Thicker Nails: Can I Make My Nails Thicker?
by Doug Schoon and Ana Seidel
ASK DOUG: Thicker Nails
This article is a little different, since I’m the one asking Doug the question. I’ve been privileged to become friends with Doug and I ask him a lot of questions so I can write better articles for you.
This topic of thicker nails is really important since you’ve read in a lot of my articles that the nail plate has approximately 100 layers.
New information has been discovered about the structure of the nail plate. Unfortunately, it’s not for the better.
Doug, in your book, Nail Structure and Product Chemistry, you wrote that the nail plate has about 100 layers of keratin. Is this still true? Is it possible to have thicker nails? ~Ana
Ana, it’s kind of a hard question. That’s why I don’t talk in terms of absolute numbers anymore.
The 100 layers reference is from my last book published in 1995. I don’t teach that now and it won’t be in my new book.
A few years ago I read a paper that contradicts this information, so I modify what I say now.
One hundred was a rounded off number for a thick, intact nail. At the time no one in the literature could agree on a number, but most said around 80-90, some up to 150.
This information was mostly from microscopic examination by dermatologists and others counting the nail layers. It’s hard to do accurately in a cut cross-section of the nail plate.
You can see from the pictures on the right that it can be very difficult to count the layers accurately.
More sophisticated testing is needed, because this is still in question.
In the last few years I recall reading a paper from a surgeon studying the anatomical structure of the matrix.
He determined there are only about 30 rows of stem cells and can only produce about 30 cell layers. All nail cells come from those 30ish layers of stem cells.
That’s pretty compelling information, if correct. I don’t think anyone really knows and I think there is a pretty wide range from the thinnest fingernail to the thickest toenail.
I now say that over-filing removes the top 10% or more of the nail plate. That’s easier to understand.
I’ve always been tempted to develop some methods to know for sure, but I’d have to do specialized testing with laboratories I work with, so it would be pretty expensive. I hope that helps clarify things. ~Doug Schoon
When we thought the nail plate had 100 layers, personally buffing down your ridges and over-filing by nail technicians didn’t seem dangerous.
If our nail plate is about 30 layers, it becomes even more important to keep your ridges. They are the thickest portions of the nail plate.
Also, nail enhancement products have improved significantly over the last 15 years.
When working with your nail tech, make sure that they only buff the shine before applying the gel or acrylic. Heavy filing to the nail plate is no longer necessary.
Inquire if your nail professional is taking continuing education courses from the product manufacturers. This helps them know the best practices with the products they are using.
As you can tell by now, it’s not possible to create naturally thicker nails. The good news is that polish can add temporary thickness and strength. It also protects your nails from water absorption.
So if anyone tells you that polish is bad for your nails, just send them to this website. Polish is a very good thing.
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