to UV lamps for nails is low, but definitely something to consider.
when doing Gymnastics does it damage the nail
Hi Catherine! Yes, sports like gymnastics, running and ballet can all cause damage to the nail. Nails can fall out or become ingrown as a result of the intense activity.
Does adding olive oil to the nail strengthen the nails?
Using olive oil on nails can help moisturize and strengthen them, but more research is needed to confirm these findings and overall nail health is also influenced by factors such as diet and genetics. Other issues like fungal infections or nutritional deficiencies may need to be addressed.
I lost all my nails on fingers and toes during chemo therapy. After re-growth I cannot use nail polish because the chemicals in the polish are too harsh. My nails are healthy au-naturel. Just goes to show the harm in beauty products. Beware of perfume also. Chemicals on your skin regularly. Spray on clothes instead.
Thanks for sharing, Liz!
Hello, I have been growing out my nails for a couple of weeks now, and my nails are very fragile is there anything you recommend?
To strengthen your nails, keep them dry and clean, use a nail hardener, take biotin supplements, avoid harsh chemicals, eat a healthy diet, and avoid biting your nails. If you have concerns about your nails' health, consult a healthcare professional.
Well I got fake nails let them grow and then I just didn't bit them it really helps having long nails
This can definitely help with breaking habits!
Do fake nails help the growth of your nails? And would it still grow faster if I add clear nail polish?
Fake nails do not help the growth of natural nails and can damage them. Clear nail polish will not make your nails grow faster, as it acts as a barrier and prevents air and moisture from reaching your nails.
Maybe not the best advice but when I put on fake nails and then remove them my nail are longer and stronger, my mom always taught me that if your nail are under warmth they grow faster, I don't know if this will work for everyone, but there you go, and for me Vaseline works for my nails.
Hi Natalie! Thanks for sharing. Wearing fake nails can damage your natural nails, causing them to become weaker, thinner, and more prone to breaking. As for the claim that nails grow faster under warmth, nails grow at a slow and steady rate, regardless of temperature. Vaseline can help moisturize and protect your nails, improving their overall appearance and health. However, it will not make them grow faster. Taking care of your nails by keeping them clean and moisturized, avoiding biting and picking, and avoiding harsh chemicals and treatments can help maintain their health.
I KEEP BITING MY NAILS AND I WANT MY NAILS TO FRAW LIE YOUR SO WHAT CAN I USE TO MAKE MY NAILS GROW
Hi Breasia! Have you tried the tips?
I've tried everything but my nails are still short
If your nails are still not growing, it may indicate an underlying health condition. In such cases, it is advisable to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment. Remember, healthy nail growth takes time, so be patient and consistent with your efforts.
Thankyou so much for all the info I have never been able to grow strong lengthy nails so I’m now really going to look after them Many thanks Cindy Xx
You're welcome, Cindy!
What kind of nail polish should i use? I just stopped biting my nails and i want to have the best nails i can possibly have. Also, should i have a nightly or morning mail routine? If so, what do you recommend i use and where should i get it? Thank you!! (I know i’m years late to the website so it’s fine if you aren’t actively replying anymore)
Consider using a base coat, two coats of your desired nail polish colour, and a topcoat for a healthy and long-lasting manicure. Brands like OPI and Essie offer high-quality options. As for a routine, applying your nail polish in the evening is usually best. You need to pick a time to sit and leave your nails to dry properly. Also, consider using cuticle oil and a hand lotion to keep your nails and skin hydrated.
A stinging nettle (i.e. formic acid) stung my thumbnail right on the cuticle and the nail is gradually separating from the nail bed and coming off. The hole at the bottom of the nail where the initial growth should have been after the sting was very ragged so I trimmed it to avoid catching it on anything, but I have not covered it with a dressing as I think it needs to be open to the air for the cells to harden and become a new nail - is this correct? Or would it be better to cover it? Is there anything I can do to encourage the nail to regrow?
To encourage nail regrowth after a stinging nettle sting, keep the area clean and dry, protect it from further injury, and consider using an antiseptic cream. Nail regrowth can take several months, so be patient and take steps to support nail health, such as eating a healthy diet and taking biotin supplements.
Hey, ive been getting gels because my thumb nails break really far down at the sides and its painful. I can no longer afford to have gels but have no idea what to do to help my thumb nails. I am very healthy and eat a very good plant based vegetarian diet. I take vitamins and use a clear nail strengthener polish on my nails as well as cuticle oil every day. Do you have any other suggestions? Thanks!
Have you tried at-home gel kits? That might be a more affordable option.
Hey guys! I have event in a week or so and I have really short nails. I wanted to get them almond shaped and painted but I have a biting habit and the nail has just started to grow. I wanted to know how to grow them long in that period of time (without medications and change of diet). Thanks again!
Hi Zoe! The tips in this article should all help.
What is the best shape for filing the nail I believe that filing my nail in a square shape cause it to break easily? Also, what is the best supplement that I can use for nail growth?
For natural nails, the square shape is the best. If you have acrylic nails, we'd go for the almond shape. As for supplements, we would suggest Biotin.
Hi there I have berry short nails and have a problem with biting them I want to get some polygel but I’m not sure if it will damage my nails
It shouldn't cause as much damage as acrylics, for example.
I have a bad habit of biting my nails and tried to stop but it’s too hard I managed to stop for a week but noticed that my nails growth level are low which is understandable because I don’t stop biting till it’s below the skin and Ik that is not good, any tips on how to stop? It would help a lot over here (14 y/o)
Hi Hailey! This is a common problem, so don't worry. You can buy special nail polishes that make your nails taste bad. These are great if you're an absent-minded nail-biter, as it will remind you not to bite them and eventually break the habit. Alternatively, you may want to address the root cause of the nail-biting. For example, if it's a result of stress or boredom, maybe look at how you could manage that? You could also try redirecting the behaviour to fidget toys or chewing gum.
Hi, I have a Few Questions. So My 11-year-old Daughter use to Bite her nails, because of stress but She seems to want to grow them now since she has lost the habit. Me and Her have been researching ways to make them grow, I've been finding things like soaking them in lemon juice and virgin olive oil. I've had her Apply Shea butter and Petroleum Jelly to it But Do You have any ways you Can Help Me grow her nails faster? All her fingernails are very short and you can also kind of see the flesh part of her finger. Please Let Me Know if you can Help me out! Also, Your Article was Very Helpful!
To help your daughter grow her nails faster, encourage her to eat a balanced diet, keep her nails clean and moisturized, avoid harsh chemicals, and be gentle with her nails. Remember that nail growth is a gradual process that may take some time to see significant results.
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