Your nails may seem like more durable, impervious extensions of your fingertips, but just like your skin, nails need to be coddled. One of the best ways to impede nail growth is to get your fingernails wet and them dry them repeatedly. "Wet" chores like bathtub scrubbing, swimming and even leisurely soaks in the tub can suck the moisture right out of your nails. Rub a lanolin-based lotion or moisturizer into your nails after your hands have been exposed to water. Better yet, nip potential damage in the bud by wearing rubber gloves while doing your Saturday chores.
Regular home manicures keep nails from splitting. File the nail using a fine emery board, rounding it slightly at the tip. Nails are less likely to peel and split using the no-frills approach of painting the nails with a single coat of clear hardener. Acetone-based polish removers are fingernail cryptonite -- these should be used only sparingly at a frequency of no more than once a week, so pick the nail polish color you can live with for at least that long. Touch up areas of the nail where the polish chips and flakes with the same color rather than removing the polish and starting over again. Short nails are generally healthier nails. If you want long, glamorous fingernails for a special occasion, splurge on acrylic nails. These aren't harmful to existing nail growth, but they can leave you vulnerable to fungal infections. Choose a licensed nail technician who uses heat-sterilized equipment.
Myths and Misunderstandings
Gelatin helps with nail growth, or so the old wives' remedy goes. But soaking your fingertips in gelatin or drinking or eating gelatin won't do a thing for your nails. Nor will taking a multivitamin. It's extremely unusual for nail growth to be affected by nutritional deficiencies unless you're extremely malnourished. Make sure your nutritional needs are met by eating a wide variety of fruits and veggies, whole-grain foods, low-fat dairy foods and lean proteins, such as skinless poultry, fish and beans.
One dietary supplement that may encourage healthier nail growth is biotin, also known as vitamin H. There's some evidence to suggest that this water-soluble B vitamin also makes for stronger hair growth, too. Unless you're pregnant, 1 mg of biotin taken two or three times a day isn't likely to be harmful. It can take up to six months for you to see results from biotin use; however, according to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology, it does seem to help more than 30 percent of people. Always talk to your doctor before taking a dietary supplement just to stay on the safe side.