Nail care: How to grow and maintain them

Women love their nails and love to take care of their nails. From buffing to shining to painting them all sorts of colours, all have been tried and tested. Sometimes, one can get really busy with other engagements their nails may get neglected which could result in chipped, rough, dry or brittle nails. Surprisingly, nails also speak volumes about our overall health with regard to nutrition, hormones and age among other things. To those who aren’t nail care savvy, it is quite important for hygiene purposes. It is known that 10% of skin problems are caused by nail problems. Bad nails can lead to fungal infections, especially in the toenails, whereas fingernails need to be kept tidy simply because we use our hands for all that we do, including eating, so hygiene is imperative. Nail care doesn’t necessarily mean expense or any fancy equipment. As I will elaborate further on in this article, nail care can involve simple home remedies using everyday items. Not many may know this but, one of the purposes of nails is to protect our fingers from trauma and also to help us pick things up. Manicures and pedicures are always looked at as pampering oneself, but no matter how royal it makes one feel, it should be done every now and then. Doing it at home is not as tedious as it sounds, it can actually be rather therapeutic, leaving you with spick and span nails as a reward.  

Our nails are primarily of 2 parts, there’s a live part and a dead part. The alive part is the cuticle and nail bed which requires blood flow and the dead part is the nail plate or the matrix, which does not need oxygen. The matrix produces cells in the cuticle which grow out onto the plate. The matrix is an extension of the nail bed which goes on to become the source of the nail plate. Nails are made of a protein called keratin. This is the same keratin that forms our hair. But nails and hair have completely different structures and textures and that’s because the arrangement of the molecules is very different from one another.

There are various reasons for improper nail growth, but the main reasons are injury, infection or skin diseases like eczema. Elders are more likely to have nail problems than youngsters. Nail discolouration can happen from cigarette smoking due to the tar and nicotine from the cigarette as well as lack of oxygen which could lead to brittle and dry nails. The heat emitted from cigarettes also leads to dry and wrinkled cuticles.  Splitting of nails occurs when hands are constantly wet. Repeated washing and use of detergents and soaps, painting nails and using nail paint remover too often cause the nail plate to split and grow out of the nail bed. Any form of trauma, like something falling on the toenail, can deform the nail bed and force the nail to grow thick. Ingrowth of nails can be caused by many reasons, like, improper trimming of nails, wearing tight footwear or trauma. Scientists have found out that excessive stress can diminish the growth of nails in individuals. Dehydration has been a huge cause of brittle nails. It is also said that nails grow better in summer than in winter because there is a lack of water in the body during winter. A person suffering from iron deficiency will have thin nails and the nail shape would be curved inwards (concave). Nail-biting is extremely dangerous to one’s health as they are prone to serious skin infections that could permanently harm the nail.

20 Tips on How to grow nails faster

  • Before going to bed, apply moisturizer and lock the fingertips with Vaseline, or even just applying Vaseline does the trick to some. 
  • Soaking your fingertips in a bowl of lemon juice for about 5 mins allows the citric acid and Vitamin C to react with your nails, thus, strengthening them. Wash your hands after this and moisturize them. 
  • Juice out a tomato and add a bit of olive oil and soak your fingers in for 10 mins. Do this daily till you reach your desired length.
  • Rub your hands with salt to exfoliate them. This allows the cuticles to eliminate the dirt from within and elongate your nail bed.
  • When in a cold climate, always wear hand gloves. This protects the nails from dryness and allows them to grow better. 
  • Have a balanced diet. Try to include all the necessary nutrients required for your age and avoid consuming an excess of any of them, especially protein. 
  • When shaping your nails, try to avoid a square shape as it leaves sharp edges that expose it to being chipped easily as compared when having rounded or arched nails. 
  • Massage your hands and fingers with olive oil or coconut oil as often as you can.
  • Apply a base coat before applying nail polish. This strengthens your nail and protects it from the actual nail paint.
  • Oats contains minerals like copper and zinc which are essential for the maintenance of bones and nails. So include oats in your diet.
  • To keep nails healthy and long, avoid gel manicures which contain a lot of chemicals that could harm your nails in the long run.
  • Tea Tree Oil mixed with a little warm water in a bowl can be used to soak in your fingertips a few times a week. 
  • Rescue any chipped nail paint immediately as it leaves the nail susceptible to splitting.
  • Try to use acetone-free nail polish remover to avoid the dryness of nails.
  • Avoid biting nails or picking on cuticles. Take care of them gently, like pushing cuticles back or filing them, instead of using force.
  • Avoid using your nails to do work like scratching or scraping something off or to clip in a necklace.
  • Avoid over-using hand sanitisers.
  • Try to avoid using a metal filer and instead use a 24grit filer for healthier nails and also file them in one direction to avoid any splitting.
  • Applying nail paint, over a base coat though, allows the nails to grow more because it makes one conscious of their nails which refrains them from using their hands too much and protecting them.
  • Trimming brittle or jagged edges permits the nails to grow better and cleaner.

