How fast do nails grow?

By: Susan Sentry  | 

Personal Hygiene ­Image Gallery Your nails grow faster as a child than as an adult. See more personal hygiene pictures.
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A broken fingernail can seem to take forever to grow out if you're an adult. Children and young teens are the ones who get a lucky break -- their nails heal and grow back much faster. In fact, many parents can attest to cutting a squirming child's nails almost every other day. When it comes to nail growth, age and health play an important role.

Nails are made of a protein called keratin, and their growth is affected by several different factors, including age and health. Children's nails grow quickly until puberty, when growth slows to 50 percent of its previous rate [source: Robb-Nicholson]. Pregnant women also experience accelerated nail growth -- hormones boost metabolism and increase circulation, which causes nails and hair to grow more quickly. On the other hand, illnesses and certain drugs, such as chemotherapy, can slow nail growth or even cause nails to fall off [source: Murkoff].

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Fingernails grow about three to four times faster than toenails. The nails on your dominant hand grow faster than those on your other hand, and nails grow faster on your longest fingers as well. Fingernails also grow more quickly in the summer than in the winter -- scientists aren't sure why, but one theory is that nails that are used more often and exposed to the elements grow faster [source: Binghamton University].

So how fast do the average adult's nails grow? The simple answer is that fingernails grow about one-tenth of an inch (3 millimeters) a month. If you lose a fingernail, it will take four to six months to regrow completely. Toenails take a year to a year and a half to grow from cuticle to tip [source: Robb-Nicholson]. If you notice a change in your nails or their growth rate, see your doctor.

For more information on nails and how they grow, see the links on the following page.

Originally Published: Aug 20, 2009

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Nail Growth FAQ

How fast do nails grow in a week?
On average, fingernails grow at a rate of 0.7 millimeters every week - though they grow faster during warmer months. Toenails grow back more slowly at an average rate of around 0.4 mm per week.
Is nail growth a sign of good health?
Many consider fingernails a window to a person’s health, as their growth is directly affected by a number of factors, including age and health.
Do nail plates grow back?
Once the nail separates from the nail bed, it will not reattach. A fingernail takes around four to six months to regrow completely while toenails take a year to a year and a half to grow back from cuticle to tip.
What are the parts of nails?
Nails are made up of six parts: the nail plate, nail folds, nail bed, lunula, cuticle, and matrix.
How do you encourage nail growth?
Take care of your overall health, drink lots of water, rub your nail plates and cuticles in oil regularly, and consider taking a daily vitamin that targets nail and hair growth.

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Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • Binghamton University Newsroom. "Ask a Scientist." 10/5/05 (Accessed 10/6/09) http://www2.binghamton.edu/news/the-newsroom/ask-a-scientist/index.html?date=2005-10-05
  • Murkoff, Heidi, Sharon Mazel and Charles J. Lockwood. "What to Expect When You're Expecting." 2008 (Accessed 10/6/09) http://books.google.com/books?id=ltNujjs_EJEC&pg=PA242&dq=how+fast+do+nails+grow&lr=&ei=aM_LSvviJqW2NKPgmbIK&client=firefox-a#v=onepage&q=how%20fast%20do%20nails%20grow&f=false
  • Robb-Nicholson, Celeste. "Does having ridged and split fingernails mean I'm unhealthy?" HealthBeat. 1/22/08 (Accessed 10/6/09) http://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/HEALTHbeat_012208.htm#art3