Steven Chang, MD

Quirky Questions:

Does biting my fingernails cause them to grow faster?

Fingernail Biting

I think this question is often asked out of sheer curiosity, since I doubt that most people who bite their nails do so with the intent of having them grow faster. You’ve probably noticed that sometimes your nails seem to grow faster or slower at different stages of life. This isn’t a figment of your imagination!

Factors That Affect Nail Growth

Nail growth rates can be affected by a variety of factors, including age. Medications, diseases, nutritional status, and injuries can all cause your nails to grow and look differently. Even temperature changes and genetics may play a role in the appearance and growth rate of your nails. Nails tend to grow more quickly in the summer than in the winter, presumably due to increased circulation at the fingertips.

Fingernails–especially on your dominant hand–also grow faster than toenails. Researchers believe this may be due, in part, to the additional stimulation that the nail beds on your dominant hand endure during everyday activities. Similarly, biting your nails might increase the rate of nail growth. While it’s not clear exactly how this occurs, researchers theorize that the physical manipulation of a nail through biting stimulates the growth plate of each finger to be more metabolically active, leading to speedier nail formation.

Is Nail Biting Harmful?

Aside from the aesthetic considerations, the act of nail biting doesn’t necessarily confer any adverse health issues to the nail itself. However, it can contribute to infections in the surrounding areas of skin and nail bed. An infection of the nail bed–a condition called paronychia–may require a visit to your doctor. Nail biting can also increase the likelihood that you’ll develop a common infection, such as a cold, since it facilitates the transfer of bacteria from your hands to your mouth and nose. In rare instances, habitual and compulsive nail biting, which is known as onychophagia, may be a sign of underlying anxiety, stress, or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

If you have a nail-biting issue that is adversely affecting your life, speak with your doctor about the problem and the best ways to deal with it.

References:
Gibson, Lawrence E. Nail biting: Does it cause long-term damage? http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/nail-biting/AN01144. Mayo Clinic. Accessed Mar. 12, 2012.

Nails. American Academy of Dermatology. http://www.aad.org/media-resources/stats-and-facts/prevention-and-care/nails/nails. Accessed Mar. 12, 2012.

Related Posts:

comments:

  1. Walt says:

    Hello, after reading your comments on nail biting, you didn’t actually answer the question. You provide a lot of good information but you didn’t actually answer the question at hand; does nail biting cause the nail to grow faster? I would like the answer to this myself because my granddaughter constantly bites her nails and her cuticals are bulged and are halfway down her nail. I know that when I take a good vitamin, my nails will grow faster, resulting in my cuticals being pulled more so down my nail and then I get a lot more hangnails and I have to push them back more often. So because I have experienced this brings me to my question of does biting ur nails cause them to grow faster? I await ur answer, thank you for your time. Walt

    • Steven Chang, MD says:

      Hi Walt – thanks so much for your question! In the second paragraph under the section heading, “Factors That Affect Nail Growth,” I alluded to the fact that biting your nails may increase the rate of fingernail growth. We’re not entirely certain why this occurs, or if it happens in all individuals who bite their nails. Some researchers theorize that the act of biting one’s fingernails stimulates the growth plates of the fingers, causing them to produce nails at a slightly quicker rate.

Add your comments...