Nails are a part of the body that gets very little attention, but their health is just as important as any other part of your body. In fact, nails can tell you a lot about your overall health. For example, if your fingernails are brittle and flaky, it could be a sign of thyroid problems or diabetes. If you have white spots on your nails, it could be a sign of psoriasis or anemia.
But what do vitamins do for your nails? Vitamins are essential to keeping your body healthy and strong. When you’re deficient in certain vitamins, it can cause all kinds of problems—including brittle nails! So how do you know which ones to take? Here’s what you need to know about vitamins for nails:
What Vitamins For Nails
Your fingernails can say a lot about your health.
Nail beds constantly give rise to nail tissue, and adequate vitamin, mineral and nutrient intakes help support the growth, formation and strength of new nail cells.
A change in the appearance, texture or shape of your nails could indicate nutrient deficiencies.
Here are the 8 most important vitamins and nutrients to keep your nails healthy.
Biotin is a B-complex vitamin, also known as vitamin B7, coenzyme R and vitamin H.
It promotes healthy cell growth and aids in the metabolism of protein-building amino acids that are essential for nail growth.
Biotin-rich foods and supplements may help strengthen your brittle fingernails. A few small studies support biotin supplement use to that effect (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source).
One study in 35 people with brittle fingernails found that 2.5 mg of biotin per day for six weeks to seven months improved symptoms in 63% of participants (2Trusted Source).
Deficiency in this vitamin is rare, and while there is no Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for biotin, the Adequate Intake (AI) recommendation for adults has been set at 30 mcg per day (4Trusted Source).
Biotin is most concentrated in organ meats such as liver, but can also be found in egg yolk, dairy products, yeast, salmon, avocado, sweet potato, nuts, seeds and even cauliflower.
SUMMARYBiotin deficiency is rare, but consuming biotin through foods or supplements may help strengthen brittle nails and improve their growth.
Other B vitamins are also important for nail health.
Vitamin B12 plays a role in iron absorption, as well as the development of red blood cells. Both iron and B12 are necessary for keeping nails strong and healthy.
A deficiency in vitamin B12 can result in entirely blue nails, bluish-black pigments with wavy longitudinal dark streaks and brownish pigmentation (5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source).
Likewise, folate, or vitamin B9, is important for nail growth and health by contributing to red blood cell formation and the development of new cells.
A deficiency in folate can cause a pigment change in your nails and make them rigid and brittle (7Trusted Source).
To prevent deficiencies, adults require 2.4 mcg of vitamin B12 and 400 mcg of folate per day, though pregnant women have an increased need (4Trusted Source).
Folate can be found in dark green vegetables, citrus fruits, beans, peas, lentils, nuts, seeds and avocado. On the other hand, B12 is primarily found in animal foods, such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy, though it can be fortified into other foods and beverages.
SUMMARYBoth vitamin B12 and folate play a role in red blood cell production and oxygen transportation to nail cells. Inadequacies can result in discoloration of your nails.
Iron composes the center of red blood cells, which carry oxygen to your organs and every cell in your body — including your nails.
Without iron, oxygen does not get adequately carried to your cells.
As oxygen is needed for healthy nails, an iron deficiency or anemia can lead to vertical ridges in your nails or your nails may concave or “spoon” (7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source).
RDAs for iron vary considerably depending on age and gender. The recommendation for men is 8 mg per day, while that of women aged 19–50 is 18 mg per day. After women hit age 50 or go through menopause, their iron needs drop to 8 mg daily (9Trusted Source).
Your body absorbs the iron found in animal foods, such as beef, chicken, fish and eggs, better than that in plant foods like dark green leafy vegetables, peanuts, seeds, beans and other fortified foods.
However, eating a food rich in vitamin C together with a plant-based iron food source improves absorption. For example, eating oranges and strawberries alongside a spinach salad with beans and seeds improves your iron absorption.
SUMMARYIron is needed to provide your cells with adequate oxygen, which, in turn, is necessary for healthy nails. If you have an iron deficiency, the shape and appearance of your nails can be affected.
Magnesium is a mineral involved in over 300 reactions in your body, including protein synthesis, which is required for nail growth (10Trusted Source).
