Nov 15, 2009

Speed of Fingernail Growth

nail bitingHow fast do fingernails grow and from what does the speed of their growth depend? Certainly good to know, if only for curiosity or so you can adjust the speed with which you bite off your nails. After reading this post you'll know better how fast nails grow and which factors relate with the growth.

The Image shows short-trimmed finger nails with some bite marks. Credit goes to Sue Bailey on Flickr.

Do nails grow faster during stress? Do nails on the feet grow slower? Do nails grow faster if you use nail polish?

I was somehow intrigued by these and other questions and I set out to search and found a great article from the year 1979 in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology. The article is called The Effect of Aging on the Rate of Linear Nail Growth and was written by Norman Orentreich, Jules Markofsky, and Joseph H Vogelman.

The authors propose that nail growth can be used for measurement of aging. Fingernail growth rate can be used to determine age! Turns out it depends mostly on age, but also on biorhythm, season, and circadian rythm.

So how fast do fingernails grow for different ages? The authors measured the nail growth of Caucasian males and females. In the graph below you find several curves:
A - 72 Caucasian males,
B - 185 Caucasian females,
C - One Caucasian male (from a different study),
X - (from yet another study) roughly 1000 people, Japanese and Caucasians by half, of both sexes.

Nails grow with a speed of between a quarter of a centimeter per month to about half a centimeter per month. Growth until around 20 years of age and after then becomes less with age.

Nail growth is greater in males than in females.

It might seem that for Japanese nail growth is less than for Caucasians, however without seeing the data from the other study it is risky to draw this conclusion.

What are the factors that determine or that are related with growth of nails?

See an excerpt from a table the authors compiled:
FasterSlowerNo Effect
Third DigitFirst and fifth digitsDietary supplement
MalesFemalesModerate emotional stress
PregnancyLactationMinor chronic illness
Piano PlayingAgingHeight and weight
HandednessMalnutritionModerate weight change
TypingDecreased CirculationSkin color
Elevated TemperatureLowered TemperatureUse of nail polish and remover

Finger nails grow faster on the toes that you use more, they probably grow faster in summer than in winter.
Moderate stress doesn't seem to have any influence. Painting nails doesn't make them grow faster.

Enjoy. What is your nail growth? Please leave a comment below for questions and suggestions. If you liked this article you might also want to read about handwashing behavior (or: should I take the peanuts?).


  1. My nails never grow it seems,I always chew on them.

    Between a quarter of a centimeter per month is some pretty interesting numbers.

  2. All these nail-chewing piano players must have a terrible speed to keep up.

  3. From the data you present, it would seem that the more we use our fingers and toes, the faster the nails grow.

    Also from your data, it seems that the finger with the fastest nail grow is the middle finger.

    So from the two statements above, we can conclude that the middle finger is the most used finger :) Ah but we already knew that, didn't we? Well, here's the scientific proof!


  4. Everything falls nicely in place to show a connection between use of finger and nail growth. Thanks for pointing that out Gec. Even if not mentioned in the original article, it would also seem that feet nails grow slower (at least if you wear shoes), but that's pure conjecture since it wasn't compared in the original article.

  5. Interesting one, my nails have so fast growth. I should cut it already in 1 week :)

  6. @2012 Doomsday Predictions: Are you a male in the early twenties? If you are that's probably the maximum speed in your life.

  7. I incredible I didn't know the thousands of things associated with nails grow, because my nails grow slowly for that reason I was a little bit sacred so after reading this article I was calm because there's information could help me a lot.

  8. The speed of nail growth is about 3 mm per month. Complete upgrade of the nail plate is about six months. Accelerate the growth of nails following factors: hormonal changes (adolescence, the period before menstruation, pregnancy, spring time), any activity which leads to abrasion of nails - typing on a typewriter, and a habit of constantly biting his nails, hand massage, etc

  9. @Buy viagra: Looks like a good list. Where did you get it?

  10. This is so interesting! I always wondered why my boyfriend had to cut his nails more often then me. Two reasons- he's older, and he's male!

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  14. Interesting post, my nails have so fast growth. I should cut it already in 1 week :)

  15. does anybody know why the fingernails on my left hand grow quicker than the ones on my right

  16. Interesting one, my nails have so fast growth. I should cut it already in 1 week :)

  17. Fingernails apparently have two growth rates, longitudinal and lateral.  Longitudinal is the growth rate requiring trimming of the nails.  In 1999 I cut my left index finger which cut into the nail.  The cut extendedd from the flesh of the finger and into the Lunula, near the lateral center of the nail. The injury resulted in a longitudinal split in the nail that eventually extended to the tip of the nail.
    Now in June of 2012 the longitudnal split in the nail has moved to the right to within about 0.06 inches of the right side of the nail.  The scar or deformity in the Lunula still lines up with the scar in the flesh of the finger.  Thus, in 13 years, the split in the nail has moved just 0.10" to the right.

  18. I am79 yrs. old. A few months ago my fingernails stopped growing! It seemed suddenly??

    1. Take note don't know if true:
      It had been known since the early sixties when a British physician started documenting the rate of growth of his finger nails during his life, that the rate of nail growth is a reliable indicator of your state of health and even of your risk of dying. For example, even when he had a cold his nails would grow more slowly, and, as said doctor observed (a phenomenon that has subsequently been corroborated) some time before his death his nails had stopped growing. As a rule of thumb it may be said that when nails stop growing altogether people will be dead within two years on the average.

  19. Interesting how "Finger nails grow faster on the toes that you use more".

    ;) That aside, great post. Thanks for the info.

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  21. I used to be able to clip my fingernails maybe twice a month at the most, more often once every three weeks. Now, at age 55, I'm finding I have to cut them at least once a week. Drives me nuts that a few days later I have to cut them again.

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