Can You Make Your Nails Grow Faster? An Investigation

What to expect if you're expecting nail supplements to work.

(Image credit: Holloway)

A chipped nail can spark anxiety in even those of us who aren't typically nail-biters. After all, there's no circumventing the chipped or split nail: your best bet is to cut your nails down and start all over from scratch.

Companies have forever peddled nail supplements as quick fixes for growing stronger, more lustrous nails on a time crunch, but do they actually work? To settle the matter once and for all, we spoke to NYC's Dr. Dana Stern, a board-certified dermatologist who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of nails. Below, her helpful thoughts on the best way to revive them and what to avoid to keep them in tip-top shape.

S.O.S., What Are Our Best Options for Nail Fixes?

When you're in Chipsville after a manicure, sometime you just want a magic pill to pull you out of your short nail rut. Though many cry foul on any forms of supplements or vitamins proposed to help with nail growth, Dr. Stern notes that "of all the supplements there is the most evidence in the medical literature that biotin (a vitamin B co-enzyme available at health food stores) is beneficial for nail health."

The only catch? It's not for the impatient. "Nails are slow growing and it is recommended that you take Biotin for at least four months in order to see a benefit for the fingernails and nine months for the toenails. Biotin is water soluble and therefore what your body doesn't need will be eliminated unlike certain vitamins that can be stored in the body's fat."

Nail Hacks: Where to Find Biotin If You Hate Swallowing Pills

Vegetables that contain Biotin

(Image credit: Design by Dana Tepper)

Even if you despise taking pills, there are several natural sources of biotin to strengthen your nails, too (and spoiler alert: you're probably already eating some of these). Says Stern, "Although it is extremely rare to have a biotin deficiency in this country, trends such as juicing can lead to deficiencies. A diet rich in biotin (cold water fish such as salmon, almonds, peanuts, swiss chard, eggs) is always a healthy way to go for good nail health.

Book Your Next Nail Polish Vacation

What to do if you notice your nails are dry, peeling, or breaking? According to Stern, "a nail polish holiday is definitely in order." She notes that taking a break from polish remover is key but using an effective nail treatment—like her Customer Choice Award-nominated three-step nail renewal system—will help nails recover and grow the right way. Under her design the system treats 10 nails on the fingers or the toes in 10 minutes, and is used weekly to encourage natural, healthy nail growth.

Drugstore Emory Boards: The Worst?

Emery Boards

(Image credit: Design by Dana Tepper)

Another root cause of unhealthy nails are the cheap emory boards people hoard on the regular. Says Stern, "When nails split and peel easily they are also less apt to grow easily and beautifully. Typical drugstore type emery boards can cause tremendous micro-tears at the tip of the nail which prevent the nail from growing well. Instead I always recommend using a crystal file."

Which Nail Supplements to Avoid Like the Plague

Because we're ultimately hoping to save ourselves time and money, Stern advises people to completely steer clear of the following nail supplements: "Calcium! The nail is not composed of calcium and that is a big myth. Also, gelatin. Gelatin is an inexpensive form of protein that was used during depression times as a nail treatment when people couldn't afford protein. Today, as long as you are eating a normal diet (not strictly juice, for example) it is extremely rare to have a protein deficiency in the U.S. and therefore gelatin would not be helpful."


(Image credit: Design by Dana Tepper)

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Lori Keong