Tips on how to grow long, healthy nails

Published: 30th April 2006
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Let's be honest, a beautiful set of, long, natural healthy nails looks classy and sexy. Immaculately manicured long nails say a lot about your personal style and confidence. We know growing long, healthy nails can be a challenge. Our simple tips show how you too can have a beautiful set of long natural nails.

First a quick biology lesson:
Your nails grow from the area under your cuticle called the matrix. The matrix is the living part of the nail. Your cuticle is the layer of skin that protects the matrix so the cuticle is very important for nail health and growth. As new nail cells grow in the matrix, older nail cells are pushed out toward your fingertips and become hard and compacted. Heredity and health determine how fast nails grow but nails typically grow about 0.1 millimeter a day, which means that it takes a fingernail about four to six months to fully regenerate. Healthy nails are smooth, without ridges or grooves. They're uniform in colour and consistency and free of spots or discoloration.

Did you know: Nails grow faster in the summer than in the winter, nails on your dominant hand grow faster, and men's nails grow more quickly than women's, except when a woman is pregnant when nail growth speeds up.

How long should my nails be ?
This is obviously very much a matter of personal choice but a couple of things to bear in mind:

The optimum practical length for your nails depends on your activities and your lifestyle. In general the nail tip should extend no further than one third of the body of the nail.

Nails break less often when they are all of equal length and shaped square, oval, or round.

Tips on growing, long and healthy natural nails:

Long nails tip 1: Don't use your nails as tools.
Rather than using your nails use other parts of your hand, or a pen, to perform tasks like dialing the phone. Don't pick, poke or scrape with your nails and especially avoid opening soft drink cans with your nails.

Long nails tip 2: Wear gloves.
Detergents are particularly harsh on your nails and can cause splitting and peeling. Wear gloves when washing dishes or cleaning. You should also wear gloves when gardening to protect your nails from infection and prevent dryness, damage, and loss of natural oils.

Long nails tip 3: Don't bit your nails or pick at your cuticles.
Aside from the obvious reason of biting shortening your nails these habits can damage the nail bed. Even a minor cut alongside your nail can allow bacteria or fungi to enter the nail bed and cause an infection. Remember your nails grow slowly so an injured nail retains signs of damage for several months.

Long nails tip 4: Look after your cuticles.
The cuticle is a barrier that keeps bacteria from the nail matrix, where new cells are generated, so it should not be cut or trimmed. On the other hand you do want to keep cuticles from becoming overgrown, which suffocates nail growth. If your cuticle has grown out on to the nail plate, after sufficiently softening your cuticles in warm water, very gently use a cuticle pusher to push your cuticles back. As well as pushing your cuticles back this will help to remove dead skin and debris that may have accumulated. Hold the cuticle pusher at an angle, and use tiny circular movements, so that you are as gentle and careful as possible and do not damage the cuticle. When you have finished doesn't forget to moisturize your hands.

Long nails tip 5: Look after your nails.
Trim fingernails and clean under the nails regularly. Use manicure scissors or clippers and a nail file to smooth nail edges. Never pull off hangnails - doing so almost always results in ripping living tissue. Clip hangnails off, leaving a slight angle outward.

Long nails tip 6: Caring for brittle nails.
Trim brittle nails after a bath, or a 15 minute hand soak in bath oil, and then apply a moisturiser. Don't use nail polish remover more than twice a month. Instead, touch up the nail polish. When you do need to use a nail polish remover avoid those that use acetone, which dries out nails. Also consider using a nail strengthener and growth formula.

Long nails tip 7: The role of diet.
Unless your diet is deficient in protein and vitamins dietary changes that supposedly strengthen nails won't work. Your nails can however offer telltale signs of dietary problems such as:
Lack of vitamin A and calcium causing dryness and brittleness.
Lack of protein, folic acid and vitamin C causing hang nails
White bands across the nails caused by protein deficiency.
A lack of sufficient hydrochloric acid causing splitting nails.
Insufficient intake of vitamin B12 leading to excessive dryness, very rounded and curved ends and darkening of nails.
Insufficient zinc causing development of white spots on the nails.
Red skin around your cuticles can be caused by poor metabolism of essential fatty acids.

If you are concerned that your diet may not be balanced and healthy you should consult a medical or nutritional professional.