Vertical ridges in your nails may be a sign of a magnesium deficiency. Despite worldwide availability of this mineral, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that less than 60% of the US population consumes the recommended amount (11Trusted Source).
The RDA is 400-420 mg and 310–320 mg per day for men and women respectively (9Trusted Source).
Whole grains, specifically whole wheat, are a rich source of magnesium. Dark green leafy vegetables, as well as quinoa, almonds, cashews, peanuts, edamame and black beans, are good sources, too.
SUMMARYAdequate magnesium intake is crucial to prevent vertical ridges in your nails. This mineral also helps with protein synthesis and the formation of new nails.
Nails are primarily made of a fibrous structural protein called keratin. This is what gives nails their strength and resilience. It also protects your nails from damage or stress (12, 13Trusted Source).
Interestingly, the keratin you see is actually dead. Nails are formed by dead cells, which your body sheds as new cells push up from underneath (12).
Eating enough protein through your diet is essential for boosting keratin production and thus creating strong nails, whereas low protein intake may cause weaker nails.
The RDA for protein is 0.36 grams per pound (0.8 grams per kg) of body weight per day. This equals approximately 55 grams of protein per day for a 150-lb (68-kg) person (14Trusted Source).
However, the Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR) allows protein to account for 10–35% of your total daily calories — significantly more than the RDA (15Trusted Source).
Protein can be found in animal foods like meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy, as well as plant foods, such as soy, legumes, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds and whole grains.
SUMMARYAdequate protein intake is needed to produce keratin, which is responsible for keeping your nails strong and resilient.
Omega-3 fatty acids can help lubricate and moisturize your nails, giving them a shiny appearance.
These fatty acids may also reduce inflammation in your nail bed, which nourishes and promotes the health of cells that give rise to your nail plate. A lack of omega-3 fatty acids could contribute to dry and brittle nails (16Trusted Source).
There is no RDA for omega-3 fatty acids, but the AI is 1.6 grams and 1.1 grams per day for men and women respectively. The AMDR says that up to 1.6% of total calories can come from omega-3s (14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source).
Fatty fish like salmon, trout, mackerel, tuna and sardines top the charts with omega-3s, but they can also be found in walnuts, soy, eggs, chia seeds, flaxseeds and fish and flaxseed oil.
SUMMARYTo prevent dry and brittle nails, consume adequate omega-3 fatty acids. They help lubricate your nails, giving them a shiny appearance.
Vitamin C is essential for the production of collagen, a protein that gives shape, strength and integrity to many tissues and is the building block of fingernails, hair and teeth (17Trusted Source).
A deficiency in vitamin C can result in brittle nails, as well as slowed nail growth (18Trusted Source).
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient and cannot be produced by your body. Men require 90 mg and women 75 mg per day (4Trusted Source).
While citrus fruits, such as oranges, strawberries and kiwi are thought to be the best sources of vitamin C, bell peppers, green vegetables and tomatoes are very high in this nutrient as well.
In fact, red bell peppers have more than twice the vitamin C of an orange (19).
SUMMARY Vitamin C is essential for collagen production, which helps provide strength and integrity to your nails.
Zinc is required for many reactions in your body, including the growth and division of cells.
Nails are made up of a type of cell that grows and divides rapidly. Because of this fast production, a steady supply of zinc is needed to promote the healthy growth of nails (18Trusted Source).
Inadequate zinc intake can contribute to a degeneration of your nail plate, causing the appearance of white spots on your nails.
The RDA for zinc is 11 mg and 8 mg per day for men and women respectively (9Trusted Source).
Animal proteins like beef, poultry, fish and eggs are rich sources of zinc. However, soy, chickpeas, black beans, nuts (such as almonds and cashews) and seeds also contain it.
SUMMARYZinc is required for the healthy growth of your nails. Animal proteins are a great way to consume adequate zinc through your diet, though certain plant foods pack this mineral as well.
A nutrient-rich diet is likely the best way to achieve strong, shiny, healthy nails.
While there are many supplements marketed for strengthening nails, scientific evidence is lacking. To date, biotin supplements are the only type shown to have a possible effect (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source, 18Trusted Source).
