Sometimes, beauty can feel like a waiting game. From waiting for your hair to grow after some spur-of-the-moment bangs to waiting for your skin to clear up after a breakout, these things cannot be rushed. Add growing your nails to that list.
Whether you’re guilty of biting your nails or simply want to learn how to make your nails grow faster so you can ditch your acrylics, nails don’t grow overnight but proper care can speed up the process. Take notes as we share how long it takes for nails to grow, plus some easy tips to help them grow faster.
How Do Nails Grow?
Before we dive into how fast nails grow, let’s talk a bit about how they grow in general. You can think of this as nail anatomy 101, made simple. To start, you need to understand what makes up the nail and how that affects the growth cycle.
Matrix: This is the root of the nail, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). It’s constantly making new cells. These new cells force the old ones to become packed together and get pushed through the matrix.
Nail plate: The hard part of your nail — the actual fingernail that you’re hoping to grow is known as the nail plate and it is mostly made of a substance called keratin, as stated by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). This is what those packed old cells mentioned above form. At this point, the cells are dead, which is why you don’t feel anything when you cut your nails, per the AAD.
Cuticle: This is a term you’re likely familiar with. The AAD explains that the cuticle is a small section of skin that protects the matrix from germs. While it doesn’t directly relate to how nails grow, it’s still super important and necessary for the health of your nails.
Lunula: According to the NCBI, the lunula is the small, white, half-moon shape that can be seen at the bottom of your nails. You likely will notice this on your thumbs, but it’s present on all of your nails. It’s part of the matrix and it’s the only part of it that is visible.
How Long Does It Take for Nails to Grow?
Now that you know how nails grow, the next part is understanding how long it takes for them to grow. As you can expect, it’s a slow and steady process. Here are a few things worth noting when it comes to how fast nails grow.
1. Nails Grow Slowly
According to the NCBI, on average, fingernails grow around three millimeters per month. Three millimeters is about one-eight of an inch or about half the size of a pencil eraser. Toenails are even slower and grow at one-third of that rate at one millimeter per month.
2. Nails Grow Slower With Age
Starting at age 25, expect the rate of growth to decrease by approximately 0.5 percent per year, according to the NCBI. If you lose a fingernail, expect it to take around half a year to grow back, per the AAD. A toenail can take a year and a half to fully grow back.
3. Your Dominant Hand Grows Faster
The AAD shares that if you’re right-handed, your nails will grow faster on your right hand and if you’re left-handed, they’ll grow faster on your left. Nails also grow faster on your larger fingers.
4. The Time Of Year Impacts Nail Growth
According to the AAD, nails grow faster during the summer. They also grow faster during the day.
How to Make Your Nails Grow Faster
Now that you’re a pro on the topic nail growth, you’re probably wondering if there is a way to make your nails grow faster. While there is no magic solution for speeding up nail growth, the best way to encourage growth is to make sure your nails are strong and healthy. On that note, here are a few nail care tips, courtesy of the AAD.
1. Clip Your Nails
The same goes for your toenails. Keeping your toenails short will help to minimize the risk of injury and trauma.
2. Don’t Cut Your Cuticles
Cuticles protect the nail root so don’t push them back and definitely don’t cut them. Trimming your cuticles makes it easier for bacteria to get inside the body and can lead to infection.
Editor’s tip: Applying cuticle oil daily can help to keep the cuticles well-moisturized while preventing dead skin from growing on the natural nails.
3. Don’t Bite Your Nails
Reiterating that this is an absolute no-no — don’t bite your nails. Doing so can harm the nails and damage the cuticles. If you need some help to avoid biting your nails, try a fun set of press-on nails.
4. Keep Your Nails Dry
Unless you’re getting a manicure, your nails shouldn’t be moist. That said, if your toenails are difficult to cut, you can soak them in salt water for five to ten minutes prior to cutting to help them soften.
5. Wear Shoes That Fit
Tight shoes can harm your toenails — if you needed another reason to stick with comfortable footwear, this is a good one.
Edited by: Reece Andavolgyi, Photo by: iStock