Whether you paint them, cut them, or grow them as long as you can.... We all have fingernails and know a thing or two about them. But there are some of us who are a little more obsessed with them than the average person and know quite a few interesting facts about them. (And a bit of useless information as well.) You will leave this article with a pocket full of facts, and be able to bust the most common nail myths with good old science!
Men's nails grow faster than women's nails.
No-one really knows why men's nails grow faster than women's. They always seem to have amazing eyelashes as well. Isn't it just typical? Some theories surrounding this fact make sense though. It could be down to hormones, or because men tend to keep them shorter and cutting stimulates the nail-bed to more growth. It is also believed that blood circulation plays a role in the speed at which a fingernail grows. Men typically have more blood than women, and also tend to have longer fingers, though there isn't much scientific data to support these theories, the fact still remains that if you are a man you are more likely to have nails that grow faster than us women.
Who has the longest fingernails in the world?
It should come as no surprise that the world record for the longest natural nails is held by a Man. Shridhar Chillal, 82, holds the world record for the longest nails on one hand. His fingernails were nearly the same length as a London bus when finally cut. The 77-inch talons will now go on display in a museum in New York. Chillal was left unable to use his left hand properly due to the weight of his nails. I can't imagine having nails this long, but what an achievement!
So how fast DO our nails grow?
On average, our fingernails grow at a rate of 0.1 millimetres a day. That's about 3 to 4 mm per month. But they don't always grow at the same speed. Fingernails grow more quickly during the day and in summer (this may be related to exposure to sunlight, which produces more nail-nourishing vitamin D) and the nails on your bigger fingers also grow faster. The pinky fingernail grows the slowest of all the fingernails. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, if you lose a fingernail due to injury, it can take up to six months to grow back (while a toenail could take as much as a year and a half).
The nails on your dominant hand are also said to grow faster. This could simply be because you use your dominant hand more.
Stress can stop your nails from growing.
Stress can do all sorts of weird stuff to our bodies including slowing down our fingernail growth. There have been actual scientific studies to show that excessive stress can inhibit the growth of your nails, so take some time to relax. But drinking alcohol can also inhibit growth, so don't relax with a bottle of wine!
Cuticles shouldn't be cut.
Many people mistake the fleshy part of the skin surrounding the nails for the cuticle. That is actually the proximal nail fold.
The cuticle is a very thin waxy layer of cells that are attached to the nail plate and travel with the nail as it grows from the matrix to the free edge. It is important to leave the cuticle intact that lies underneath of the PNL and to never damage any living tissue but it is completely safe to remove the actual cuticle from the nail plate. So long as you do so gently without damaging the nail plate or any surrounding live tissue.
Nails are a window to the entire body.
One of the most interesting facts about fingernails that most people don't realize is that they are a great marker for disease within the body. Diagnosing a disease is not as easy as looking at someone's fingernails, but often they will be the first visible sign on the outside, of something being wrong on the inside.
Nail Clubbing (An over curvature of the nail plate and thickening of the skin around the nails.)
This is a particularly significant sign of underlying illness. Generally speaking, if your nails have been this way as long as you can remember, there isn't much cause for concern but if it is a new trait or one that has progressed as time has gone on, it could be an indicator of lung or heart disease, liver disease, or inflammatory bowel disease.
Two-toned nails (whitish from the cuticle to the nail's midpoint and pink, brown, or reddish in the distal half)
This can be a sign of kidney and liver disease. Nails that are two-thirds whitish to one-third normal can also be a sign of liver disease
Spoon nails (koilonychia) (Soft nails that look scooped out. The depression usually is large enough to hold a drop of liquid.)
Often, spoon nails are a sign of iron deficiency anaemia or a liver condition known as hemochromatosis, in which your body absorbs too much iron from the food you eat. Spoon nails can also be associated with heart disease and hypothyroidism.
As a general rule, if you have anything on your nails that is abnormal to their usual appearance, or if you think your nails are different to the general population; its best to have them looked at by your GP.
Myths About Nails Debunked
There are some really wacky and weird rumours floating around out there about our fingernails, and whether you have been having your nails done for years, or have never entered a salon, chances are that you have heard at least one of them and probably even believed it!
White spots indicate a calcium deficiency.
"A calcium deficiency is causing white spots on my nails" is the most common myth, followed by zinc deficiency. The truth is that white spots are common and harmless. They don't generally indicate any specific vitamin deficiency at all, only that there has been a trauma to the nail plate (the hard part of the nail) or the matrix (the source of the nail plate, which is located underneath the cuticle under the skin). Just like folding or denting a piece of clear plastic leaves a white spot, so does pressure or trauma to the nail.
