The influx of cold weather, as well as an increase in hand-washing, may contribute to impaired nail health, leaving many searching for a cure-all to protect and repair damaged nails. But would you ever imagine that miracle product being—wait for it—toothpaste? YouTubers and TikTokers have been lauding the merits of the minty goo, claiming that applying it to your entire nail and letting it sit for a few minutes before wiping off will help give nails better clarity, and, what's more, help them grow at a speedy rate. If this sounds too good to be true, we're with you, so we asked medical experts whether there's any truth behind using toothpaste for longer, healthier nails.
Meet the Expert
- Marcela Correa is a medical pedicurist and owner of Medi Pedi NYC.
- Marisa Garshick, MD is a board-certified cosmetic and medical dermatologist in New York City.
- Blair Murphy-Rose, MD is a New York board-certified cosmetic and medical dermatologist.
Is Toothpaste Good for Your Nails?
None of our experts recommend using toothpaste on your nails to promote growth, as the research findings to support this claim just aren't there. However, anecdotally, it may help improve the overall appearance. "It is thought that whitening toothpaste may help to whiten nails and eliminate surface stains," says Garshick. She specifically points to formulas with baking soda as a potential tool for removing stains on nails. "Baking soda has natural whitening properties," she says. "When a toothpaste containing baking-soda is used on the nails it may help to whiten them the way it can whiten teeth."
Correa says people also use toothpaste "to remove stubborn nail polish residue that might be left behind after using the acetone, especially around the cuticle area." She adds that the hydrogen peroxide found in whitening toothpaste "has a recognized bleaching effect."
How to Use Toothpaste for Shiny Nails
When it comes to using toothpaste on nails as a clarifying agent, you want to use it correctly. "Some people apply it and leave it on for 10 to 15 minutes," says Garshick. "Then rinse it off under warm water with a toothbrush or nail brush to help eliminate stains."
It's important to read labels to make sure toothpaste ingredients won't trigger skin inflammation or irritation. "People who have underlying skin sensitivity or allergies should read the ingredients carefully before attempting a toothpaste DIY for nails," says Correa.
For a friendlier alternative, topical use of vitamin E has been reported to treat a specific condition known as "yellow nail syndrome." Garshick says vitamin E, in comparison with toothpaste, has many more benefits for overall nail health, which makes it a better option.
Dermatologist-Approved Diet Tips for Nail Growth
When it comes to optimal nail health, toothpaste isn't a panacea. In fact, there are several preferred doctor recommended tips to keep nails looking fresh and clean. Diet is a crucial factor, and our experts suggest making sure you're eating nutrient-dense foods packed with antioxidants, iron, and biotin. "Many vitamins and minerals are important for nail health. To improve your nail health from the inside, maintaining a well-balanced diet is critical," says Murphy-Rose. "Among others, nails require good sources of protein, calcium and vitamin D, iron, B-complex vitamins, and antioxidants." A diet rich in iron includes cereals that are iron-fortified, spinach, various lean red meats, chicken and fish, tofu, and beans.
Murphy-Rose suggests adding additional sources of lean protein and leafy greens to your diet to amp up nail health, "as well as antioxidant-rich foods like blueberries, broccoli and bell peppers." You can also supplement your diet with vitamins, says Murphy-Rose, who favors calcium and vitamin D for healthy, shiny nails. "I personally notice a huge improvement in nail strength and nail growth when I take Vitafusion Calcium + Vitamin D gummy vitamins every day for a few weeks. Any similar well-absorbed vitamin supplement should help."
Another note on biotin: One of the B-vitamins, it is claimed to help prevent brittle nails. Garshick notes that biotin has been shown in small studies to "improve nail thickness, firmness, and hardness." In general, she recommends at least 2.5 mg daily, but stresses the importance of knowing that it can take time to see improvement. Naturally, biotin can be found in fish, eggs, meat, and dairy products, she explains.
Please note that our experts recommend seeking the advice of a board-certified dermatologist to determine how much additional supplementation is needed for optimal results.
Dermatologist-Approved Products for Nail Growth
Even if you're eating a nutrient-rich diet, Garshick suggests applying a protective balm as part of your daily routine. "It is important to not just moisturize your hands, but also your nails, so for those with weak, brittle nails, I suggest applying Aquaphor or Vaseline to the nail plate."
If your nail damage is severe, you might be a candidate for prescription treatment. "For those who are bothered by their nails, it is best to speak with a board-certified dermatologist for further evaluation and possible laboratory tests to see if anything may be contributing to any nail changes," says Garshick. "There is also a prescription nail lacquer available known as Genadur which is an FDA-approved treatment for fragile and brittle nails."
However, there are a ton of highly effective over-the-counter nail treatments to protect, hydrate, strengthen, and grow nails. Below, find a dermatologist-approved list of top nail treatments.
Dr.'s Remedy is the only brand of polish and nail products used by Correa in her spa for its efficacious results. The active ingredient in this hydrating nail treatment is Pentavitin meant to keep nails and skin hydrated. Keeping the nails hydrated is essential.
"In my opinion, nothing beats a daily coat of Nailtiques Nail Protein Formula 2 or 2 Plus," says Murphy-Rose. "It works like a dream. However, an issue for some potential users will be that it is formulated with formaldehyde." According to the FDA, "Formaldehyde bonds with the keratin that occurs naturally in the nails, making the nails harder."
Another one of Murphy-Rose's favorite nail strengthening treatments includes the formaldehyde-free hardening formula from ella + mila Nail Care. The active ingredient here is vitamin E, which Garshick praises as a godsend to nail care as it fights free radical damage to aid in healing.
Garshick is a fan of Sally Hansen's vitamin E treatment as vitamin E has been indicated as a potential remedy against peeling, cracked, and yellowing nails.
A barrier balm is essential protection for the nail bed, according to our experts, who note that a healthy cuticle and nail bed is essential for long, healthy, and bright nails. This one contains vitamin E, rose hip seed oil, and bisabolol, all essential oils meant to seal in moisture.
UP NEXT: How to Make Your Own DIY Nail Strengthener From Common Kitchen Staples.
Vignes S, Baran R. Yellow nail syndrome: a review. Orphanet J Rare Dis. 2017;12(1):42.
Lipner SR, Scher RK. Biotin for the Treatment of Nail Disease: What Is the Evidence? J Dermatolog Treat. 2018;29(4):411-414. doi:10.1080/09546634.2017.1395799
U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Nail Care Products. Updated August 24, 2020.