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Tips on growing healthier, stronger nails

December 30, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Raggedy nails are big pet peeves for many, but there's a lot you can do to make your nails grow healthier and stronger.

"They are dry. They are brittle, and I think that's because I have them in the water all the time," Burbank resident Darlene Blanchard described her nails.

Regular dishwashing can destroy cuticles. Dermatologists also say getting them clipped off during manicures can stunt growth. Cuticles are where your nail's protective cells live.

"So if you're getting rid of the house of immune system in your nails, then you can't grow healthy nails, and as your nails grow out, they'll get more and more brittle," said dermatologist Dr. Shirley Chi.

Chi says the first step to healthier nails is to revitalize your cuticles. She advises taking off any nail polish, then soaking your nails in water. Then, put on a moisturizing cream containing a lactic acid, alpha hydroxy acid or even a uric acid.

Another tip to keep your nails moisturized is taking 2.5 milligrams of the supplement biotin daily. Also, try to avoid treatments where nail plate is repeatedly buffed.

"Acrylics was one of my things for a while, and they ruined, they trashed my nails. It's horrible," said Sunland resident Courtney Campbell.

Getting some iron and protein in your diet can make a big difference.

It's also important to be patient. Experts say you're not going to see any changes in your nails overnight.

"Remember, nails take about six full months to grow in. That's your fingernails. Toe nails take nine months to a year. So please be patient. Don't quit. Take your biotin supplement every day and that will help your nail regain its strength," said Chi.

Don't bother investing in products that promise to strengthen and grow nails. Hardeners may act as a protecting agent, but they can't do anything to affect the healthy growth of your nails. Also, if your nails are weak and grow in concave, spoon-like shapes, you should consult a doctor.

"That is a telltale sign of anemia," said Chi.

Also, gel manicures are becoming quite popular. While the process may not harm your nails in particular, over time, the repeated exposure to harmful UV rays could lead to skin cancer.

"You have to have your fingers into the light box over and over again," described Chi. "This is the same UV light that is now banned for kids under 18 in tanning salons."

If you start now, you can have the long healthy nails you dream of by next summer.