Nails keep growing even after you die.
You've probably heard that your fingernails keep growing after death. The truth is, they don't, according to the medical journal BMJ. What's actually happening is that the skin around the base of the fingernails retracts because the body is no longer pumping fluids into the tissues. This creates a kind of optical illusion that makes the nails appear longer.
You need to let your nails "Breathe" between manicures.
It's such a common fallacy that nails need to breathe, and every time I hear it, I can't help but envision a tiny nose on the surface of each nail, gasping for breath through the gel polish. Common sense tells us that this isn't the case, and science is there to back it up. Your fingernails are made of keratin - a protein made of dead cells. Cutting them doesn't hurt because they are not living. They lay on top of and protect your nail bed, which gets all of the oxygen and nutrients it needs from your blood-flow alone. In fact, many people have found that using a product like Bluesky Hard Gel over their natural nails for 8 weeks, without a break will allow their nails to grow longer and healthier than they have ever seen. If you would like more information on Hard Gel, check out this blog.
Eating gelatin strengthens nails
Since nails are made of keratin, it's easy to see why there is a myth that eating gelatin, or any other protein will strengthen your nails and help them grow.
If that were the case, children across the globe would have the healthiest, rock hard nails out of all of us considering the amount of jelly, jelly beans, and gummies they consume. Sadly, there is no scientific information to show that gelatin and its sugary sweet counterparts give your nails super strength but read on to learn ways that you can actually get longer stronger fingernails without a trip to the salon.
Coca-Cola dissolves fingernails
They say if you place a piece of your fingernail in Coca Cola, it will dissolve in 4 days. This is supposed to be down to the active ingredient of phosphoric acid in the refreshing beverage. This is simply untrue. While coke is great for cleaning toilets and rust, it won't help you get rid of a fingernail or other dead tissues. Don't believe me? Check out this science experiment.
How to get strong healthy nails
Having strong healthy nails is the dream of many, but few of us are actually willing to take the steps required to get them. We all know that eating a balanced diet and drinking enough water and exercising is the best way to stay healthy and fit. Believe it or not, the same goes for having healthy strong nails. Eating a nutritious rainbow diet including colourful fruit and vegetables, leafy greens, oily fish, nuts, seeds, avocado, eggs, lean meat, whole grains and sweet potato is the best way to give your nails a fighting chance. I know its hard to stay motivated to drink enough water and eat a vegetable, but if it means you could have beautiful fingernails as a result... maybe that is just the reward you need! If you can't be bothered to do that, there are things you can take to give your nails a little boost so to speak.. ( Not jelly LOL)
Vitamin B9 - otherwise known as folic acid, this vitamin repairs and multiplies the cells that make up nails, which speeds up growth and promotes overall nail health. It has also been shown to boost strength and prevent peeling. Now you might be piecing together how pregnant women's nails always seem to grow really fast and be really strong... Folic acid is always recommended in pregnancy... coincidence... I think not.
Good sources of folic acid include:
Leafy green vegetables, such as cabbage and spinach.
Breakfast cereals fortified with folic acid.
It's always best to get your nutrients from natural sources. If you can't get enough B9 from diet alone, consult your doctor before taking any kind of supplement.
Keratin Treatment - There are loads of different nail strengtheners on the market, but the best ones will include keratin. Since this is what the nails are made of naturally, this will fortify them and give them the flexibility they need to prevent them from breaking. You would think a flexible nail is counterproductive to the goal, but actually, some nail hardeners make your nails so hard and brittle that they just snap off.
Biotin - All the best vitamins are B complex, and Biotin is no exception. Biotin not only helps to keep your skin, hair, eyes, liver, and nervous system healthy but also your nails. It is also crucial to embryonic growth in pregnancy... There seems to be a pattern here. While there are only a few small studies to confirm this data, the results have shown thicker, stronger nails in those who received extra biotin in their diet.
Biotin can be found in a number of foods, including:
Organ meats (liver, kidney)
Nuts, like almonds, peanuts, pecans, and walnuts
Soybeans and other legumes
Whole grains and cereals
It's always best to get your nutrients from natural sources. If you are unable to get enough biotin from your diet alone, consult your doctor before taking any kind of supplement.
So remember ladies and gentlemen. Bea healthy, love yourself and your nails will reap the benefits!