How to grow your nails long and strong
Brittle nails that crack, split, and bleed are at best an inconvenience and at worst can be painful and can affect self-esteem. Nail problems are a common concern for people, especially women. Research shows that up to 50% of people have brittle nails.1
A range of nutrients are often prescribed for nail health, and many formulas have been developed to improve nail health, usually in combination with ingredients purported to aid the strength and vitality of the skin and hair. So, are these supplements and formulas effective?
Causes of brittle nails
Nail brittleness can be caused by physical trauma to the nailbed, repeated wetting and drying, repeated exposure to detergents, and solvents (such as nail polish remover)
Some medical conditions can also cause brittle nails: hypothyroidism (low thyroid function), Raynaud’s disease, chronic lung conditions, skin diseases such as psoriasis, Sjogren’s syndrome and more. Because of these possibilities, it is always prudent to see your doctor to exclude any possible nasties, and if seeking secondary care for any sign, symptom or disorder (naturopathy, nutrition etc.), seek the advice of a properly qualified, registered practitioner.
Many nutrients play a role in preserving nail health and a relative deficiency in calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, essential amino acids, essential fatty acids, vitamin c, e and the b vitamins and many others could be contributing to poor nail health. That’s why the first step in improving the health of ANY tissue, organ or system in the body is to eat a better diet overall, which includes lots of nutrient-dense whole foods, quality protein sources, plenty of healthy fats (like flax oil, hemp oil, olive oil, coconut oil, olive oil, butter and ghee). This helps to ensure nutrient repletion, so that the systems of the body, which are all interrelated, can receive the various cofactors of metabolism, storage, and structures that they require to be optimally healthy.
Supplementation to help improve nail health should also be based on the principle of nutrient-repletion. So, a quality multi-nutrient containing supportive amounts of the major vitamins and minerals, along with secondary nutrients, preferably from wholefood matrices is the first step.
Other supplements might help to support nail health too. However, many supplements have little or no evidence for their use and there is a large variation in the quality and efficacy of supplements sold to support nail health.2
Supplementation with B vitamin biotin is likely to improve nail health for those with weak nails,3 and in a pilot study performed in Switzerland, the nail-plate thickness was increased by 25% with biotin supplementation.4 A recent review of the evidence concluded that “Oral biotin has been used to treat several nail conditions with promising results”.5
Silica is commonly used in nail formulas. In a study of supplemental silica, the brittleness of nails was significantly improved after 20 weeks of orthosilicic acid supplementation vs placebo.6 Silica though can be poorly absorbed, with different forms of silica varying in absorption rates between ~1% and greater than 60%.7, 8 Several whole food sources (such as alcohol-free beer and green beans) have been demonstrated to have absorption rates equal or superior to the ‘gold standard’ of silica supplementation orthosilicic acid.7, 8
Improve your overall nutrient density
- Eat 6+ serves of vegetables per day
- Don’t be afraid of fat! Healthy fats provide essential fatty acids that are important for nail health and also aid the uptake of many of the micronutrients, especially the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K
- Include a protein source at all meals. This doesn’t need to be a lot, just have some meat, fish, eggs, sprouted lentils, nuts or seeds or use a quality protein powder (such as Clean Lean Protein)
Include a quality multi-nutrient supplement
- Provides the best forms of the essential vitamins and minerals
- Includes wholefood ingredients to support a secondary nutrient matrix
- Incorporates biotin and silica9
- Make sure that the product you use also includes the best forms of other vitamins and minerals (such as methylated folate—L5MTHF). You don’t want to have healthy nails at the expense of the rest of your body!
Nuzest Good Green Vitality contains an effective dose of biotin, wholefood derived silica from Lithothamnion calcareum (red marine algae), and a full array of essential and secondary nutrients, adaptogenic herbs, and berry, fruit, and vegetable extracts to support nail and overall health.
- Gequelim GC, Kubota CY, Sanches S, Dranka D, Mejia MM, Sumiya FM, et al. Perception of brittle nails in dermatologic patients: a cross-sectional study. Anais Brasileiros de Dermatologia. 2013;88(6):1022-5.
- Perez-Sanchez AC, Burns EK, Perez VM, Tantry EK, Prabhu S, Katta R. Safety Concerns of Skin, Hair and Nail Supplements in Retail Stores. Cureus. 2020;12(7):e9477-e.
- Floersheim GL. [Treatment of brittle fingernails with biotin]. Zeitschrift fur Hautkrankheiten. 1989;64(1):41-8.
- Hochman LG, Scher RK, Meyerson MS. Brittle nails: response to daily biotin supplementation. Cutis. 1993;51(4):303-5.
- Lipner SR, Scher RK. Biotin for the treatment of nail disease: what is the evidence? Journal of Dermatological Treatment. 2018;29(4):411-4.
- Barel A, Calomme M, Timchenko A, Paepe KD, Demeester N, Rogiers V, et al. Effect of oral intake of choline-stabilized orthosilicic acid on skin, nails and hair in women with photodamaged skin. Archives of Dermatological Research. 2005;297(4):147-53.
- Araújo LAd, Addor F, Campos PMBGM. Use of silicon for skin and hair care: an approach of chemical forms available and efficacy. Anais Brasileiros de Dermatologia. 2016;91:331-5.
- Sripanyakorn S, Jugdaohsingh R, Dissayabutr W, Anderson SHC, Thompson RPH, Powell JJ. The comparative absorption of silicon from different foods and food supplements. British Journal of Nutrition. 2009;102(06):825-34.
- Scheinfeld N, Dahdah MJ, Scher R. Vitamins and minerals: their role in nail health and disease. J Drugs Dermatol. 2007;6(8):782-7.
The information provided in this article is intended for educational purposes only and is general advice. It should not, nor is it intended to be, relied on as a substitute for individual medical advice or care. If the contents of this, or any other of the blogs in this series raises any concerns or questions regarding your health, please consult a qualified healthcare practitioner.