Regrowing The Nail Bed

The nail bed is the skin to which the nail plate is attached. The rest of the nail plate grows "free", and looks white. If you bite or pick at your nails, you might have shortened the nail bed. Fortunately there is a way to grow it back.

The nail bed is a bit flexible -- have you ever cleaned the dirt from below your nails with a toothpick only to notice that you have changed the shape of the line between the white and the flesh coloured part of the nail plate? This is because you have just pushed back the hyponychium -- the soft pinkish tissue that seals the nail to the nail bed and prevents pathogens from entering (it looks like this). Apparently some people have a nail bed that is too long!

A while back I chanced upon a blog post (which I cannot find anymore) where a woman and her guy regrow their nail beds. It was amazing to see how the nails grew out and extended the nail bed; she posted photos documenting how the hyponychium grew back. I was fascinated and decided to let my nail bed regenerate itself.

Another nail issue of mine is the side of the nail -- the nail bed was not attached on the sides, which means you could see the white free edge on the sides as well (instead of the white free edge looking like a half moon, it looked like an inverted U). The lateral nail fold (the skin that embraces the nail bed from both sides) had been pushed away and did not seal round the nail.

How to grow out your nail bed

  • Make sure you don't have an infection or a fungus under your nail. If your nails look weird, it might be a good idea to show them to a doctor.
  • Don't bite your nails. If you have problems with picking your nails, these wishing rings gave me a better way to fidget. 
  • Only use a soft nail brush to clean under your nails. No toothpicks or orange-wood sticks. I found that as the hyponichium regrows, dirt doesn't get stuck too deep under my nails anyway. I got myself a pretty wooden nail brush in travel size that doesn't look ugly on the sink.
  • For the duration of the nail bed recovery, wash your scalp with your fingertips, don't scratch with your nails. Avoid any dirt getting under there.
  • Keep the nails short, but not too short (at least 1mm of free edge). Too long nails might get pushed away from the nail bed when you do stuff.
  • Don't use your nails as tools. Don't scratch off labels, avoid drumming your fingernails on the table.
  • Avoid harsh chemicals. Wear gloves if necessary.
  • File the nails instead of cutting; use a glass or a ruby nail file. Or at least cut the nails with sharp scissors after a shower when they are soft. This is because cutting the nails squashes and bends them which can disturb the nail bed.
  • Painting the nails will keep you from obsessing about what's underneath them. If you are busy/low-maintenance, nude tones show less wear and don't need to be redone so often.
  • Push back the cuticles as little as possible, to allow the nails to fully recover. Hang nails can be gently cut with baby nail clippers.
  • Avoid nail products with formaldehyde. If your nails are the least bit porous it seeps through the nail plate into the nail bed and can cause onycholysis (separation of the nail plate from the nail bed).
  • If you are working on your toenails, make sure that your shoes fit well. Many shoes are too narrow in the front and create pressure on the toes and nails (also a cause of bunions).
  • Also constant wearing of shoes from non-breathable materials causes the feet to sweat which makes it easier for the nail plate to unglue itself from the nail bed.

If you follow this for a couple of weeks you'll see the nail growing out and "dragging" the nail bed with it. Your mileage may vary, the more you have mistreated your nails in the past, the more they will heal. My changes were not so dramatic, but I'm very happy with them. I didn't think to take before photos, but you can admire the nail metamorphose of Ewalucja. Now I'm working on my toenails, the small on is tiny and now I realised it's due to picking on it constantly.

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