How to strengthen and grow healthy natural nails
There are a few things that I would love to have. Long natural eyelashes, healthy hair, and strong nails. Most people seem to think that they can’t do anything about their weak nails because it’s genetics. Now, don’t get me wrong, genetics plays a big role in the strength of your nails. But there are some things that you can do to help your nails grow out stronger. There are also some warning signs to look out for on your nails that can be an indication of an underlining health issue.
Knowing some background on nails can help you determine what your body will need to grow healthy and strong nails. Nails are made out of a protein named keratin. The same type of material that your hair is made of. The basic way to care for your nails is through moisturizing often and taking care of your cuticles. Some bad habits have to be dealt with and new healthier habits have to become a part of your daily lifestyle to have healthy nails.
Usually, it takes 6 months for a completely new nail to grow. So this can give you an idea of how long it will take for damage to grow out of the nail plate. This does depend on person to person and can be influenced by many factors like overall health and nail trauma. Things like pregnancy, menopause and age can also determine how fast your nails grow. Some medications can also influence the growth of your nails. Let’s talk about some things that will influence the strength and growth of your nails, and things you can do to encourage healthy nail growth.
Nails and genetics
Just like with anything in our bodies, our nails are highly influenced by our genetics. The shape and thickness of your nails are determined by your nail matrix (the root of your nail). The size of your nail matrix is determined by genetics. You are born with a certain type of matrix and it can’t be changed.
Some nail disorders like psoriasis can also be the result of a genetic condition being passed down. This can be determined by thinking back to whether you’ve had a problem with your nails for as long as you can remember. If you’ve always had a problem with your nails breaking, being overall thin or growing out strange, it’s most likely due to genetics. If however, your nails start breaking or becoming brittle all of a sudden it is a sign that something else is wrong. To determine if you have a genetic disorder you will have to consult a medical professional. They will be able to determine exactly what is wrong and prescribe medications or supplements that can aid in your nails overall health. I wrote an extensive article on nail diseases and disorders which outlines how some afflictions can influence the appearance of your nails.
Genetics are why some people have naturally thick nails and others don’t. Every person is different, and just like the thickness of our hair, our nails are mainly determined by genetics. We do however have a few options to help improve the growth and thickness of these cells.
Damage to the nail that stuns growth
Have you ever shut a car door on your nail or lost your nail due to severe trauma? These factors can damage the nail bed and the matrix in such a way that the growth, and sometimes even the overall shape of the nail can be altered.
Damage to the matrix can stun nail growth or cause your nails to stop growing altogether. This is why if you damaged your nail severely it might start growing out abnormally. The shape may be altered and the hyponychium (the sensitive skin visible under the nail) might move forward. Your nails might grow out with bumps and other abnormalities. Unfortunately, damage to the nail matrix can’t be fixed at home and if severe damage occurs you will have to seek help from a medical professional. Even then, there is no guarantee that the damage could be reversed.
Continual trauma to the nail caused by something like nail-biting or picking at the cuticle, can also irrevocably damage the nail, causing it to grow slower or to stop growing completely.
Bad habits that negatively influence the health and growth of nails
Even though many factors influence the growth of our nails, there are some bad habits that we should absolutely refrain from. These habits can cause serious damage to our nails and can sometimes prevent the nails from ever-growing out healthy again. Unhealthy habits to refrain from are:
- Picking and pulling at your cuticles.
- Continuously submerging your bare hands in water and working with chemicals without proper hand protection.
- Pulling and ripping off hangnails.
- Using untested and harmful nail polishes on your nails.
- Using your nails as tools.
- Pulling off product from your nails like acrylic and gel.
Things you should do to help grow strong nails
For your nails to grow out strong, you will have to change the way you do certain things and be more conscious about your nails and what you expose them to.
