Dietary supplements. Rubbing garlic on your nails. Wiggling your fingers in the air for hours at a time.
Sorry, but no matter what you've heard, they won’t make your nails grow faster.
You can't hurry your nails, which grow at a fixed rate of about a millimeter a month, says dermatologist Bruce Robinson, MD, of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.
"But if you can get the nails to not break and therefore appear longer, that's where things come into play," he says.
First, you need to know what’s true and what's false about nail growth.
Biotin Supplements Are Linked to Long, Stronger Nails: TRUE
You won't make your nails grow more quickly if you take this dietary supplement. But several studies show that biotin can strengthen brittle nails, making them less likely to split or break, so you may be able to grow your nails longer after taking the supplement regularly.
Biotin is often sold by itself as a dietary supplement or as an ingredient in vitamins sold to improve the look of the skin, hair, and/or nails.
"They all have significant amounts of biotin in them, plus calcium and silicon in some form," says dermatologist Amy Newburger, MD, of St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital Medical Center in New York.
The Institute of Medicine has not determined how to make short nails look longer and nice a safe upper limit for this dietary supplement due to lack of information about its possible side effects. Although it seems unlikely that someone could get too much biotin, don't take large doses unless you're under the close care of a dermatologist or other doctor.
"I take it myself and do feel it helps with nails,” says D'Anne Kleinsmith, MD, a dermatologist in West Bloomfield, Mich.
Busy Fingers Make for Longer Fingernails: FALSE
Some people believe that professional pianists, people who type all day, and other people who spend several hours per day exercising their fingers have quicker-growing nails than other people, because the extra blood flow to the fingertips speeds fingernail growth.
Though there aren't any studies to prove it, Newburger says that people who move their fingers constantly may, indeed, have slightly quicker-growing nails.
Still, that doesn't necessarily mean longer nails. Why not? "Nails with more impact on the tips tend to break more," Newburger says.
Moisturizers Help Maintain Nail Length: TRUE
Keeping your nails moist won't help them grow quicker, but it can keep them from breaking sooner.
"As we get into fall and winter when the air is much drier, nails crack and split more easily and therefore stay short," Kleinsmith says. "Our nails need lubrication, just like our hands and skin, during the winter months. Every time you wash your hands, put a little hand cream on; it's much richer and thicker than just a body lotion."
Wear gloves or mittens outdoors in cold weather, and use rubber gloves when you're doing chores around the house.
"Once nails come out from under the cuticle, they're dead tissue, so there's no way to repair it," Robinson says. "Detergents and dish soap can make the nails dry and split. Wear cotton-lined rubber gloves around any soaps or cleansers, even if you're only washing one dish or one window."
A High-Protein Diet Can Speed Nail Growth: FALSE
A protein deficiency can lead to weakened, slow-growing nails, so some web sites suggest that eating or drinking more protein (even specialized protein shakes) can help the nails grow more quickly.
Don't believe it, and don't drink protein shakes for this reason alone.
"Increasing protein intake is a myth as far as strengthening your nails," Robinson says. "Provided that you're not protein-deficient -- which is unheard of in the U.S. -- you are going to have the same nails."
Garlic Speeds Nail Growth: FALSE
Some women with long, attractive nails swear by garlic. They say that they rub halved raw garlic on their nails regularly, or they mince garlic, stuff it into a bottle of clear nail polish, then paint their nails weekly with it. They claim to grow longer, stronger nails quicker than their friends who don't know their secret.
Why have people targeted garlic? Possibly because the bulb is high in selenium, and some studies have linked low selenium levels to weaker nails. But no research has found a connection between garlic ingestion or application and longer, stronger, or quicker-growing nails.
"These claims are a bit ridiculous," Robinson says. "There's no validity to this."
WebMD Feature Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on November 15, 2012
D'Anne Kleinsmith, MD, dermatologist, West Bloomfield, Mich.
Amy Newburger, MD, dermatologist and attending physician, St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital Medical Center, New York.
Bruce Robinson, MD, clinical instructor of dermatology, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York.
Institute of Medicine: “Dietary Reference Intakes: Vitamins.”
Medline Plus: "Selenium."
Scheinfeld, N., Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, August 2007.
Iorizzo, M. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, July 2004.
Hochman, L Cutis, April 1993.
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