Tips for nail care

Nail care is essential as has been mentioned above but we are going to help you provide care to your nails. The following are a few necessary things that should be done in order to have good nails and to maintain them. 

  • Moisturize your hands and feet, including your nails and cuticles, with either cream or oil or petroleum jelly. Try to fix it into your routine, after a shower in the morning and/or before going to bed.
  • Trim your nails regularly. When nails grow, they do tend to be jagged and sharp. To avoid any injury to another or yourself, it’s better to file or trim your nails regularly. This also ends up maintain the shape of your nail but just growing longer. 
  • Seal the nail paint onto your nails with a top coat to avoid chipping.
  • Do not overdo washing your hands and try to avoid using detergents and soaps as much as you can. 
  • While cutting your nails, make sure you cut them across and not deep into the edges, it’s safer and easier to sharpen and shape the edges with a filer.
  • When using nail paint, do not shake the bottle vigorously as it could lead to a bubble while using it. So just gently roll the bottle between both your palms before applying.
  • Drink about 10 glasses of water to stay hydrated and keep those nails healthy.
  • Try to avoid removing or peeling off hangnail as it could also remove live skin along with it. So, it’s better to clip it off. 

Myths & facts

Further ahead are a few myths that we’re about to bust for you complemented with facts about your nails.

Myth: Coldwater will help hasten the process of nail paint drying off on your nails

Fact: Soaking your fingers in water will just abruptly stop the process of drying your nails. The only way to dry off polish from your nails is by evaporation of the solvent in it. 

Myth: Cuticles should be cut

Fact: Even if it’s a quick way to eliminate the peeping skin, it’s really not safe to cut it out as it leaves the nail bed exposed to inviting germs that could infect. It is advisable to just push it back gently. 

Myth: White spots on your nails are an indicator of calcium deficiency.

Fact: This has been the most widely believed myth about nails and it’s absolutely not true. The white spots are mostly because the nails have been through some form of trauma, either by stubbing or tapping anything. 

Myth: Nails need to breathe

Fact: Nails are mainly formed by keratin, a protein, and they don’t need to breathe. Unlike your skin, fingernails and toenails don’t have pores that need to open for a cleaner self. It’s just a modified claw (thanks to evolution) that needs to be kept tidy for hygiene for all and fashion for some. 

Myth: The gel is better than acrylic

Fact: According to dermatologists, both are equally bad as our nails and skin absorb what we apply to them. They both have chemicals and toxins that are dangerous, regardless of what others say. It could end up damaging the nail bed directly. 

Myth: Store nail polishes in refrigerators to make them last long

Fact: This surely does not help in prolonging the lifespan of the polish. Keeping the bottles in neither a hot nor a cold climate will be just fine. Just be sure to keep the neck of the bottle clean. No point in a working nail polish if the bottle is dried and sealed closed. 

Myth: Consumption of gelatine really helps in strengthening your nails

Fact: This is also false as people assume that since nails are made of a protein called keratin, that consuming gelatine (which is another protein) could do the trick to make nails stronger but honestly, it’s just a healthy diet and proper maintenance that actually works.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Some frequently asked questions about nail care have been answered below

  • Which vitamins are good for nails?

Ideally, Vitamin A, C, B9 (Folic Acid), B12 and B7 (Biotin) are really good for getting stronger nails. It is advisable to consume these vitamins naturally and not via supplements are it is the healthier choice for the long run.

  • Are artificial nails safe?

Using artificial nails for short term usage is alright but not permanently or for longer durations of time as leaving toxins exposed to your fingernails can cause infections and lead to other serious damages to your health. So if you fancy using them, it is preferable to use them occasionally. 

  • How can I clean the dirt under my fingernails?

There are nail grooming tool kits available in stores that possess tools for each and every task to do with nail cleaning and shaping. Otherwise, a small narrow blunt item, that has been cleaned and made germ free in any way, could also be used to dig out the dirt from under the nails. 

  • How often should I file or clean my nails?

Cleaning of nails could be a weekly task, not necessarily more than that, while filing of nails could be done once in every fortnight, it actually really depends on how much your nails grow and need shaping. It’s rather subjective. 

  • What are Buff and Polish?

Buff is a technique where a tool of finer grit is used to rub on the nails, with vigour, in order to shine them and to eliminate any outgrowth on the cuticle. It makes the nail near the cuticle of the same texture as the rest of the nail. Buff and Polish is a procedure where nails are buffed to smoothen and shine them and polish are applied to coat and colour them.

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