Dry, Brittle Nails - Why It Happens & What You Can Do About It

Your nails dry out as you age, losing the natural oils which act as a glue to hold the nail layers together. Exposing your hands to harsh soaps, cleaning products, solvents and rough work makes things worse. At first your nails begin to ‘fray’ on the edges, becoming brittle. Eventually the layers split. Ironically, “nail hardeners” make this worse, because the alcohols, formaldehyde and other chemicals in those products really dry out your natural oils. So, what can you do about brittle nails?

1. Hydrate and Add Oils. Use creams, oils and ointments on your nails every day, after they've been wet.The best hydrating ingredients for nails are Shea Butter, Jojoba oil, avocado oil, or other rich natural oils. The thicker the cream the better, and oils or ointments are best. The trick is to use something that stays put for a while and doesn’t just rub off right away. “Bag Balm”, which contains lanolin, is a great option. Always moisturize skin and nails immediately after water exposure; applying moisturizers to dry nails is a waste of time. Put your moisturizer on within minutes after your bath or shower (or after washing your hands), and do it as often as possible.

 

2. Clip and file your nails when they're wet. Clipping and filing dry nails makes the splits worse, so always do this after water exposure (i.e. bath or shower). Towel off the water and then use sharp nail clippers to trim your nails, followed by gently filing the edges. You can also very gently buff the nail edges to keep the splitting layers from catching on things and progressing down the nail.

3. Wear gloves when you do rough work or get your hands into harsh chemicals.

4. Supplement your diet: Gelatin capsules won’t help you, but vitamin supplements formulated specifically for nail growth (containing biotin) may help. However, many of the ingredients in these supplements are lavishly present in whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, natural oils, beans and fish. Eating a richly nutritious diet is key to supporting healthy nails, and vitamin supplements should be used in addition to, not in place of a healthy diet.

There are diseases that can affect splitting fingernails, the most common being thyroid problems and anemia. Some skin diseases affect the nails, as well, and can cause splitting. If your nails don't improve using these easy remedies, we recommend you

Call (540) 341-1900 to make an appointment with

Dr. Caballero, Audrey Ludwig-Bunch, PA-C or Heather Callahan, PA-C

at Warrenton Dermatology & Skin Therapy Center

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