Whether you’ve broken, bitten, or worn them away, short fingernails are a pain to deal with (not to mention literally painful when they’re too short). But don’t worry: Long, healthy, envy-inducing nails are still within arm’s reach for those wondering how to grow your nails naturally. TZR asked Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi, a dermatologist in Washington, D.C., and manicurist and natural nail extraordinaire Alexandra Teleki, for their best tips on getting your digits in shape.
According to Teleki, there are three common culprits behind a struggling-to-grow nail. “The three sinners are chemicals, gel peeling, and negligence of hand care,” she tells TZR. “Nail growth can be affected by medical conditions or lifestyle,” she adds. While the former comes with its own set of challenges and specific treatments, the latter is well within a person’s control. Everyday habits like wearing gloves while washing the dishes or gardening, and avoiding biting or using nails as tools, go a long way.
Once you have a base of good nail habits down, you can take your pampering to the next level by incorporating nail growth products like nourishing oils, gentle scrubs, and buttery creams and lotions into your hand care routine. Here’s how the pros suggest growing out your nails for a perfect 10 every time.
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Protect Your Hands
“Dry, weak, or damaged nails are often caused by overexposure to harsh chemicals directly on the skin and natural nails,” notes Teleki, explaining that this is often the reason for flakey, weak nails and dry, hardened skin around the cuticles and fingertips. “If you work with detergent, bleach, [or] dishwashing liquid, try to wear gloves. I live by the rule that if you wouldn't use it on your hair, don't use it on your hands either.”
Skip Harsh Soaps And Hand Sanitizer
Rule of thumb: "The best way to take care of hands and nails is to not dry them out," says Dr. Tanzi. This starts as soon as you wash your hands. Instead of using a harsh soap or hand sanitizer, use a surfactant-free wash, like this Method Gel Hand Soap, which is gentle and won't dry out skin, nails, or cuticles.
Use A High Quality Scrub
“I recommend investing in three beneficial products,” notes Teleki. “Scrub, cream, [and] oil. If you purchase items that can work perfectly on your face, you can use it on your hands as well. Remember [that a] little goes a long way with these products.” She recommends using face scrubs once or twice a week on the hands, such as her “game changer” picks: La Prairie Cellular Mineral Face Exfoliator and Sisley-Paris Energizing Foaming Exfoliant for the Body. “[These are] my must-have products that I can’t live without,” Teleki tells TZR.
Invest In An Amazing Hand Cream
Follow up a good washing with an equally effective hand cream or balm to avoid peels, cracks, and the general tendency to pick at your own nails. Try a moisturizer loaded with occlusive ingredients. Teleki suggests “creams that are designed to heal blemished, scarred, sunburn damage skin” like Augustinus Bader The Rich Cream. “These products will help to keep the skin healthy and young,” she adds.
Coat Your Cuticles Well
When growing out your nails, it's just as important to take care of the skin around the nail bed as on the rest of your hands, says Dr. Tanzi. Investing in cuticle products like balm or oil specifically designed for hangnails and the tougher, drier skin will help soften and smooth the nail bed—making you manicure-ready in minutes.
“When you apply beneficial oils and creams above the nails (the nail matrix where the nails are created), it is like feeding the cuticles with vitamins that will help to have strong and healthy nails,” Teleki tells TZR, suggesting using an oil once or twice a day. She sings high praises to Augustinus Bader’s The Face Oil: “[It’s an] oil that I keep repurchasing,” she says. “This oil has changed my skin and hand care game. Mix four drops of the oil with your cream and apply it on the face and hands.”
Use A Strengthening Treatment Or Base Coat
To encourage nail growth, use a fortifying nail treatment that adheres to the nail, such as a strengthening base coat or similar treatment. “Applying nail strengthening polish will protect the nails from any direct contact from drying chemicals,” explains Teleki. “As a manicurist I use The Gel Bottle builder as an overlay on natural nails to provide additional strength and help the nails to grow long and healthy. I recommend regular appointments to maintain the nails' good condition and length,” she adds.
Finish With A Bitter Top Coat To Prevent Biting
If an old nail-biting habit has returned (or it's never been shaken in the first place), try nail biting products like a heinous-tasting top coat specifically designed to curb the bad habit. It's an easy and consistent reminder to stop gnawing on your nails, which also ruins the entire area around the nail, making the skin raw and sensitive.
File Regularly To Avoid Snags
Keep an emery board in every single purse for those all-too-necessary, on-the-go touch-ups. “Maintaining healthy nails by regular filing with a 220/240 file will help to get rid of the outgrown damaged nails,” notes Teleki. While it may seem like an extra step, filing down a tiny snag immediately saves you the terror of peeling or biting it off later, after it's been mangled by the wear and tear of a typical day.
Consider Trying Nail Growth Supplements
"Studies show that biotin supplements, available at health food stores, can enhance nail growth," says Dr. Tanzi. But, as with any supplement, check with your doctor before starting a new regimen. The actual effectiveness of taking biotin for nail growth isn’t exactly black and white, though. If you’re looking for how to grow out your nails, you probably shouldn’t *rely* on beauty supplements, as Dallas, Texas-based, board-certified dermatologist Elizabeth Houshmand previously told TZR that they’re likely only effective for biotin-deficient individuals. But hey, some people really do swear by them, so it may be worth a shot.
Soak, Don’t Peel, Gel Nails Off
First, Teleki wants to clear up the misconception that gel will damage and weaken the nails. “Gel doesn't damage the nails, [but] peeling it off or over-prepping the nails weakens the nails,” she tells TZR. If you have gel and it starts to lift, try to avoid peeling it off. “It not only peels off the gel but the top layers of the nails, too,” Teleki explains. “This damage will result in white patches, rough texture, and weak brittle nails.” Instead, she says you can safely remove gel polish at home by soaking them off with a gel removal kit like PEACCI’s.
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