Long nails tip 8: Moisturise your nails.
Nails need moisture just like your hands do. Rub lotion into your nails when moisturising your hands. Be sure to apply moisturiser each time you wash your hands

Long nails tip 9: Use coloured nail polish.
Use coloured nail polish while you are growing your nails. If you prefer a softer look, try a sheer shade. Coloured nail polish helps you become more aware of your hands and how to use them in a way that keeps your nail polish undamaged and hence your nails protected. It also makes chips easier to spot so that you can make immediate repairs.

Long, beautiful natural nails take commitment and special care to grow and maintain. Be patient, the average nail takes 3 to 6 months to grow.

Frequently asked questions:
My nails are weak. What can I do to strengthen them?
Unfortunately, if you have naturally weak nails then it's probably hereditary and you can't permanently change them. You can, however, do things to make them stronger. Try a nail strengthener and growth formula. Many women are confused about how to use these products, so here are a few tips:
Make sure you apply a thin coat. Because you'll be applying it daily you don't want it to build up too much. If you're at the very beginning stages of growing out your nails only use a strengthener and growth formula on your nail plate and apply it every day. Once your nails start to protrude, and you want to apply nail polish, use the strengthener and growth formula as a base coat and as a top coat.

Why do I have ridges in my nails?
Ridges or corrugations (referred to as beau's lines) in nails occur when nail growth is uneven, usually because of illness or injury. Gentle buffing can minimize ridges. A Ridge Filler will also help to level the nail surface, smoothing out shallow ridges and other imperfections.

What causes my nails to turn yellow and how can I get rid of the yellow stains?
Darker coloured nail polish can cause a chemical reaction between the nail polish's coloring agent and the nail plate. This can cause nails to develop a yellowish color. While it is different for every person this reaction can occur in a matter of days or within weeks of wearing the nail colour. To prevent nails from yellowing always use a base coat before applying nail polish. Not only will this prevent staining but it can also extend the life of the nail polish. For already yellow nails soak nails in a solution of 1/2 cup of water and the juice of one lemon for up to 15 minutes, once a week

Why are my nails so flaky around the cuticle beds? What causes this?
Unless you have an allergy to something you are handling it is likely to be dryness which is the cause. It is important to correct this since, as mentioned, cuticles are very important for nail health. You should regularly moisturize your cuticles, and hands.

My nails can grow, but after a while they begin to peel and stop growing. What can I do to stop this?
Many women want long, well-shaped nails, but the stresses of daily life and work may make them a challenge to grow. Your nails could potentially benefit from additional protection when they reach more vulnerable lengths. A nail strengthener and growth formula could assist.

What causes thin nails and what can make them stronger?
When your general health is good and you are not handling strong chemicals that might affect the nails, it is likely to be heredity that produces thin nails. Your nails could also potentially benefit from a nail strengthener and growth formula.

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MarieDance on September 2, 2011 said:
My whole life I have been blessed with sturdy fast-growing nails. However, most of my best girl friends have not been so lucky and I have spent hours with them searching for the best solutions to their nail dilemma
Sarah on September 2, 2011 said:
Thanks a nice article I enjoyed reading it. I never knew that ridges were called corrugations or beau's lines.
Georgia Day on September 9, 2011 said:
I was not aware that so many things can affect the strength and length of my nails!
Hanna on May 8, 2012 said:
The best way to wear your nails is to wear them naturally. In other words, no acrylics. Yet every time I walk past a nail salon, there are women getting their nails done. Don't get me wrong. I had acrylics for seven years, but that was in the 90s. It's 2010. Long, fake nails don't look pretty or even close to real. If anything, get manicures. Well manicured nails say a lot about a woman
Keni on May 8, 2012 said:
Our nails are very important. We need to keep it clean and trimmed all the time. Some animals have claws, but few other mammals and most primates have nails.
Jane on May 8, 2012 said:
Nice article, thanks for sharing it. I am just learning all about nails at the moment.
Arielle on May 8, 2012 said:
Long, strong nails are sought after by women in every age group. They bring an extra kick to an outfit and definitely improve a persons physical appearance. Problem is they aren't too easy to achieve and if you do manage to grow them to a desired length you are stuck with the dilemma of preventing them from breaking
Taya on May 8, 2012 said:
Take a dose of biotin daily. I have personally found biotin to help me. I wont guarantee that the results will be the same for you, but considering my results it's definitely worth a try
Prinkly on May 8, 2012 said:
More vitamin D in your diet also seems to help. Give it a try. Nice article really helpful, it would be nice if Donna wrote more regularly.

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