Something that I was blessed with is beautiful hands. Before you say that I'm bragging, there's no reason for me to get cocky about it because I had nothing to do with it. My mother has these hands. Her mother had these hands. I mean, they look so much like the both of them that sometimes, even while I'm typing, I tend to do a double take. Anyway, one of the things that I like so much about them is I've got long fingers and nails that grow really long, super fast. My main challenge is my nails have got such a curve to them that I'm constantly having to keep them clean, so that "gunk" doesn't lodge in them. But as far as having strong nails with lots of length, I'm good.
Other people in my world aren't able to say the same. Oftentimes, they will ask me what they can do because, no matter what, their nails are dry and brittle and/or constantly breaking and/or not really gaining the length that they would like for them to naturally have. If you're nodding your head up and down in agreement because this is what your nail struggle is like yet you want this year to be the one when you're using acrylic less and sporting your natural nails more, this lil' write-up can hopefully help to point you into the right direction.
The Basics About Your Nails, First.
It's kind of hard to give your nails what they need if you don't have a clear understanding of what they're comprised of.
As far as what nails are made of, the interesting thing is, they are comprised of the protein keratin; that's the same protein that your hair and the top layers of your skin (and organs) are made up of too.
The reason why your nails have a pinkish color is because blood capillaries sit right underneath your nail bed (which is why if your nails look extremely pale, that could be a sign that you are low in iron or blood is not flowing as smoothly as it should). As far as growth goes, they tend to average 3 ½ millimeters a month (half that for toenails and men's nails grow faster). It's also important to keep in mind that just like the hair that you actually see is dead, so are the nails that come out of your nail bed (which is why you can cut both and it doesn't hurt when you do). The hand that you use the most tends to grow nails faster (because it's more active), nails grow faster in the summer than the winter season and things like genetics, your age and the state of your health all play a direct role in how your nails appear.
Already, off top, I'm hoping you caught that making sure you get enough keratin into your system is one way to get your nails to thrive. In fact, even though our bodies are comprised of so much of this particular protein, think about the last time you actually read an article that listed foods that have keratin in it. Today's your lucky day. Some of those include eggs, salmon, sweet potatoes, onions, mangoes, kale and garlic. Consuming more of these can help to strengthen your nails (so that they break less often) while also increasing hair growth and speeding up the healing of any skin wounds that you might have.
What You Should Pay Close Attention to Concerning Your Nails
Now that we've broken down what makes our nails, well nails, how can you know when something is going on with your nails that might be hindering them from growing as long as you want? That's a really good question. I'm gonna touch on a few different things.
Again, your nails should have a natural pink tint to them. Some are a deeper pink hue than others. However, if your nails appear some shade of yellow, brown or green, that typically means that you've got some sort of fungal infection going on. It should also go on record that yellow nails could be an indication of an underlying health issue such as diabetes, psoriasis or your thyroid levels being off. If your nails have white spots, what that tend to indicate is that you injured them; the spots should go away with time. Also, don't ignore sudden black or brown stripes that may appear out of nowhere. While oftentimes, it's a sign of simple pigmentation issues and discoloration, it can also send a flag of the early stages of the cancer known as melanoma.
Stress can hinder nail growth. I promise you that if there's one thing I'm learning to let go of, more and more, it's anything or one that causes a consistent amount of stress in my life. My health doesn't need it and my nails can't afford it. Word on the (medical) street is stress is so bad for your nails that if can actually cause your nails to stop growing altogether. It's not worth it is. Get that stress outta of your life, ASAP.
There are certain curves that you need to pay attention to. Like I mentioned earlier, some of us have nails that come with a natural bend. However, if you notice that, all of a sudden, your nails appear concave (almost round like a spoon), it could mean that you've got a bit of an iron deficiency. Or, if they suddenly look up an upside-down spoon (the tips of your nails are super round), your nails may not be getting enough oxygen (which could be connected to lung or heart issues; it's worth making an appointment with your physician, just to know for sure).
Your nails shouldn't separate from their nail bed. While there isn't a super cause for alarm if you notice that your nails are separating from their nail bed, you should keep in mind that it could be an indication of psoriasis or hyperthyroidism. Small dents on the surface of your nails are usually a psoriasis sign too. If that is the case, treating the psoriasis itself can help your nails to get back on track.
