Tiny as they are, our nails are a mirror of our health at large. Indeed, fast-growing, strong, unbreakable nails can often be a sign that we're meeting our general nutritional requirements. Plus, it's just plain nice to have nails that grow quickly and don't break every two seconds. Brittle, soft, and thin nails affect an alarming percentage of us, though. One in five people has weak nails, studies show. Causes include a wide range of conditions, from psoriasis to hyperthyroidism to anemia, so if you have super-weak nails (maybe that are always peeling or even become detached from the nail bed), definitely consult your dermatologist to see what might be up.
In an effort to get strong nails and find the most no-nonsense, to-the-point nail growth advice, we went straight to an expert whose job it is to make sure her clients have the healthiest, most beautiful nails in the world: celebrity manicurist Michelle Saunders. With a client list including Kate Beckinsale, Emily Blunt, Mandy Moore, and other celebs whose fingertips are always on point, Saunders has years of experience helping celebrities rehab their nails so they always look stunning on red carpets and in on-screen close-ups. We asked Saunders to reveal her essential nail growth tips and products. "This is a question I get asked most," she responded. "My answer may surprise you." Keep scrolling to find this celebrity manicurist's favorite nail growth products!
But first, what exactly makes a healthy nail? "Nails are made up of layers and layers of a protein called keratin," Saunders explains. "It's the same protein found in hair that gives it strength and flexibility." Some people are naturally #blessed with more keratin than others (these lucky ducks will have stronger nails, as well as thicker hair). Some people have keratin deficiency. "A deficiency looks like dull, lifeless hair and dry, brittle nails," says Saunders.
It's possible to increase your keratin naturally. You can do this "by eating a diet rich in keratin like kale, broccoli, fish, onions, and garlic," says Saunders, adding, "Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B12 are vital in the health of nails." Consider adding an omega and/or B12 supplement to your diet. Our editors approve of the ones below!
Topical products can also strengthen your nails. "Adding oils to your nails is also very important to rehydrate them, which helps with flexibility so nails peel less," Saunders explains. Her favorite nail moisturizer? Essie's $9 Apricot Cuticle Oil, which she recommends massaging into the nails and cuticles. "Even though you may have polish on, the oils still penetrate the nails, so don't skip this vital beauty step," she says.
Another of Saunders's favorite nail-strengthening tips? Choosing the right base coat. "For base coats, I recommend products that are gentler on the nails, for they may already be dry and brittle," she says. "Applying one coat of Essie's Millionails ($10) weekly can help rebuild a weak nail bed. Wear it alone, underneath, or on top of polish."