If you ever had a problem with weak nails that split, peel, crack, and break, you know how annoying and uncomfortable it can be and how good periods of healthy nails feel. I’ve been swimming for most of my teenage years and going back to the pool periodically throughout adulthood – which is one of the reasons for my splitting nails. But there are also other reasons for weak nails – from genetics, aging, and underlying health issues to the environment, nutrition, and how you use and treat your nails. There are also ways to prevent or at least minimize nails brittle.
Health Issues That Can Cause Brittle Nails:
- Raynaud’s syndrome is a decreased blood circulation to the fingertips that makes them numb, white and cold, usually as a response to cold and stress. Brittle nails could be a result of a diminished blood flow to your fingers.
- Nutritional deficiencies: Weak nails could be a sign that your body lacks iron, protein, calcium, magnesium, or Vitamin B.
- Hypothyroidism is a disorder where your thyroid doesn’t produce enough of the thyroid hormone, which as a result makes you sweat less, causing drier hair, skin, and nails.
- Anemia is condition where there is a low numbers of red blood cells carrying oxygen to the body tissues. The most common cause of anemia is iron deficiency. Anemia can make nails thinner, prone to split, and even cause spoon nails (nails that are concave in shape).
- Fungal infections: not only can they cause nails to break and crumble, but they will also cause change of color, nail thickness, and could feel itchy, too.
- Psoriasis is a skin disease that causes a rash and dry patches on the skin. Nail psoriasis can cause discoloration, pitting, and weakened nail structure. Psoriatic arthritis, a form of arthritis with skin rash, causes psoriatic arthritis nails whit symptoms such as pitting, detaching from the nail bed, and discoloration.
- Cancer treatment: chemotherapy affects not only hair but also skin and nails – making them dry, weak, thin, and prone to break.
Things You Do That Can Weaken Your Nails:
- Overly wash your hands or use alcohol based sanitizer: both water and alcohol dry out your nails which makes them more prone to break.
- Cleaning without the glows: chemicals used in cleaning products and abrasive cleaners can damage your nails.
- Frequently use nail polish and nail polish remover: both the nail polish and the remover are drying out your nails. You may even notice nails peeling when removing the polish.
- Gel manicure and acrylic nails: removing gel damages the nails, and the entire process of putting on the acrylic nails, from filing the surface down to applying the glue, weakens your nails.
- Too much filing of the nail plate can also cause weakened nails.
Things You Can Do to Keep Your Nails From Breaking and Cracking:
- Moisturize: brittle nails are dry nails, and moisturizing can help, the same way it helps your skin. Try using lotions with lanolin oil (known for its emollient properties) or natural cuticle oils such as jojoba, argan, or avocado.
- Avoid using nail polish of any kind. Try it out for a couple of months focusing on their shape and keeping them nice and shiny by regular moisturizing. Going natural will enable your nails to recover.
- If you do use nail polish, find an acetone-free nail polish remover. Oil-based removers are less harmful and provide hydration instead of drying your nails out.
- Avoid over-washing your hands and overusing hand sanitizer.
- Wear gloves while washing the dishes or cleaning to protect both the skin and nails from chemicals and dryness caused by water.
- Take care of your nutrition and take supplements if you have nutritional deficiency: Biotin is a B-complex vitamin naturally found in eggs, milk, and bananas, which helps with cell growth and is used for hair loss and brittle nails. If you suffer from anemia, consult your doctor to add iron to your supplements. Magnesium is important for protein synthesis and formation of new nails, so try including nuts, legumes, and dark leafy greens into your food regime. Eating enough protein boosts the amount of keratin in your body – which helps to build your hair and nails and make them stronger.
From my personal, life-long experience with brittle nails, what worked for me best was a healthy diet paired with periods of natural nails (without any nail polish, despite my fondness of polished nails) and avoiding drying them out with water and chemicals. If you have any tried and tested methods, please share!