Fingernails can sometimes pose a mystery. They may develop an odd appearance, but in most cases dermatologists will not get particularly excited about it. This reader was flummoxed by fingernails that refused to grow.
What to Do for Fingernails That Don’t Grow?
Q. My fingernails just won’t grow! I tried taking biotin for more than a year, to no avail. The dermatologist had no suggestions.
I am on propranolol, verapamil, sulfasalazine, Mobic, omeprazole, fish oil, Caltrate with D and Ocuvite. I have tried many advertised nail lacquers and base coats. Can you help me at all?
A. We are not sure. It is possible that one or more of your medications is interfering with nail growth, but that reaction has not been noted in the prescribing information for any of them.
It may also be that your fingernails are reflecting a more general health problem, such as a thyroid imbalance or psoriasis. Since the dermatologist did not have any ideas about this, you may wish to ask your primary care practitioner to check on these possibilities.
You may find it helpful to moisturize your nails with almond oil or a cuticle cream. That can sometimes keep them from splitting or tearing.
You might also want to try taking the supplement MSM, methylsulfonylmethane. This natural product is frequently used to ease joint pain, but some readers have reported that it can be helpful in strengthening nails and preventing splitting.
You’ll learn more about moisturizing and using MSM in the Guide to Hair and Nail Care we are sending you.
MSM is a component of a novel nail lacquer being developed by a Swiss firm, Polichem. Research suggests that this product, which also contains hydroxypropyl-chitosan and the herb Equisetum arvense (horsetail), can prevent splitting and make nails less brittle (Journal of Dermatology and Clinical Research, online Feb. 12, 2014).
Unfortunately, it does not yet appear to be commercially available. If anyone finds it has been brought to market, or has a helpful experience to report with another topical MSM product, please feel free to report it in the comments below.