However, it’s important to note that deficiencies in certain vitamins, minerals and nutrients may negatively affect your nail health.
Try to get your vitamins and nutrients from food, but when you can’t, taking a supplement can help you meet your needs and likely improve your nail health.
SUMMARYConsuming a variety of vitamins, minerals and nutrients through food is the best way to improve and maintain nail health. Under certain circumstances, taking a supplement may be beneficial, though scientific research is lacking in this regard.
While consuming a variety of vitamins, minerals and nutrients through food contributes to growing and maintaining healthy nails, evidence suggests that supplementing with them may not.
Biotin is the exception, and supplements of this vitamin may help restore brittle nails.
Overall, if you want strong, shiny nails, be sure to include a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds in your diet, as well as adequate protein and omega-3 fatty acids.
15 Tips for Stronger Nails
Strong, healthy nails can be an indicator of good health, but sometimes our nails aren’t as strong as we’d like them to be.
The good news is that we can always make changes to our lifestyle and habits to help strengthen nails and get them where we’d like. Here are some tips that you can use to help strengthen your nails in no time.
1. Take a biotin supplement
Biotin (also known as vitamin H and vitamin B-7) is one of the B vitamins. Because it’s water-soluble, it isn’t stored by the body, so you have to ensure that you consume it daily.
Biotin can help strengthen hair and nails and also helps the body’s nervous system to function properly. It can be found in foods like sardines, cooked eggs, and legumes, or you can take a B vitamin or supplement.
Check with your healthcare provider before taking a biotin supplement to ensure that it’s safe for you.
2. Minimize exposure to water
Too much soaking in water can cause your nails to become weak and brittle. Wear gloves when washing dishes, and try to keep your hands out of the water while taking a bath.
It’s impossible to always avoid submerging your hands, of course, but this is something to be mindful about.
3. Stay hydrated
Drinking enough water is essential for health, and nail health is no exception. Without adequate moisture, nails can become brittle and break and peel easily. Drinking enough water helps them to retain moisture and stay strong.
4. Pay attention to your diet
Make sure you’re eating a healthy and varied diet as well as taking a multivitamin with minerals. A diet that’s deficient in crucial vitamins and minerals can affect your entire body — including your nails.
5. Be careful about the products you use
Many nail polishes or treatments contain harsh chemicals that can actually weaken nails. Nail polish remover that contains acetone should be avoided since it can damage nails.
Look for nontoxic nail polishes and soaks as well as acetone-free polish remover.
6. Avoid using gel or acrylic nails, if possible
While these are touted as an easy alternative for those who have trouble growing their nails, frequent use can cause your nails to peel, which weakens them. If you must get them, don’t wear them continuously.
Exposure to the ultraviolet light required for gel polish has been identified as a risk factor Trusted Source for cancer, although exposure is far lower than what you get with UV tanning equipment. Exposure also ages the skin that supports a healthy nail.
7. Give your nails a break from polish
Along those same lines, although nail polish looks nice, your nails need to breathe. Constant use of polish, even nontoxic polish, can weaken the nail.
After wearing nail polish for a week or so, remove the nail polish with an acetone-free polish remover, and then let your nails be polish-free for a week.
8. Keep your nails on the shorter side
Long nails are more likely to break and be caught on things, while shorter nails are less likely to be chipped, cracked, or split, helping to keep them strong.
9. Don’t use your nails to do things
Instead, use the pads of your fingers to open up a soda can or use a paper clip to reach something in a small space. Using your nails as tools can lead to breakage and chipping, which can in turn weaken the nail.
10. Use lotion on your nails
After removing polish, or if you think you’re not hydrated enough, use a hand cream on your hands, making sure to moisturize your nails. You can do this every time you wash your hands.
11. Avoid drying products
If you use hand sanitizer, try not to get it on your nails, and don’t overdo it. Constantly applying hand sanitizer can be disastrous for the nails. This is because the sanitizer dries out nails (and hands), leading to brittle nails.
12. Change how you file your nails
One Direction – it’s not just the name of a boy band! Filing your nails in a back-and-forth motion like a saw can actually weaken your nails. File in one direction only, and go easy on the sides of the nails since filing too much there can weaken the nail.
