Whether you're trying to undo the damage from a manicure habit or you're the type whose short finger nails never seem to get to your preferred length no matter how much — or how little — you try to do to them, you'll be happy to know there is hope for achieving healthy, strong nails. If you're wondering how to make your nails grow faster, there are a few key things you can do at home to expedite the process.
Unfortunately, there are some factors (like genetics) which impact your nail health that you have no control over, Dr. Dana Stern, a New York City-based board certified dermatologist who specializes in nail care, tells Bustle. "As we age and our nail growth rates slow, and as our nails are exposed to considerably more environmental influences, this can affect the overall appearance and strength of our nails," she explains.
In terms of what you can do to help strengthen your nails, Stern advises avoiding harsh manicures, particularly gel-based ones as they tend to require rigid prep and removal processes. "We know that the nail plate becomes thinner from soak-off gels," she notes, "as it will involve overly aggressive buffing, filing, or roughing up the surface of the nails."
Beyond the salon, you should be cognizant of the nail products you're using at home, too. In terms of nail files, glass ones are smoother and gentler on the surface than emory boards. Opting for nontoxic polishes and removers will also do wonders for your nail health since chemical ingredients (like acetone and formaldehyde) may cause damage by dehydrating your nail beds. Finally, there are a number of lotions and cuticle oils on the market that can pamper weak nails, and there are also collagen supplements that can address concerns from the inside out.
Below, you'll find recommendations for how to make your nails grow faster most of which are based on clinical evidence from Stern and/or scientific studies so you can finally give your nails the care they need to thrive.
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1. Treat Your Nails And Cuticles With Sunflower Oil
"Sunflower oil acts as an emollient, helping nails retain their moisture, which in turn strengthens them and makes them more flexible," Stern explains. This 100% pure cold-pressed sunflower oil is full of skin-loving nutrients, like vitamins E, C, and D. Rub the fast-absorbing oil on the nail bed and into the cuticles as needed to keep both hydrated and healthy. Bonus: You can also use this gentle, lightweight liquid as a body or hair oil or as a makeup remover.
Glowing review: "I have been trying to find an oil that could help to repair my hair which fell out due to stress. I also mixed it with my body wash and discovered my nails were growing longer and stronger. I don't use any other oil in the shower. So when I saw my toenails were also growing and getting harder I knew it was the sunflower oil."
2. Protect Your Hands With Gloves When Cleaning And Doing The Dishes
If you're doing the dishes without a pair of protective gloves, you may be causing (or increasing) damage to your nails. Prolonged contact with water and constant wetting and drying can cause nails to split and peel. Any time you're using a cleaner, it's a good idea to slip on a pair of gloves. These latex-free, vinyl gloves have a nonslip design that ensures better grip and control, and the soft cotton lining will keep your hands and nails out of the danger zone.
Glowing review: “I love everything about these dish washing gloves! They are the perfect length to keep my arms dry and out of hot water; they are soft inside and therefore, very comfortable and durable. This is a life-saver for my hands which are in water numerous times throughout my day and, with dry cracked skin around my nails.”
3. Moisturize Your Nail Beds Using A Heavy-Duty Hand Lotion
This Eucerin lotion is a treat for both hands and nails. First, the lotion's alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) exfoliate hands, sloughing away dry, flaky skin cells and leaving skin prime for hydration absorption. Second, the lotion has a concentration of ultra-moisturizing urea, a synthetic compound that has been scientifically proven to soften and hydrate hands and nails. Tip: Keep a bottle by your hand soap to remember to rehydrate your hands every time you wash them.
Glowing review: “Best lotion ever. I work in the healthcare field and wash my hands numerous times per day. This stuff even makes my nails better because they are less brittle. I go through a bottle every winter.”
4. Choose A Glass Nail File
Damage caused by excessive filing can weaken nails, but not filing at all while you're attempting to grow your nails out can also lead to small snags and sharp edges becoming breaks. The right tool, like this Czech-made glass file, can help keep your nails groomed and smooth without damage. The handmade glass file seals the keratin layers, leaving a smooth edge. The long-lasting glass also works faster than metal files or emory boards.
Glowing review: “Absolutely LOVE this thing. 100% recommend. I’ve been dealing with brittle, splitting nails that break constantly for years. My nails are stronger than ever now. I haven’t had a break since I started using it about a month ago now. It works really fast. You can have all your nails filed in like 3min. It actually seals your nail edges to keep them from breaking. Best file I’ve ever owned.”
5. Opt For Nail Color That's Nontoxic And Free Of Harsh Chemicals
Chemicals found in traditional nail polishes — including formaldehyde, lead, toluene, camphor, and parabens — can damage the nail bed, making nails weak, rough, and prone to breakage. Zoya nail polishes are "10 free" and do not contain any of those common ingredients. The brand is often carried in professional nail salons and has a reputation for making long-wearing formulas. These lacquers come in dozens of colors and textures, including matte, iridescent, and glossy.
Glowing review: “I purchased Zoya Nail Polish in Rue for the first time after I saw it on a co-worker and fell in love with the color. I also purchased Zoya Anchor and Armor. This is the BEST nail polish I have ever used! The color has lasted up to 2 weeks with no chips.”
6. Remove Nail Polish With An Acetone-Free Nail Polish Remover
Like the pick above, this soy-based nail polish remover is free of harmful and drying chemicals like acetone, formaldehyde, and toluene. Plus, it's vegan, cruelty-free, and infused with lavender and vitamin E, which means it can perform double duty on your hands: It nourishes nail beds and cuticles while stripping away even the darkest of polish colors.
Glowing review: "I change my polish every couple of days and with regular old remover my nails were getting so dry and brittle that they were peeling and breaking constantly. I found this and ordered it but was skeptical of it would really work. It WORKS! [...] faster than an acetone remover and is so much gentler on your skin and nails!"
7. Take A Verisol Collagen Supplement
Collagen is an important building block that helps keep skin glowing, joints pain-free, and bones strong. And, according to one study, Verisol collagen supplements like this one by Physician's Choice can also increase nail growth by as much as 12%. Just keep in mind that you should consult your doctor before adding any supplement to your diet.
Glowing review: “I have really weak and brittle nails and I can already tell by my cuticles, that my nail is growing in thicker. I’m so excited to continue using this product and see even more results.I also feel like my skin has a glow to it. Very happy. I also love that this company is all natural and has no GMO's. I've ordered a few other supplements from them as well and I'm very satisfied.”
Wallis MS, Bowen WR, Guin JD. Pathogenesis of onychoschizia (lamellar dystrophy). J Am Acad Dermatol 1991;24:44-8. https://doi.org/10.1016/0190-9622(91)70007-O
Dars, S., Banwell, H. A., & Matricciani, L. (2019). The use of urea for the treatment of onychomycosis: a systematic review. Journal of foot and ankle research, 12, 22. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13047-019-0332-3
Hexsel, D, Zague, V, Schunck, M, Siega, C, Camozzato, FO, Oesser, S. Oral supplementation with specific bioactive collagen peptides improves nail growth and reduces symptoms of brittle nails. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2017; 16: 520– 526. https://doi.org/10.1111/jocd.12393