- Seek advice or medical assistance when you struggle with nail-biting. It has been proven that the leading cause of nail-biting is due to anxiety. Even if you feel like it is just an annoying habit, investing in nail polishes that are designed to deter nail biters might be a good idea for you. You can also cover your nails in a harder substance like acrylic which might prevent you from biting your nails. Refrain from this if you tend to pull off the product as this will damage your nails even further. Not only does biting your nails leave them looking bad and unkempt, but it can stop your nails from ever, growing out normally again. There is also a lot of bacteria that can be present under the nails so this bacteria can be transferred from the nails to the mouth and vice versa.
- Instead of picking at your cuticles, it is important to have a manicure done regularly. Whether you get it done professionally or do it yourself. Your cuticles have to be pushed back carefully and any dead skin has to be removed, as overgrown cuticles can also stun nail growth. Never cut live skin and rather soak your hands in warm water with some nourishing oil like coconut or argan oil, and then carefully scrape off the dead skin surrounding your nails. Removing live skin will leave your nail matrix unprotected and susceptible to an infection that can harm the overall growth and condition of your nails. Covering your nails with things like nail polish will also help prevent moisture from escaping from your nails, which will help your nails grow faster and stronger. Be careful when using things like nail hardeners, as using these types of products for long periods of time can also harm your nails which might leave them feeling weaker than they initially did.
- When working in water and with chemicals, it is important to wear protective gloves. Over-exposure to these conditions will not only cause your nails to lose moisture which will make them brittle and weak but submerging your hands into chemicals can cause allergic reactions to form over time and will damage your skin and nails. It is also very important to moisturise your nails and hands after exposing them to water. Keeping your nails moisturised will promote healthy nail growth and it will also prevent your cuticles from drying out and cracking. Make use of cuticle oil and use it daily to keep your nails healthy.
- Never pull at hangnails as it can tear into the skin which will be quite painful. Not only is it uncomfortable but these cuts are susceptible to bacteria and can become infected which can affect your nails and their overall health. In extreme cases, these cuts can become so infected that medical attention will have to be sought. Rather carefully cut them off using a sharp cuticle nipper or nail clipper.
- Make sure you know what type of polish or nail products are being put on your nails. Always go to a reputable nail salon that can prove they use tested and reliable products. Products that haven’t gone through the right channels might be full of harmful chemicals that can cause allergic reactions and a lot of damage to your hands and nails.
- Keep your nails clean and well kept. Always clean dirt and debris out from under your nails. File your nails so that there are no sharp edges that might get caught on something and rip a piece of your nail off.
- If you have a product like acrylic or gel on your nails have them removed properly. Never pull at the product and try to remove it that way. It might seem like you’re saving time, but you’re actually pulling layers of the nail off with the product and this can cause your nails to feel thin and sensitive which will also leave the nail bed susceptible to infections. Doing this regularly can have serious consequences for the health of your nails in the long run.
What your body needs for healthy nails
Please note that these are mere observations that I have made in my time as a nail technician. To officially determine any deficiency you have to consult with your doctor or health practitioner. Do not treat yourself without knowing the cause.
What you consume has a large impact on the condition of your nails. More times than none the condition of your nails can tell you what supplements your body needs or that you need to change some of your habits. I have found that nails that split at the cuticle sometimes mean an iron deficiency. It is however very important to get advice from a medical professional as taking some supplements like iron can cause serious health problems if you don’t have a deficiency. Some deficiencies that you can spot by looking at your nails are vitamin C deficiencies, magnesium and also Zinc deficiencies.
Eating biotin-rich food (vitamin B-complex) are very beneficial to the overall health of your nails. These types of food include things like soy, whole grains and eggs. You also have to consume a healthy amount of fatty acids like tuna and seeds to ensure your nails remain healthy. Spending time in the sun is a good way to increase your vitamin D intake which has a very positive impact on your nail growth. Taking other supplements like collagen can also have many benefits for your nails as well as other parts of your body like your skin and hair.
Comparing your nails to those of others won’t do you any good as everyone is different. Just make sure that you are practising good habits and that the overall health of your nails is good. More often than none you will find that when your skin, hair and nails start looking different there might be something deeper wrong with your health. Our bodies are amazing and show us many signs of what they need daily. We just have to learn what to look for.