A set of natural-looking nails are something most women dream of...and today we"re going to help you make this dream a reality!

Learning how to grow your nails goes way beyond polishes and filing. The nail is a complex thing and in order for it togrow and strengthen, it must be cared for and nourished correctly.

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Editor"s Note: This post was originally posted in August 2016 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness in January 2019.

What are the parts of a nail?

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Knowledge equals power and nails are no different. A better understanding ofthe different parts of your nail means a better understanding of what they require to grow and long and strong.

Your nail might look like one solid sheet, but it"s actually made up of several different parts and layers. The layers are made of a protein called Keratin, which is also a component of hair and skin. The half-moon at the base of your nail is called the Lunula, and the slither of white that lines the top of your nail is the free edge.

We"ll discuss the matrix and cuticle in more detail later on.

How do nails grow?

Nail growth isn"t as simple as you"d expect. The part of the nail visible to the human eye is actually dead. The section at the base of the nail, the matrix, is the only area which contains living cells.

Nails grow from the matrix, where new cells are produced. As new ones form, they push old ones along, increasing the length of our nail.

Oncethese living cells lose contact with the root, they die, which is why we feel no pain when cutting or trimming our nails.

Growing your nails requires learning how to take care of both the matrix andthe nail bed.

How to grow your nails faster

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You won"t get long, strong nails overnight!

There has been much speculation in the past over just what encourages our nails to grow at a set rate. Theories include:

Usage - how often we use ourbody partscould also explain why our fingernails grow fasterthan our toenails.

While more active fingers, a higher metabolism and avoiding injury may indeed contribute to longer nails, they"re not very reliable or realistic methods of growing yourself a set of fabulous fingernails. It"s time to find out what you can do to improve your nail healthand get the nails you"ve always dreamed of.

Pick the right emery board

Regular filing is essential to keep nails strong, prevent tears, and promote growth.

An ideal emery board shouldn"t be too rough, as this can lead to small fissures and cracks that cause your nail to tear. Instead, go for something semi-smooth that can be used to gently and slowly file your nail down into the desired shape.

Avoid chemicals

Have you noticed that your nails look almost opaque after cleaning the house? The chemicals in the majority of cleaning products will have an adverse effect on the strength of your nails, causing dryness and damage - just as they would the skin.

Wearing a pair of rubber gloves is an easy way to prevent this and help you on your quest to grow long nails.

Don"t cut your cuticles

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Regular maintenance is essential if you"re after fine looking fingernails.

Despite what you may have heard, cutting your cuticlesis nevera good idea.

The cuticle is the layer of skin that covers and protects the matrix (remember, this is where the new nail cells grow from) so it"s important to care for it properly and keep it intact.

By removing it completely, we leave the matrix exposed to germs and bacteria, which can lead to fungal infections - not exactly the modelesque manicure you had in mind!

These infections will lead to weak cells and dimish your hopes of growing long, strong nails.

We"re not done here yet!Keep learning how to get long nails with more great beauty tips below.

Moisturise dry cuticles

Instead of removing your cuticles, focus on caring for them.Without any TLC, they"ll become stiff and may also get stuck to the nail plate, preventing them from doing their job properly.

In order to keep your cuticles supple, matrix protected, and grow healthy new nail cells, you should moisturise your cuticles daily. They should also be gently pushed back on a regular basis - a process most easily carried out after you"ve showered and they have softened.

How to grow your nails faster with supplements

The key to natural nails is natural goodness!

We know that vitamins are good for us, but with regards to nail health, it"s a particular member of the vitamin B family that will really do wonders.

Biotin has been found to increase nail thickness in several studies. A thicker nail means less chance of breakages or splitting so your nails will stay longer...for longer.

If you"re worried you"re not getting enough, why not try taking a daily supplement of 2.5 mg? It"ll help your hair grow too! You can pick tablets up at most health stores and online too.

