Fingernail Growth

Hands showing good fingernail growth

Proper fingernail growth is a concern for anyone interested in sporting long, sexy nails. Growing those nails out can be a tricky task if they're weak or easily damaged, but a few maintenance tips may make the process easier.

Behind the Nails

Nails are composed of keratinized protein, which grows at the tips of the fingers and toes. Nails themselves grow from the matrix, or the area beneath the cuticle. New cells grow, making older cells compacted and pushing them outward. Good health and heredity play an important role in the speed at which nails grow, but they regularly mature at a rate of approximately .5 to 1.2 millimeters per week. It takes roughly four to six months for the nail to mature from the root to its free edge. Clear signs of healthy nails include smooth nail plates free of grooves, ridges, spots or discoloration.

Fingernail growth tends to slow as humans age, and is also inhibited by poor circulation. There are, however, many steps that can be taken to promote growth. Adopting a few habits can mean the difference between a set of strong, healthy, long nails and week, stubby ones.

Going Long

Some individuals simply don't have any trouble maintaining long nails. Others, though, have to put in some effort to keep them strong. It's important to consider your lifestyle prior to making the commitment to longer nails. If you work in any industry that requires frequent manual labor (such as a freelance writer, cashier or typist), you might experience chipped or broken nails on a regular basis.

Many typists find it difficult to work efficiently with long nails, and many individuals even report great difficulty using smart phones (such as the iPhone) when the nails are too long. If your nails are susceptible to damage as a result of your everyday activities, they may look their best with a short, clean manicure. Since growing nails long does take a considerable amount of time for some people, it's worth it to consider whether you'll have to deal with breakage - and save yourself the pain of a broken nail!

Encouraging Fingernail Growth

Your nails can easily look their best - as long as you do your part to keep them that way. If your goal is to maintain long, gorgeous fingernails, follow these helpful tips to ensure their longevity:

  • Treat them right. Don't use fingernails to pry things open or pick at anything. They aren't tools and shouldn't be treated as such!
  • Don't be a nail biter. Not only does this immediately destroy your chances of showing off long nails, it also may cause an infection if bacteria enter the broken area. You also risk suffering those pesky (albeit harmless) white spots.
  • Wear gloves. Whether you're doing the dishes or washing the car, you'll do yourself a great favor by keeping your hands protected from chemicals, grease and the chance of anything breaking a nail.
  • Moisturize. Hands are susceptible to extra dryness due to frequent hand washing, so regular lotion application is especially important. Be sure to moisturize the nails, too - healthier nails stand a much better chance of maintaining their length!
  • Nail maintenance is key. Keep them buffed and smooth, and don't be afraid to use an emery board to file away any ridged areas on the tips. Do this in lieu of using an actual pair of clippers, since the goal is to grow the nail out.

Weak Nails

If your nails are naturally on the weak side, you may experience some difficulty growing your nails to the desired length. You might try to "train" them to behave, but it will take some effort and patience on your part.

  • As always, moisturize. Apply vitamin E oil at night, taking great care to massage it into the nail plates and cuticles, and wear cotton gloves. You'll wake up to softer, smoother hands and nails. Remember that moisture is essential for healthy hands - this includes your nails!
  • Use a nail hardener, avoiding anything that contains toluene sulfonamide or formaldehyde resin. These ingredients can easily irritate the skin and cause dermatitis.
  • If you regularly polish your nails, perform regular touchups instead of removing the color with nail polish remover weekly. The less harsh ingredients your nails are exposed to, the better chance they stand of growing to long lengths - and staying that way.

If All Else Fails…

If you've tried everything here and still can't seem to achieve the long nails of your fantasies, embrace the beauty of the short manicure. Just as chic and much easier to care for, short nails look clean, smart and elegant. They can be dressed up with deep colors or kept neutral with pale shades. Best of all, you'll never have to worry about breakages.

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