• Wed, Apr 18 2012

Why Your Hair And Nails Don’t Grow (And How To Fix It)

strong hair and nails

During a recent Blisstree editorial meeting, the staff got to talking about our hair and nails. Chiefly, whether or not we believed that anything that we could purchase) could actually, as rumored, speed our slow hair and nail growth. We’d all heard about the miracles of pre-natal vitamins and an unattainably stress-free existence, but was any of it true? Is there actually anything you can take or eat do to get long, strong nails and hair, or are some of us (like me) doomed to brittle, pathetic nails for life?

Instead of relying on the Internet to solve our questions, I asked Dr. Jennifer Peterson, a board-certified and widely-published dermatologist with experience in dermatological procedures, cosmetic surgery, and skin care treatments. She explained some of the basics of hair and nails, which are basically just dead protein deposits being pushed out of the skin, and are impacted by similar environmental and genetic factors.

“Individual hairs follow a variety of growing and resting cycles,” she told me, and added that family history and genetics do play a part–but they don’t tell the whole story. Sure, some ladies may be blessed with strands and talons that grow at the speed of light, but even if you haven’t been gifted in that way, you can, to some extent, speed their growth; there are a lot of diet and lifestyle factors, too.

“One of the most common types of hair loss is known as telogen effluvium,” says Dr. Peterson, “which is caused by stress, medications, crash diets, surgery, pregnancy, anemia, thyroid disease, and high fevers. In this condition a larger proportion of hairs change from a growing cycle to a resting cycle, so hair loss ensues. In the majority of these cases, once the inciting event is corrected the hairs will reenter their growth phase, but this can be a slow process taking months to recycle.”

Which means that even if you’re healthy and getting enough protein and vitamins now, if you, say, went through a stressful period three months ago, you may still be experiencing thin hair and brittle nails as a result. But this is also a positive sign–if you can slow your hair and nail growth with actions, there must be equal and opposite reactions which can help it pick up the pace.

Some factors–like aging, pregnancy, thyroid issues, and hormonal changes–that impact hair and nail growth which you can’t easily control. But there are some subtle changes you can make to fix your slow-growing bits:

Image: Piotr Marcinski via Shutterstock

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  • esperanza

    I am seriously thinking about trying the vinegar and baking soda. How would that work though? making it into a paste?

  • Elizabeth Nolan Brown

    I am so glad you posted this, Hanna. But I’d like it better if you’d told me there was some magic way to make my (similarly-stilted) hair grow. I SWEAR TO GOD IT’S BEEN THE SAME LENGTH FOR 3 YEARS (and I do not have a nutritional deficiency or anemia, and I already take biotin … sigh …). Maybe I will have to try going shampoo-less.

  • winsten

    thank you for this information. i encounter a stressful moment three months ago. now i have started taking care of myself. can i regain my thin hair,hair fall?