Monday, December 14, 2009

Tip and Toe Care: Part 2 Nail Growth

It's monday and it's time for part two of my nail care series!
Nail Growth is a topic that is discussed quite often, especially when it comes to how fast the nails grow. There are many factors that affect the nail growth. I will try and cover it all in this post.

Nail Growth
As you might remember from part 1, the nail plate is created by the matrix and the size, shape and health of the matrix will reflect on your nail plate. The matrix produces keratin cells which it keeps pushing forward creating the nail plate, making the nail "grow". As they grow out the keratin cells lose their inner material and become flat, hard and transparent. The oldest cells are the most compact making the nailplate harder the closer to the free edge it gets.

Many factors determine nail growth and each finger nail will grow at a different rate. It's most common that the middle finger grows the fastest and the thumb slowest, as a rule, the longer the finger the faster the plate will grow. People who use their hands a lot often experience a faster growth rate and the nails of the dominant hand normally grows faster than the non-preffered hand. As the matrix shape and size vary from person to person so will the growth rate. Heredity, health, diet, weather and age are also factors that affect the rate. The nail tends to grow faster when we're young and gradually slows down. Growth is accelerated during the summer and slows down during winter. Males have a faster growth rate than females, sorry ladies. The normal growth rate is about 0.5mm to 1.2 mm per week and around 3mm per month. Factors that will slow the growth rate could be poor circulation, malnutrition, serious infections and certain medications. There are a number of other health issues that also will affect the growth rate.
Some people believe that eating certain food or using special creams or oils will increase the growth rate but there are little evidence that eating any particular food will make the nail plate grow faster. Creams and oils are sometimes sold as growth accelerators but these claims are false. No cosmetic product may claim that it can alter or change any natural body function, only medical drugs can make such claims. Although the matrix do require certain nutrients for proper cell production and the surrounding skin, the nail folds, needs to be moisturised to fully protect the matrix and avoid infections.

The Building Blocks
As mentioned earlier the nail plate is made up of keratin cells. Keratin is a type of protein composed of amino acids. The proteins are kind of like links of a chain and they tie together as cross-links that gives the nail plate strenght. Natural oils and moisure that the body produce form the cement to hold the nail plate cells together giving flexibility to the nailplate.

Many equate nail strenght with hardness, but nails are only strong if they have a combination of strenght, hardness and flexibility. Look at it like glass, it's a hard material but since it lacks flexibility it can easily be shattered.
Hardness measures how easily the nailplate is dented or scratched, flexibility determines how much the plate will bend and strenght shows how likely the plate is to break under force. Thoughness is a combination of these three properties.

Many factors will affect the levels of flexibility and strenght. Water content will affect the flexibility of the nail, the water content of the nail plate varies between 10% to 30%. Water absorbed into the nail causes the cells to shift and sometimes to change shape. Repeated or prolonged exposure to water dehydrates your nail plate and can result in dry, split, brittle or peeling nails. Nail polish and oils will prevent both loss of water and excessive water absorbtion and encourages flexibility.
Household solvents will also have a drying effect on the nailplate, but in most cases it is only temporarly. Though during prolonged contact it's a good idea to wear protective gloves

How to Improve the Health of Your Nail Plate
Eat healthy food and a varied diet. Get all your proteins, vitamins and minerals!

Use nailpolish (yay!) and cuticle creams and oils, more information about this in a upcoming manicure post.

Regulary buff your nails if you don't wear nail polish, details on the proper buffing technique will be in a coming article (will link to that here when it's written and posted)

Keep your nail folds moisturised and healthy

Don't use your nails as tools! (Thanks Lucy!)

If you're a smoker you might want to consider quitting. Smoking affects your blood circulation and therefore the health of the matrix.

Wear protective gloves when doing dishes, cleaning etc.

You can improve the health of your nails and the nail growth rate, but never more than what your body naturally would produce.

The nails grow 0.5 to 1.5mm per week.

The middle finger nail grow fastest and the thumb the slowest.

There's no such thing as a "growth accelerator", it's all fake.

Nailpolish is actually good for your nailplate as it protects it!

Nail toughness is a combination of strenght, hardness and flexibility.

Now you know pretty much everything there is to know about nail growth.
Stay tuned for the next part when it's time to go through some actual nail care! Woo!

Links to previous articles in the Tip and Toe Care series:
Part 1 The Nail Anatomy

My own knowledge
Marti Preuss -
Minnie Matsumoto -
Various other website where no author or sources were mentioned,
therefore I do not know who to credit.
If you recognize any of the material posted here as yours don't hesitate to contact me.


MinderMutsig (Kirsten) said...

Great info! This is one of my favourite series.

Lucy said...

Thanks again for all the terrific information. It's important information to read. Also don't use your nails as tools.

Anna said...

@Lucy Oh, right! Why didn't I think of that! I'll add it right away! Thank you!

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