13. Use cleaning products with caution
When cleaning around the house, wear rubber gloves. Many cleaning products or cleaning wipes contain chemicals that can weaken the nail. Gloves help you to avoid contact with these chemicals.
14. Take a closer look at your shampoo
If you’re using a shampoo that is drying or aims to strip oils (that is, one that’s for oily hair), it might be drying out your nails and causing weak or brittle nails. Try changing up your shampoo for a couple of weeks and see if you notice a difference.
15. Talk to your doctor
If you’ve tried multiple things for several weeks and haven’t noticed any change in your nails, see a dermatologist. They can take a look at your nails and ask you questions about your routine and overall health.
If need be, they can prescribe a prescription-strength nail treatment that can help to strengthen your nails.
Pay attention to your nails
Our nails can send lots of messages to others, and weak or brittle nails may make you self-conscious. Thankfully, there are lots of things you can do to help strengthen your nails and improve them.
If you’ve tried various remedies and nothing helps, see your doctor. There might be an underlying condition causing thin or brittle nails, and only by treating the root cause will your nails be able to become strong again.
ow Fast Do Nails Grow? Contributing Factors and Tips for Growth
- Factors that affect nail growth
- Tips for growth
Your fingernails grow at an average rateTrusted Source of 3.47 millimeters (mm) per month, or about a tenth of a millimeter per day. To put this in perspective, the average grain of short rice is about 5.5 mm long.
If you happen to lose a fingernail, it may take up to six months for that nail to completely grow back. The nails on your dominant hand grow faster than the rest, as do the nails on your longer fingers.
Your fingernails also grow faster during the day and during the summer.
Although it may sound like there’s no rhyme or reason to how your nails grow, there are a few basic factors that affect the speed of growth. Read on to learn more about these factors, as well as what you can do to make them grow faster.
What factors affect how quickly your nails grow?
There are a number of reasons why your nails may grow faster or slower than the average rate.
The nails on your dominant hand are said to grow faster simply because you use your dominant hand more. This increases your risk for trauma, like catching your nail on a snag or hitting your nail with a hammer.
If trauma does occur, your body naturally sends more blood and nutrients to the area to help repair it. This influx of nutrients may speed up nail growth.
The rate of growth also depends on which finger the nail is on. A 2007 studyTrusted Source found that the fingernail on your little finger grow slower than other fingernails.
Being younger has also been associatedTrusted Source with a faster nail growth rate. A study published in 1980Trusted Source reviewed one man’s rate of nail growth over the course of 35 years.
At age 23, Dr. William Bean observed that his left thumbnail grew at a rate of 0.123 mm per day. By the time he reached age 67, this rate had dropped to 0.095 mm per day.
This change in speed may be because blood circulation slows with age.
Your hormones can also affect the this rate. Take pregnancy, for example.
During this time, women experienceTrusted Source a sudden and dramatic increase in estrogen and progesterone. These hormonal changes have been shownTrusted Source to result in rapid nail growth during pregnancy, but decrease the rate of nail growth during lactation.
Outside of pregnancy, puberty is usually the most tumultuous time for your hormone levels. Nail growth is said to peak during puberty and decline as your hormone levels balance out with age.
Chronic conditions can also have an impactTrusted Source on your nail growth, as well as the shape and overall appearance of your nails.
Nail symptoms are common with:
- kidney disease
- liver disease
- thyroid disease
Some conditions may also affect your ability to recover from common nail disorders, such as an ingrown toenail.
If you have diabetes or other circulatory issues, make sure you monitor your nails closely. Make an appointment with your doctor if you experience a nail injury or notice anything unusual.
Biting and clipping
Onychophagia, or the chronic habit of biting your nails, has actually been associatedTrusted Source with a faster growth rate. This may be because biting causes trauma to the nail, stimulating circulation in the nail bed.
This also supports the theory that frequent nail clipping makes your nails grow a little faster. Regular clipping doesn’t carry the same risks as nail biting, so if you want longer nails, clipping is the better route.
What about your toenails?
Your toenails grow much slower than your fingernails. They grow at an average rate of 1.62 mm per month.
And if you lose a toenail, it can take up to a year and a half for it to completely grow back. That’s three times as long as it would take your fingernail to regrow.
