Maybe it’s been the lockdown boredom (or maybe it’s the wealth of nail-art trends we’re itching to try now that salons are finally open), but it seems so many of us are attempting to grow our nails longer and stronger right now.
If you’ve ditched the acrylics and taken a much-needed break from the gels, yet your nails are still brittle and flaky, we feel your pain.
On a mission to achieve the long, resilient talons of our dreams, we’ve tried out all the hacks – and enlisted some of the best experts – to reveal exactly how to make our nails grow longer, stronger and healthier for good. Stay with us for everything you need to know..
How To Grow Longer And Stronger Nails
1. Use A Cuticle Oil Daily
According to Ama Quashie, session manicurist and founder of Ama salon, the secret to growing your best nails is: hydration, hydration, hydration. ‘To have strong nails, they need to be healthy – and to be healthy, they need to be hydrated,’ she says. ‘Cuticle oil works by hydrating the cuticle and nail bed, which is why it’s such an important step in nail care, whether you’re growing your nails or simply want them to look their best.’
Her favourites? Skip the pricey branded bottles and opt instead for organic Dadi oil or a simple jojoba: they’ll do the job just as well (if not better) and don’t cost the earth.
2. Consider Biotin
Studies show that brittle nails prone to peeling and breakage could be a sign of biotin deficiency, so it might be a good idea to supplement your diet with an extra dose of this essential B vitamin.
‘Biotin-rich foods may help to strengthen brittle nails,’ says Amanda Griggs, Nutritionist at the Khera-Griggs Cleanse Clinic, Urban Retreat. There are several small studies to support this, although Griggs highlights that ‘they did not include a placebo group and also did not include the baseline biotin status of the participants.’ However, they did show significant increases in nail thickness and hardness after taking 2.5mg biotin supplement each day.
3. Invest In A ‘Soft’ Nail File
You might have heard that glass nail files are better for filing with, but while they’re pretty, longer-wearing and easy to clean, it pays to invest in a ‘soft’ file, according to Session Manicurist, Ami Streets.
‘To get the best finish from your filing, always opt for a soft file to prevent tearing or splitting your nails,’ she says. Her top picks? ‘Orly’s nail file is probably one of best I’ve used because of the durability and the way it gives the smoothest finish really fast.’
‘Pro products are always best and usually more hard wearing. I really like the Natural Nail Company because you can choose a file depending on whether your nails are soft or hard, and there are even options for acrylics.’
What’s more, you really need to nail (sorry) your filing technique. Back and forth see-saw motions will only cause the nail to splinter, so always file in one direction, using long, swift but gentle strokes.
Pro Tip: ‘Start from the outside edge and move into the centre,’ advises Streets. ‘This technique will give you a smooth finish and more control over the shape you’re trying to achieve.’
4. Nourish Your Nail Beds
If a bumpy, ridged nail bed is completely ruining your mani, you might need to increase your vitamin B9 intake.
Otherwise known as folic acid, this vitamin repairs and multiplies the cells that make up nails, which speeds up growth and promotes overall nail health. It has also been shown to boost strength and prevent peeling.
‘Folic acid is responsible for healthy cell growth in skin tissue as well as hair and nails,’ explains Griggs. ‘A true deficiency in folic acid may cause discolouration and contribute to brittle and weak nails.’If you think you’re lacking, foods like beans and whole grains are rich in folic acid – but you can buy folic acid supplements over the counter, too.
5. Upgrade Your Nail Polish Remover
When your manicure shows signs of chipping, it’s all too easy to pick up any old bottle of nail polish remover. But those containing high concentrations of acetone (the potent solvent that is responsible for dissolving nail polish quickly) is extremely harsh on fragile nails and can dry them out almost instantly – cue peeling, flaking and splitting.
Your best bet? Go acetone-free. These formulas might be gentler, but don’t underestimate their ability to leave your nails perfectly clean – even after a jet-black mani. There are heaps of gentle yet effective formulas out there with the muscle to whip off remnants of polish in moments.
6. Try A More Natural Nail Polish
Quashie recommends giving ‘free from’ varnishes a go, which purposefully exclude any potentially toxic chemicals. ‘In terms of natural credentials, the scale runs from “three-free” all the way up to “13-free”, which means that brand does not have any of the most commonly used chemicals that have been identified as potentially harmful in their varnishes.’
So, which brands to go for? ‘Some great ‘free-from’ brands are Kure Bazaar, Nailberry and Butter London – some of the larger brands such as Nails Inc and Orly are bringing out similar formulas too.’
7. Eat A Nail-Friendly Diet
Forget all the crash-diet propaganda that’s been drip-fed into your brain for decades, because the best diet for all-round health – including your nails – is rich in variety.
For growing nails longer and stronger, Griggs recommends ‘a nutritious rainbow diet including colourful fruit and vegetables, leafy greens, oily fish, nuts, seeds, avocado, eggs, lean meat, a little whole grains and sweet potato.’
To take things to the next level, add in foods that encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria, such as kefir, miso, live yogurt, and kimchi. ‘Finally, don’t forget to keep hydrated and minimise alcohol consumption and refined sugars,’ she says.
8. Use A Keratin Treatment
Found naturally in nails, it’s responsible for making them flexible – but don’t let that word put you off. It doesn’t mean they’ll be thin, fragile or bendy, but fortified and much less likely to chip.
Pro Tip: It might sound obvious, but Quashie’s top piece of advice is actually the easiest way to keep your nails looking as good as possible. ‘Don’t use your nails as tools – remember, be gentle!’
The Best Nail Growth Treatments and Strengtheners
The world might be starting to reopen, but our nails on the other hand, are still in hibernation mode. To get them nail-art-ready, invest in a nail treatment that’s designed to promote growth and strengthen, so you’re ready for your full diary of social obligations.
We tested some of the best available, to see which ones really deliver results. Below are the ones we rate.
How we test
We asked over 1,000 women to trial over 42 brands of nail growth treatments and strengtheners for a one-month period; the products ranged from oils to polishes to creams.
For nail growth products, testers assessed whether they prevented breakages and peeling, if they helped with growth, and if nails were left looking healthier and stronger.
For strengthening treatments, testers noted whether the products helped with any flakiness, as well as if they had an impact on smoothness and strength.
Both types of product were also judged on how easy they were to apply, their drying time and how often they needed to reapply.
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