Your nails can also be dehydrated. It really is kinda crazy that most of us know that we're made up of 60-65 percent water and yet, many of us aren't intentional about making sure we've got enough fluids in our system on a daily basis.
And here's the thing about that—if your skin is dry, that usually means you are dehydrated on some level; it also means your nails are dry which can cause them to be dry and brittle. So definitely drink 6-8 glasses of water each day and also keep your hands and nails (including your cuticles) moisturized on the outside as well.
At-Home Remedies That Encourage Nail Growth
OK. So, we've touched on some red flags that you should pay close attention to when it comes to your nails' overall health. What if you're good in all of these areas and it still seems like you can't naturally create that almond, squoval or stiletto shape that you want? Here are a few other things to check off of your nail maintenance list.
Give your nails a break. Geeze. While I can't remember the last time I had some nail tips, I did used to get my nails powder-dipped on a pretty regular basis. When the pandemic hit, I stopped and, in hindsight, I'm glad that I did. Although my nails continued to grow with the dip, I didn't realize how weak my nails actually were until to took everything off. While some sort of overlay can be considered the "protective style" of nails, just like with hair, sometimes our nails need to breathe. No acrylic, powder or even color every few months can benefit your nails, more than you know.
Wash your dishes with gloves on. I'm pretty guilty of this one but nails that are constantly wet can become damaged over time. They get wet enough when you're bathing or showering, so if you plan on busting some suds, put some rubber gloves on. It will protect your nails in the long run.
Get some iron, calcium and biotin into your system. Remember how I said that the pink part of your nails shows how the blood is flowing to them? Something that keeps your blood healthy is iron, which is why it makes perfect sense that if your iron levels are low, your nails would be weaker than usual. Pure grape juice, dark leafy greens, beef, beans, dried fruit, molasses and peas are all foods that are loaded with iron. If you want something that will make your nails stronger, calcium can definitely help you out. Foods that are high in it include yogurt, salmon, orange juice, almonds, cheese, sunflower seeds and broccoli. One more nutrient that has your nails' back is biotin. It's awesome because it also can significantly reduce nail breakage. Foods that are packed with biotin include nuts, seeds, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, bananas, avocados and walnuts (you can also take a supplement for these nutrients if you would prefer).
Massage your hands (and feet). Steady blood flow is always beneficial for any part of your body. Taking a little time to massage your hands and feet (maybe while watching a movie or listening to some music) can increase blood circulation and stimulate nail (including toenail) growth.
As far as oils that are good for your nails, some of those include olive oil (it contains lots of antioxidants to protect your nails and cuticles); jojoba (it softens dry cuticles); lavender (it strengthens and soothes nails); almond (its nutrients coat your nail bed); thyme (it contains anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties to keep your nails healthy) and, if you've got a bit of a fungal infection, clove and tea tree oil are both excellent at helping to clear those up.
Round your nails out. As I'm typing all of this out, my nails actually have a square shape to them. Still, if you want to reduce your chances of your nails breaking, it's better to give them a round shape instead. For some reason, that's the ones that typically results in less peeling or breakage.
Keep them shaped up with crystal (glass). Wanna know something that will send your nails to hell and back? A traditional emery board. They are just too harsh. What's the alternative? Ever since I've switched over to a crystal glass nail file, I can see a real difference. It's way gentler on my nails, it shapes my nails much easier and, as bonuses, they are super hygienic and last much longer than emery boards do. Stylecraze offered up a list of some of the best that are currently on the market. You can check them out by going here.
Go without acetone. Just like parabens (for the most part) suck when it comes to being a drying ingredient in your shampoo, acetone zaps most of the moisture out of your nails as well. So, when you are rocking polish and you're ready to remove it, go with something gentler—an acetone-free polish remover. Those are pretty easy to find at your local beauty supply or even grocery store.
Take the DIY route. One more for the road. Hopefully you already know that growing out your nails requires patience and some constant TLC. Well, if you want to provide your nails with some extra nutrients, how about giving them a mask? Real talk. A very easy nail strengthening mask consists of two tablespoons of shea butter (shea butter is loaded with vitamins), one teaspoon of avocado oil (it fights fungus and encourages nail growth) and three drops of rose oil (it nourishes your nails). Combine all of the ingredients, apply it to your hands and nails, cover your hands with some socks for 30 minutes and then rinse the excess off in cool water. If you do this once a week, your hands will be unbelievably soft and your nails will get even stronger—and longer in no time. Good luck on your nail journey!
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