Nail Growth

Nail Growth – A Guide To The Growth Of The Nail

Nail growth can be affected by age, ill health, diet and damage but on average it takes between five and six months to grow from the matrix to the free edge at a rate of around 3-5mm per month.  The nail grows more quickly in summer rather than winter, in younger people rather than older, on hands rather than feet and during pregnancy.  Below are the factors that affect nail growth specifically:-

Factors That Affect Nail Growth


During inadequate states of nutrition, the rate of nail growth may be slower and a study has suggested that a lack of zinc may produce Beau’s Lines.  Dietary deficiency, in particular lack of fats, may result in dry nails.  If a person is following a no fat or low fat diet to lose weight this will cause a dry skin condition and the nails will also be affected as they require a certain amount of fat for the layers of the nail plate to bond together.  The small amount of fat that is obtained from natural sources will be required by the body for essential functions, such as the uptake of fat-soluble vitamins.  A lack of fat can also cause brittle and dehydrated nails as it is necessary to maintain flexibility and prevent breakage.


It has been proven that nails grow more quickly in summer rather than winter.  Cold weather conditions will dehydrate the skin and nails if they are not well protected.  Also, a noticeable increase in nail growth can be seen when spending time in a warmer climate.  As natural sunshine is beneficial to most people in small doses, one of its advantageous effects on the nails is that it stimulates chemical activity in the skin and increases cellular regeneration.  As the nails are an appendage to the skin this means that cellular increase in the nails will also take place.


The continuous growth of the nails throughout life proceeds at a slower pace in old age.  The growth from the base of the nail to the free edge is rapid in small children (6 to 8 weeks) but in normal adults varies between 0.5 and 1.2 mm per week.  A study showed that growth rate was most significantly related to ageing – whilst the nails grew more slowly in later decades, they were thicker, thus in old people with normal digital blood supply, the same unit mass of nail is probably formed each day.


During illness, growth is usually slowed, though in the case of psoriasis nail growth is faster due to an increased rate of cell division.  Because significant growth may be seen each day, a few days of serious illness gives rise to one of the most helpful of clinical signs in the nails – the growth arrest line, known as Beau’s Lines.  Also, a study confirmed that immobility can slow down the rate of nail growth and there are certain conditions, e.g. yellow nail syndrome, that can lead to very slow growth.


Damage to the nail plate will grow out if the matrix remains undamaged.  If, however, there is damage to the matrix, then a deformed nail will grow – the extent of deformity will be relative to the extent of the damage.  Some studies have also shown that trauma stimulates growth – the nails of the right hand grow faster in right-handed people, the dominant hand is used more often, thus being subject to more minor trauma.