5 Expert-Backed Tips To Getting Long Nails That Last, Sans Breakage
If someone told you they had a multistep skin care routine they do every day, you probably wouldn't be shocked in the slightest. However, when someone mentions the phrases nail care and every day in the same sentence, you may have a few questions.
It's common for people to neglect their nails, which may be one reason so many struggle to grow long tips. Here, nail experts share their 5 best tips for achieving substantial nail growth and keeping them strong. Yes, it may take a bit more TLC than you're used to, but it will all be worth it the day you nail that DIY salon-grade mani:
Use cuticle oil.
"One of the most important aspects of a manicure is how the cuticle is cared for," board-certified dermatologist and nail expert Dana Stern, M.D., tells mbg. So while this step may seem like an occasional luxury, you may want to make it a staple in your daily routine.
Cuticle care isn't just about looks—your cuticle has an essential function too. This means when your cuticle is in less than ideal condition (dry, peeling, etc.), that function will be affected as well. "If the cuticle compromise persists chronically, the nail will eventually grow in irregularly (white patches, bumps, thickening, discoloration)," Stern explains.
"This is because the cuticle overlies the nail matrix, which is the nail-producing center of the nail," she continues. To sum up: Cuticle care is essential for healthy nails, growth included.
If you don't have one on hand already, here are 10 A+ oils to choose from.
Take a supplement.
Nail growth is highly dependent on topical care of the nail. However, you may consider adding a biotin supplement to your routine. While more research is needed to confirm biotin's efficacy on nail growth specifically, there has been some evidence to show that biotin supplementation can support healthy nails overall.* And if you want to grow long nails that don't chip, you'll have to make sure they're as strong as can be.
Specifically, biotin has been shown to support thickness and firmness of nails1 in several human studies.* One moderately sized human study found that those who took biotin supplements had 25% thicker nail beds2 than the placebo group.*
If you want to learn more about the buzzy supplement, this biotin breakdown covers everything from benefits to food sources and more.
In addition, you can look to collagen supplements. Studies indicate that collagen supplements can support healthy nail growth.* That's because collagen supplements contain hydrolyzed collagen peptides, which are short chains of amino acids. These amino acids are the building blocks for keratin—aka, what your nails are made of. For example, one study found that when people took collagen daily for 24 weeks, their nail health was better maintained3, including faster growth rates, reduced breakage, and improved appearance.*
Pack your diet with nutrients.
LeChat Nails educator, nail care expert, and Alabama-based nail salon owner Syreeta Aaron tells mbg about her favorite foods for healthy nail growth and strength; some of which support the skin as well (hello, healthy cuticles). Here, her top picks:
- Citrus fruits: Citrus fruits are a great source of B vitamins, especially B9. Also known as folate, vitamin B9 contributes to red blood cell formation and the development of new blood cells. For this reason, falling short of adequate folate can result in brittle nails4.
- Peanuts: Peanuts are rich in iron, which is also essential for healthy nails. In general, iron helps oxygen reach the cells. Hence, why a significant lack of iron can lead to vertical ridges in the nails4.
- Walnuts: Walnuts are a popular plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids, which helps to support skin hydration5. Again, a hydrated cuticle is key for healthy nails that grow to their full potential, so this step shouldn't be overlooked.
Avoid picking or biting.
This one should go without saying, but picking at your nails and cuticles will not support healthy nail growth. Not to mention, this can lead to serious cuticle fraying that will raise even more risks than just stunted tip growth—remember, your cuticles protect the nail.
If you have trouble fighting the urge to pick or bite, you may want to keep up with a polished manicure. This way, you're less likely to mess with your nails (as the fresh look is another reason to hold back). If you tend to bite, you may consider layering a no-bite top coat instead to remind you to keep your hands away from your face.
Here are eight more derm-approved tips to kick this habit for good if you're struggling.
Use a nail strengthener.
Navigating the world of nail systems, strengtheners, and "growth polishes"' can be a bit overwhelming. The mixed messaging gets confusing, especially because many products that momentarily strengthen the nail, in turn, actually weaken it over time.
Here, Stern explains, "Many so-called nail strengtheners contain formaldehyde or formalin. These ingredients are very hard on the nail. Formaldehyde will initially harden the nail; however, with time, the nail becomes paradoxically brittle and is at risk for lifting or separating off of the nail bed." Further, formaldehyde can cause allergic reactions for some that may lead to irritation around the nail.
The solution: Opt for natural, science-backed ingredients instead. Stern herself created one of the most classic strengthening products on the market: The Nail Renewal System. This kit contains three steps: a glycolic acid exfoliation prep, a priming wand, and a hydrating finish. The system will leave your nails supported for healthy growth and glowing so bright you'd think you have a top coat on.
Want to learn more? Here's a firsthand, in-depth review.
Just as you would be patient with skin changes, you should give your nails the same grace. If you're using topical nail and cuticle care as well as supporting your overall health and hydration from within, find peace knowing you're doing all you can. If you struggle with brittle nails, long or short, check out these tips for keeping your nails stronger in the long run. And if your tips are severely discolored or growing in odd patterns, you may want to consult a dermatologist to get to the bottom of it.
Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including health, wellness, sustainability, personal development, and more. She previously interned for Almost 30, a top-rated health and wellness podcast. In her current role, Hannah reports on the latest beauty trends, holistic skincare approaches, must-have makeup products, and inclusivity in the beauty industry. She currently lives in New York City.