How to get long nails FAST (the natural way!)

How to get long nails FAST (the natural way!)

Want to know how to grow strong nails? Long, strong and perfectly polished - a set of natural-looking nails are something most women dream of...but how do we get them?

The key to a modelesque manicure goes way beyond polishes and filing. The nail is 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 2015 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness in October 2017.

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Nail anatomy

Nail Anatomy

 

If you want to know how to grow strong nails, it's helpful to understand how our nails actually grow - presenting the anatomy of a nail.

Your nail might look like one solid sheet, but it's actually made up of layers. These layers are made of a protein called Keratin - also a component of hair and skin.

How do fingernails grow?

The part of the nail visible to the human eye is actually dead -pretty surprising, huh? The only section which actually contains any life at all is right at the base of the nail, the matrix. This is where the new cells grow from, and as they do, they push old ones along, making our nails look longer.

Once these living cells lose contact with the root, they die, which is why we feel no pain when cutting or trimming our nails.

If you want to grow long strong nails, you need to learn to take care of both the matrix and nail bed.

How fast do nails grow?

The average nail growth is around 2-3mm a month, however, some people find their nails growing at a much faster rate, whilst others will see a very slow growth speed.

Remember - the cells themselves aren't actually increasing in size, but simply accumulating, and pushing old ones along as they do. In order to grow long strong nails, you need to ensure these cells are healthy, and also well-maintained once they lose contact with the matrix.

The longest nails on record reached an incredibly impressive 8.65 metres, or 28ft, 4.5 inches. How American-born, Lee Redmond went about his daily tasks with those to contain with, I don't know!

How to grow long nails - tips & tricks

Hands & nail tools
You won't get long, strong nails overnight!

There has been much speculation in the past over just what encourages our nails to grow at a set rate.

Metabolism and blood flow were once thought to be directly linked, after a physician named William Bean discovered his nail growth rate slowed significantly after the age of 50.

Following on from this, 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. How often we use our body parts is also one of the main theories behind why our nails grow faster on our hands than on our feet.

While more active fingers and a higher metabolism may indeed contribute to longer nails, they're not very reliable or realistic methods of growing yourself a set of fabulous fingernails.

Want to know how to grow long nails? Here's what the experts recommend:

Emery boards - which one to choose?

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.

Avoid chemicals which could damage nails

Have you noticed that your nails look almost opaque after cleaning? The chemicals in the majority of cleaning products will have an adverse effect on the strength of our nails, drying them out and damaging them, just as they would the skin.

Wearing a pair of rubber gloves is an easy way to prevent this and help you grow long strong nails.

Cutting your cuticles

Nail care tools
Regular maintenence is essential if you're after fine looking fingernails.

Despite what you may have heard, cutting your cuticles certainly isn't a good idea - especially if you want long nails.

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.

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 strong nails.

Moisturising dry cuticles

Although it's no a good idea to cut your cuticles, they do need some TLC. Left alone, they'll become stiff and get stuck to the nail plate, preventing them from doing their job properly.

In order to keep your cuticles supple, matrix protected, and thus grow long strong nails, you should moisturise your cuticles daily. They should also be pushed back regularly - a process most easily carried out after you've showered and they have softened.

Nail growth supplement

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.

Taking a daily supplement of 2.5 mg of 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.

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. If you really want to grow long nails, avoid using them like tools to prevent splitting and flaking, which will mean you have to make your nails shorter.

How to file nails correctly

Filing your nails
Remember to only file long way to avoid damaging your nails!

A big part of learning how to grow long nails is knowing the best ways to care for them.

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.

Increase nail growth by keeping 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 and repeated 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.

Hangnails and what to do with them

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. The ripping of your nail will also damage the delicate layers it's made up of.

I 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 comitted 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 off hangnail again.

Is nail polish bad for nails?

Nail Varnishes
They may look pretty, but they won't do nails any good if overused!

There's quite a lot of controversy regarding whether a layer of protective nail varnish is beneficial or detrimental to nail health.

As a rule, 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 get long nails by adjusting your diet

Want to know the secret to long, strong nails?

Your diet.

We can't stress how important a varied, nutritious diet is to overall nail health enough.

In recent years, since adopting a diet that's rich in a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, I've experienced a drastic improvement in my own nail strength and growth rate.

Whilst I have been known to slack off on nail maintenance, they always grow back very quickly, and strong and sturdy.

  • 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 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight if you're after long nails.
  • Including a wide range of fruits and vegetables in your diet will definitely do your body good - nail health included - as these have essential properties, including many vitamins and minerals.
  • Magnesium rich food such as 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 contains heaps of zinc, which is essential in the biological production of the protein which forms and maintains nails.
Egg & flowers
Eggs contain the magic Biotin vitamin that does wonders for our nails.
  • Remember that biotin we were talking about earlier? Well, it can be found in one of our favourite breakfast foods - eggs.

A well-balanced and varied diet is the main and most important thing you can do if you're trying to improve the appearance of your nails.

The takeaways 

The most important things to bear in mind with regards to nail health 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 want long nails, nourish your body to make your nails grow quickly and strong, and once they lengthen, look after them - it really is that simple!

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?

Author

Stephanie C

Editor

Lover of all things fashion & foodie...I look to satisfy my tastes without obliterating my budget. Wannabe interior designer, I'm an avid cushion cover maker and charity shop hunter.

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  1. Author Enid Mealor on January 5, 2017 at 7:58 pm

    Eating jelly and cabbage make your nails strong

    1. Author Stephanie C on April 6, 2017 at 5:29 pm

      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 :)

    Reply
  2. Author Tracey on January 5, 2017 at 10:29 pm

    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.

    1. Author Stephanie C on March 9, 2017 at 10:10 am

      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 :)

    2. Author TARIQ H KHAWAJA on January 6, 2018 at 4:35 pm

      be very sexually active keeps nails look cute and kissable

    Reply
  3. Author Norma Dalby on January 6, 2017 at 10:37 pm

    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.

    1. Author Stephanie C on January 11, 2017 at 10:53 am

      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!?

    Reply
  4. Author Christine Hinds on March 2, 2017 at 11:17 am

    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.

    1. Author Stephanie C on March 3, 2017 at 5:03 pm

      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!

    Reply
  5. Author Polish Perfect on June 20, 2017 at 11:42 pm

    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.

    1. Author Stephanie C on June 21, 2017 at 9:11 am

      Hi Polish Perfect. Thanks for additional tips! :)

    Reply
  6. Author DMONTY on July 4, 2017 at 3:01 pm

    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??

    1. Author Stephanie C on July 5, 2017 at 9:24 am

      This DOES sound a bit peculiar! Whatever works for you :)

    Reply
  7. Author susan davies on July 23, 2017 at 2:10 pm

    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

    1. Author Stephanie C on July 24, 2017 at 9:39 am

      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 :)

    Reply
  8. Author Tamara montoya montoya on December 26, 2017 at 5:26 am

    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

    1. Author Stephanie C on January 2, 2018 at 11:09 am

      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 :)

    Reply
  9. Author Jay on January 19, 2018 at 9:19 am

    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.

    1. Author Stephanie C on January 23, 2018 at 9:26 am

      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. :)

    Reply
  10. Author julie on January 29, 2018 at 6:44 am

    please i need a long nails

    Reply
  11. Author Lynn on February 21, 2018 at 3:53 pm

    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

    1. Author Stephanie C on February 22, 2018 at 9:20 am

      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.

    Reply
  12. Author Becky on April 30, 2018 at 3:09 pm

    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!

    1. Author Stephanie C on May 1, 2018 at 10:01 am

      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.

    Reply

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