Don"t use your nails as tools

Are you guilty of turning to your nails when you need to scratch off a stubborn stickeror remove a stuck object?

While your nails may feel strong, the delicate layers are easily damaged! Treating them gently will prevent splitting and flaking and mean you don"t have to get those clippers out.

File your nails correctly

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Avoid damaging your nails.

Remember, your nails are made up of very thin layers, which means they must be treated delicately - that goes for filing too.

Save the sawing back and forth for your woodwork - your nail file should be used in one direction only, with only a small amount of pressure applied to ensure even, gentle filing.

Keep your nails as dry as possible

After a long, hot soak in the bath, you"ll notice that your nails are softer and more flexible. This is OK every now and then, but prolonged or regular exposure to water will weaken your nails and contribute to splitting.

When they do become soft, stay away from arduous tasks for a while until they have regained their prior strength.

Treat hangnails with care

We"ve all been there: a little hangnail we think will tear away easily ends up taking half of our nail off with it, leaving it half the size it was before.Not only does this process shorten your nail, but it will damage the delicate layers it"scomposed of too.

We know it can be tempting to pull these annoying tears straight off, but you"ll do much more damage than good in the process.

If you"re committed to getting long nails, be sure to carry a nail file in your handbag at all times, and you"ll never have to deal with the mess - or pain - of a torn hangnail again.

Avoid nail polish

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They may look pretty, but they won"t do nails any good if overused!

There"s quite a lot of controversy regarding whether a layer of protective nail varnish is beneficial or detrimental to nail health.

We know it looks pretty but don"t go overboard with glamming up your nails. The chemicals in polishand nail varnish remover don"t do nails any good, especially if they"re already brittle.

Learn to nourish and look after your nails correctly, and you"ll find they look just as lovelyau-natural.

How to grow your nails fast with food

It may be last but it"s certainly not least. Like most things beauty, diet is probably thebiggest contributing factor when it comes to nail growth.

We can"t stress enough how important a varied, nutritious diet is to overall nail health. Even if you slack off on your nail maintenance, a healthy diet will alwaysprovide the building bricks to start back strong.

Some of the most important nutrients for nail growth and health include:

Protein- keratin, the tough, protective material our nails are made of is a protein, which is why eating enough protein is so important to nail growth. Ensure you get the recommended daily allowance of 0.8g per kilogram of body weight.Fruit and vegetables - fresh produce contains many essential nutrients, including many vitamins and minerals.Magnesium- pumpkin seeds (sigh) and dark chocolate (wahoo!) serve as all-natural anti-stress solutions, preventing things like ridges from appearing on your nail plate.Seafood - prawns and other shellfishcontains heaps of zinc, which is essential in the biological production of theprotein which forms and maintains nails.Biotin - Remember that biotin we were talking about earlier? Well, it can be found in one of our favourite breakfast foods - eggs.

The takeaways

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Eggs contain the magic Biotin vitamin that does wonders for our nails.

The most important things to bear in mind with regards to growing long, strong nails is that they are just as much a part of you as any other body part.

Just as your teeth will rot if you have a poor diet and don"t brush them, your nails will grow weak and grow less if they are not cared for.

If you"re really determined to get gorgeous nails, nourish your body and your nails will be nourished too. Once they lengthen, look after them - it really is that simple!

Q&A

How much do your nails grow in a week?

The average nailgrowsaround 2-3mm a month (so around 0.6mm a week)however, some people find their nails growing at a much faster or slower rate.

Is Vaseline good for nails?

It isthought petroleum jelly such as Vaseline could help benefit the nails by preventing moisture loss and nourishing cuticles, helping them to grow faster.

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Does toothpaste help the nail to grow?

There is no scientific evidence to show that toothpaste can make your nails grow faster. However, some people claim when scrubbed onto nails, itwhitens them to improve their appearance.

I hope my tips help you get the long strong nails you"ve always dreamed of! Do you have any tips and tricks that work for your own nails