This is because your toenails are generally subjected to less trauma than your fingernails. Although you may stub your toe here and there, this temporary burst of circulation won’t have a lasting impact.
How to make your nails grow faster
Although there aren’t any scientifically proven methods to make nails grow faster, there are a number of ways to increase the overall health of your nails.
The following methods will help strengthen your nails and prevent them from breaking, allowing them to remain long as you grow them out:
- Take biotin. Researchers in one 2007 studyTrusted Source found that taking 2.5 milligrams of biotin every day reduced breakage and increased overall nail health.
- Use nail hardeners (but sparingly). Nail hardeners may also strengthen the nail and reduce breakage. However, expertsTrusted Source say to avoid prolonged use, as they can actually break down the nail over time. You should limit or avoid strengtheners that contain formaldehyde or formalin.
- Avoid glue-on nails and toxic polishes. Frequently applying glue-on nails or toxic polishes can increaseTrusted Source your risk of breakage. Opt for nontoxic or water-based polishes whenever possible.
- Groom your nails. Keeping your nails clean is key to overall nail health. Use a clean pair of clippers to trim them regularly. Once a week should be enough. Keep your cuticles pushed back or trimmed, too. And don’t forget to moisturize!
The bottom line
From the time of year to how old you are, there are a number of factors that affect how fast your nails grow. Although most of these factors are outside of your control, you can help the process along by practicing good nail hygiene.
If you feel like your nails are growing unusually slow — or are experiencing discoloration or other symptoms — talk to your doctor. Your symptoms may be tied to nutritional deficiencies or another underlying condition. Your doctor can help determine why this is happening and advise you on any next steps.
best foods for nail growth
- Whether you realize it or not, nail health can be a pretty strong indicator of your overall health.
- Plenty of nutrients in food can help your nails, taking them from dry and brittle to healthy and strong.
- Foods that can improve your nails include fruits, lean meats, salmon, leafy greens, beans, eggs, nuts, and whole grains.
You likely give very little thought to your nails even if you treat yourself to regular manicures. After all, they’re just kind of there, so it’s rare for most of us to worry too much about our nail health.
But if you’ve ever had dry, brittle nails that feel weak or break easily, you know how distressing it can be, because it’s not just about the way your tips look. It turns out your fingernails can be an indicator of underlying health concerns, or even just visible proof that your diet is lacking in certain important vitamins and nutrients.
Fear not, though: Incorporating these 11 types of foods into your diet is the easiest (and tastiest!) way to help your nails grow long and strong – without supplements, treatments, or products with harsh chemicals.
Lean meats like turkey, chicken, and beef
The same way that protein helps build strong muscles, it also does wonders for your fingernails. As Dr. Ava Shamban, dermatologist and author, told The Huffington Post, lean meats are great for nails.
She said, “Nails are made out of protein, so the first thing you can try is adding more to your diet.” She recommends eating lean poultry, fish, beef and pork to keep nails in tip-top shape.
Fruits and berries — especially blueberries, strawberries, and bananas
Eating plenty of fruit in is an easy and delicious way to get lots of nutrients and vitamins in your diet, but did you know these snack favorites are also great for your nails?
In fact, there are lots of all-star fruits you can add to your diet for an easy nutritional boost, as well as for thicker, stronger tips. Some favorites include blueberries, which registered dietitian Erin Palinski-Wade recently discussed with Health magazine.
Palinski-Wade explained, “Antioxidants help protect your body’s cells against free radical damage. This damage increases stress hormones and inflammation, which impacts all cells in the body, including those in the hair and nails.” Blueberries “have one of the highest antioxidant properties of all fruits.” Livestrong also points out that blackberries and grapes are high in antioxidants as well, providing an equally sweet treat for your fingertips.
Other top contenders? Strawberries, and kiwis, which have high levels of Vitamin C. Vitamin C helps produce collagen, which naturally makes nails more resilient. Dried apricots and bananas are also good choices as they’re rich in vitamin A and B6 respectively, according to Livestrong.
