Our nails play an important part in telling us how the body feels in general. Although our nails change with age, they sometimes exhibit telling signs – sudden changes in the shape or the color of the nail – that warrant an expert’s opinion.
Healthy and fast growing nails depend on the well-being of the whole body. Eating correctly, getting enough vitamins, especially vitamins E and B in your diet is important for strong nails. Proper nutrition, exercise, enough sleep and manageable stress will all affect the look and feel of your nails.
Our fingernails are made of layers of keratin, a naturally occurring protein present in our hair as well.
The nail is combined of different parts:
- Nail Plate: this is the hard and visible part of the nail.
- Nail Fold: the skin that sorrowed the nail.
- Nail Bed: the skin under the nail plate which contains veins that feed the skin and produce the Keratin. The bed contains blood vessels and nerve cells.
- Cuticle: the tissue that overlaps the nail and protects the new growth.
- Lunula: the crescent shape at the base of the nail.
The average growth of the nail is about 0.1 millimeter per day. It would take a nail five or six month to fully regenerate. Even though there are no nerve cells in the Keratin, it is connected to the nail bed and any strong pull will cause pain.
There are, however, a few things we can do to help our nails grow strong and healthy.
How to Strengthen Your Nails
- Keep your hands out of your mouth. Saliva softens the Keratin. No nail biting which can cause a permanent disfigurement of the nails and no cuticle pulling. That is what scissors and nail trimmers are for.
- Do not pull when you break a nail. It almost always ends with a tear and pain. Cut the hanged nail as close as you can at an angle and file down the ridge.
- Keep your nails moisturized and hydrated. A small amount of cream around the cuticles before bed will do wonders. You want to keep the Keratin from becoming too dry and hard that it breaks off or splits. If you are in the kitchen and your nails feel dry, a few drops of olive oil can do the trick.
- Wear gloves when dealing with harsh chemicals like bathroom cleaners. Wear gloves when you are working in the garden. If you need to submerge your hands in water for a prolonged period of time, wear gloves.
- Dry your hands and toes well after a shower, bath or swimming.
- When doing your own manicure, do not cut the cuticle, just push it back gently. Do it in a 45 degree angle. Many infections started with cuticle cut too tight, exposing the growing, still soft, nail.
- File your nails correctly and frequently. Do not file back-and-forth but in one direction only, toward the center of the nail. This will serve as a massage for your nails as well.
- Apply polish that will protect you nail. It doesn’t have to be colorful, a clear coat will do. Change it every 7 days or so. Try not to peel the nail polish.
- Do not use nail polish removers that contain Acetone. There are many other products on the market. Acetone, though effective, will leave your nails very dry.
- To make your nails stronger, use hoof cream! Veterinarians discovered long ago that working with biotin cream to massage horse’s hooves gave them very strong nails. It is now manufactured by different companies especially for hand nails.
Tips on how to keep your toenails healthy and strong:
- Keep your toenails short and trim them straight across to avoid ingrown nails.
- Wear comfortable shoes, not too small and not too tight. Make sure that the nails don’t rub against the inside of the shoe. This constant irritation is the beginning of many fungal infections.
- Air you shoes or work boots regularly. Have 2 pairs, if you can, and alternate between them, letting the other pair dry out completely.
- Wear socks made of 100% cotton. Cotton is the best in absorbing dampness.
- When in public showers; at the beach or at the gym, do not walk barefoot. Those are the places where fungal infections, which like warm and dump places, can attach themselves to your toenails.
- Do not share towels or socks with other people. A wet towel can also harbor fungus.
It is a good practice to look at your nails from time to time to see if there are drastic changes like discolorations, cracks, grooves or nails growing upward. Some deformations of the nail are indications of a bigger problem and should be checked medically.