Fingernails are made of many layers of a hard protein called keratin. Your fingernails are an important indicator of your overall health.

Healthy nails should be smooth and hard, free of any dents or grooves, and consistent in color.

If your nails grow slower than average and you’d like them to grow faster, there are several home remedies and grooming techniques that may help.

There is no scientifically proven method for making nails grow faster. But taking good care of your body through proper nutrition and using the following tips to strengthen your nails can help them grow strong and long over time.

1. Take biotin

Biotin is an important type of B vitamin that allows the body to turn food into energy. It’s also highly recommended as a supplement to help boost the strength of hair and nails.

Several human studies suggest that taking a biotin supplement daily can help strengthen nails. Some scientists say a dose of 2.5 milligrams of biotin daily can improve nail strength in just a few weeks. Biotin can be found naturally in:

  • brewer’s yeast
  • cooked eggs
  • sardines
  • nuts and nut butters
  • whole grains
  • soy and other beans
  • cauliflower
  • bananas
  • mushrooms

2. Use nail hardeners (sparingly)

Nail softness makes nails more prone to breaking, which increases the need for nail regrowth. To prevent nails from breaking, experts normally recommend nail hardeners. These are substances that get painted onto nails like a polish and are later removed with nail polish remover.

This is helpful in strengthening nails and preventing breakage in the short-term. However, experts say prolonged use of nail hardeners can sometimes cause nails to become weaker and more prone to breakage.

3. Avoid glue-on nails and toxic polishes

Researchers have found that regular use of glue-on artificial nails can weaken real nails and make them more prone to breaking. The better option is to paint your nails with nail polishes that have little or no toxic chemicals, such as:

  • toluene
  • formaldehyde
  • dibutyl phthalate (DBP)

Look for water-based formulations that indicate they’re toxin-free. Some popular nontoxic nail polish brands include Acquarella and Suncoat.

4. Practice good grooming

Regular nail grooming can also help boost the strength of your nails, encouraging growth and reducing breakage. Some ways to keep your nails well-maintained include:

  • keeping your nails dry and clean, which keeps bacteria from growing beneath them
  • using sharp manicure scissors or clippers to trim your nails straight across, and then using them to round the tips of your nails into a soft curve
  • moisturizing your hands and nails with a lotion, making sure to rub it into your fingernails, especially at the base where the cuticles are located
  • avoiding nail biting or cutting your nails too short

Poor health can cause nails to grow abnormally. Some common nail growth issues include:

  • changes in color
  • changes in thickness or shape
  • separation of the nail from the surrounding skin
  • bleeding
  • swelling or pain around the nails
  • slow-growing nails

Slower growing nails come with age but can also be a sign of illness or nutritional deficiency. They can even be caused by some medications.

Hormones also play a role in driving nail growth. Younger people tend to have faster growing nails than older people, and men and pregnant women tend to experience faster nail growth than others. In healthy adults, average fingernail growth is about 3.5 millimeters per month — about the thickness of a ballpoint pen cap.

Your nails are a reflection of your overall health. It’s important to stick to a healthy diet if you want strong, fast-growing, healthy nails. That involves eating a well-balanced diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean sources of proteins, an adequate amount of carbohydrates, and plenty of healthy fats.

However, sometimes nails need a little help getting healthier and stronger. That’s where home remedies can help. Remember, you can’t get your nails to magically grow faster. But if you take care of them, they’ll grow stronger and last longer, making them less prone to breakage.