Dark leafy greens including spinach, broccoli, and kale
We won’t lecture you on the importance of eating greens on the regular, but here’s one more huge reason: They help make your nails, well, tough as nails. Leafy green veggies, including kale, spinach, broccoli, and collard greens provide your body with enough iron, folate, and calcium to get nails back into fighting shape.
Other veggies including sweet potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, and bell peppers
If you like a little more color on your plate, worry not — there are tons of veggies that give equally strong staying power to nails without being totally boring.
Tomatoes and bell peppers are chock full of Vitamin C, which is great for collagen levels, and sweet potatoes and carrots are high in Vitamin A, which provides necessary antioxidants to keep nails protected and strong.
Nuts and seeds, including almonds and sunflower seeds
Snacking on nuts and seeds provides a hefty dose of healthy fats that your nails might be craving. Registered dietitian Ashley Koff explained to Health magazine that almonds are a pretty great source of protein and magnesium, adding, “Vertical ridges in your nails may be a sign of inadequate magnesium.” So if you’re seeing those, you may want to start snacking on some almonds.
And sunflower seeds are also the perfect antidote to weakened nails, according to Vivian Goldschmidt, a nutrition expert. Aside from plenty of magnesium, she says, “sunflower seeds contain the trace minerals manganese and copper, which are essential for the synthesis and production of connective tissue in bones and cartilage,” thus also strengthening nails.
She adds, “These crunchy seeds also contain Vitamin B6, zinc, and Vitamin E. All of these minerals and vitamins contribute to healthy fingernails and strong bones.”
It may sound too good to be true, but wheat-based beer is rich in silicon, which is proven to strengthen your bones and, in turn, your nails. Of course, we’re not suggesting you start drinking a keg’s-worth of beer per day, but you can absolutely fit in a cold one from time to time and see the benefits when you glance down at your fingertips. We’ll drink to that.
The way that beer can help strengthen bones is, ironically, the same way that milk can, too. Milk is loaded with calcium and Vitamin D, both of which are crucial for building strong, healthy nails that can tackle all the abuse we put them through every day, from typing to trying to remove the batteries from your remote.
Whether you like ’em scrambled, poached, fried, or in an omelet, eggs are a nutritional powerhouse that give your body so much good stuff, you’ll feel and see the benefits from head to toe — including your nails.
According to Goldschmidt, here’s why: “They are one of the few dietary sources of Vitamin D, and their protein content is crucial for strong fingernails. Unlike meats, the protein in eggs is highly digestible and easily taken up by the body.”
“Eggs also contain B12, vitamins A and E, iron, and biotin (also known as Vitamin B7 or Vitamin H, and a part of the B-complex vitamins). Biotin has been scientifically shown to increase fingernail thickness and reduce brittleness and splitting.”
And even though that sulfur smell from rotten eggs makes you gag, it turns out that sulfur is actually an important nutrient for your nails. Who knew?
Earlier, we called out lean meats for their high protein content, but we also have to show special love for salmon, a fatty fish rich in protein and also in biotin and omega-3 fatty acids, three essential nutrients for lush nails.
Salmon is chock full of healthy fats and vitamins B6 and B12, which will keep nails from splitting, breaking, peeling, or otherwise falling apart.
Beans and legumes like lentils and lima beans
If you prefer a plant-based diet but want to keep your nails looking flawless, there are plenty of nutrient-rich sources of protein and biotin that aren’t meat-based. Beans, for example, are packed with biotin, which is a proven powerhouse for nail health, helping them to grow longer and thicker in time.
Legumes, like lentils, are are packed with “nine essential vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins and biotin,” according to Eat This, Not That!, so you’ll want to enjoy them in soups and stews year-round to reap their nail-enhancing benefits.
Whole grains like brown rice and oatmeal
They’re great for your energy levels and overall dietary health, but did you know that complex carbohydrates (read: not the kind in white breads and flour) are also killer for your nail health? Whole grains, like those in brown rice, are amazing sources of biotin, silicon, and cysteine, which all keep your tips in their healthiest state.
Oats are equally important, according to Goldschmidt. She says, “Oats contain micronutrients like copper and zinc that are important for healthy fingernail and bone maintenance. They also have manganese, silicon, and B-complex vitamins, all of which promote healthy fingernails and bones.”