Way back in my teenage years, my nails were my pride and joy. I would plan biweekly DIY nail appointments to file and shape, buff, apply cuticle cream and paint on a fresh colour. (Barry M was my pick back then.) And they were thriving. They would grow not only strong but quickly too. So much so that I was having to trim them constantly. Fast-forward a few years, though, and it was a different picture. I didn't have the same amount of spare time to devote to my digits, and as a result, my nails gradually declined and were breaking, peeling and thinning. They couldn't cling to nail varnish, and they would constantly snag on my hair, clothes—anything. Any length that did grow was bendy and wouldn't last. I wondered where it all went wrong and if I needed to start eating more cheese in a bid to restore some strength to my nails.
Then, when we were in lockdown, I suddenly had more time on my hands to tend to my nails. Like many, I dabbled in some DIY nail art and really took the time to pay attention to my nails. Regular home manicures were back on the agenda, and I took my nailcare seriously, handpicking products that came highly recommended by top nail technicians. And I actually saw improvements pretty quickly.
To help me on my way to better nails, I spoke with session manicurist Ami Streets and naturopathic nutrition specialist Jessica Shand, who shared their tips for growing nails healthy and strong. I've also included below the best nail products that actually worked for me.
My nails improved drastically after tending to them more often.
1. Consistency Is Key
When it comes to growing your nails, you want to be consistent with your nailcare, says Streets. "Give yourself a regular manicure for maintenance on a weekly basis," she says. If you usually opt for a square shape, you might find that your nails are more prone to breaking. "Try a more rounded or squoval shape to ensure nails are snag-free and smooth. This will help to keep their shape, flexibility and strength," she says. Choosing the right tools is paramount too. "Use quality tools, only buff if it's essential, and finish with plenty of nourishing hand and cuticle oil for smooth, hydrated and healthy skin," says Streets. "Consistency with a good routine is the key to achieving the best results and beautiful nails."
2. Avoid These Common Mistakes
Streets recommends avoiding these common mistakes when trying to grow your nails. "Using acetone-based nail polish removers frequently can strip and dehydrate the nail plate, so switch to acetone-free nail varnish removers and try to minimise the use of any astringent products," she says. Another no-no is using standard nail files that are too coarse and abrasive on the nail. "To get the best finish from your filing, always opt for a soft file to prevent tearing or splitting your natural nails. Choose professional products for the best durability and smoothest finish. A glass file is super durable and easy to clean between uses," adds Streets, noting that you should also file in one direction rather than back and forth to keep nails strong. And finally, we know it's tempting, but don't pick at your polish or peel off gel. "Damage is so easily done to the layers of the nail bed, which results in rough, flaky and weakened nails," she says.
3. Protect Your Nails
Remember that your nails are jewels, not tools. "Gloves are essential to keep your hands and nails in optimum condition when doing household jobs, gardening or using harsh chemicals such as cleaning products," says Streets. The same goes for using your hands to open online deliveries. Make sure you reach for scissors rather than picking away with your hands. What's more, check what ingredients are in your hand sanitiser. "The high alcohol content in hand sanitisers strips our skin and nails of essential natural oils and affects our skin barrier, so it's important to balance this with regular application of a moisturising product," recommends Streets. It's also worth swapping to an alcohol-free hand sanitiser to prevent your nails from drying out.
4. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
"Dehydrated and brittle nails are more prone to breaking or chipping, so keep nails nourished by applying oil-based cuticle products and hand creams daily," says Streets. Hydrated nails will grow stronger, and the best way to hydrate them is with daily nail oil application. "Apply a drop on each cuticle before massaging it in. Nighttime is best, as it gives the oil time to be properly absorbed," says Streets. "Not only does it hydrate better than any cream-based product, but the massaging motion used when applying it helps stimulate circulation and promote growth too."
5. Nourish From the Inside Out
"Weak, brittle nails can be an indicator that something internally needs targeted attention, as what's going on internally manifests externally and usually affects how our nails, hair and skin look, feel and behave," explains Shand. "The great news is you can naturally support the health of your nails by nourishing your body with an abundance of nutrient-dense whole foods, eating protein with each meal and not underestimating the importance of good fats in your diet," she adds. "Weak nails are usually associated with a deficiency in B vitamins, iron, calcium and fatty acids, so ensuring you regularly include plenty of rich sources such as oily fish including wild salmon, eggs and (especially fermented) dairy in your diet is a great place to start. Supplementing your intake of crucial vitamins and minerals known to promote nail growth and repair is also a must."
Read on below for some of the best products that are tried and tested to support strong and healthy nails.
The Best Products to Grow Nails