Why do my nails peel and break?
The answer to this question is not easy. In fact there are lots of reasons why your nails may be peeling and breaking and in this post we shall look at the most common ones. The post also features various treatment options for brittle nails.
If your nails are peeling and breaking then this would probably be very frustrating for you, especially if you are a female. Nails that break often are called “brittle nails”. It is a condition in which your nails might get thick, discolored, flaky and rather fragile.
What Causes Peeling of Nails?
One of the apparent reasons for brittle nails is injuries. In addition to some accidental injuries, habit of nail biting and chewing of cuticles can also leave your finger nails ragged. Chewing of cuticles also promotes dehydration in nails and results in breakage.
Additional stress on your hands
- Psoriasis: Psoriasis is when the immune system of your body back fires and starts to destroy your body tissues instead of protecting them. The most commonly affected part of body in psoriasis is skin, but it can affect nails as well. In fact, brittle nails can be the only sign of psoriasis in some instances.
- Hypothyroidism: Hypothyroidism is when your body doesn’t secrete enough thyroid hormone. Skin is the main target of thyroid deficiency and nails being the part of skin get affected as well.
- Yeast Infection: Brittle nails can be the direct result of yeast infection. Such infections not only destroy your nail architecture, but also cause change in its color.
- Brittle nails may be the result of liver and kidney problems.
Your nails are made up of structural proteins called “Keratin”. In other words, if your diet is poor in proteins, your nails will not get the nutrients they need and will start to wither away.
Vitamins and minerals increase the production of proteins in the body. Moreover, these nutrients add to the structural stability of nails as well. The most important vitamins and minerals in this regard include vitamin B complex and zinc.
How is iron deficiency linked to the breakdown of nails? Your question is indeed valid! There might not be a direct link between these two things so let’s dig deep and see how iron links to nail health. Iron is the main constituent of hemoglobin, which is the key protein in your blood that binds to oxygen and supplies it to body tissues. When your body reserves of iron are running low, your body structures, including nails, don’t get enough oxygen and start to die.
Calcium is an important ingredient of our bones, nails and hair so if you have brittle nail then check your calcium intake. That’s just not it! Even if you’re getting enough calcium from your diet, you still need one more nutrient to ensure that all of your body’s calcium reaches its target. That nutrient is vitamin D. Therefore, vitamin D deficiency is another reason why your nails might be brittle.
Nails peeling and breakage winds up if you are dealing with chemicals. Harsh chemical like detergents and solvents, adhesives used in glue, pest controlling sprays and household cleaners damage your hands and nails as none of them is nails friendly.
Aging takes toll on all of your body structures and nails are no exception. As you age, your body systems slow down and the rate at which new structures, like nails, are formed also decreases. Nail formation is a rapid progress that demands an active body synthesizing system. Such system becomes defective as you age.
People living in regions with both extremes of temperature will know the struggle of crackling lips and nails breaking down. The key to shinny and healthy nails is an optimum degree of moisture. Too less or too much of moisture can both damage your nail architecture. That’s why you must try to maintain an adequate degree of miniaturization in both extremes of temperature.
Sometime medicines that you might be taking can also be the reason for your brittle nails. Some drugs directly arrest the growth of your nails. Other drugs have rather an indirect effect on your nail growth. For instance, some drugs impair your body’s capacity to absorb and utilize nutrients like calcium, iron and zinc. If you’re using any medicine and facing brittle nail issues as well then you must consult with your physician to see what you can do to improve the condition.
Brittle nails may also be the result of use of some nail care product. There may be something in your nail polish and nail remover that might be contributing to the damage of your nails. Such products are most of the times full of harmful chemicals like formaldehyde that might dehydrate your nails. There is no harm in going to a saloon and getting manicure and pedicure to look exquisite, but you must see what you’re applying on your nails before starting with any make up item.
What can you do to prevent the breakage and peeling of nails?
Prevent yourself from nails wreckers
Take care of your nails from damage done by chemical exposure and frequent dish washing. It is always wise to observe caution instead of waiting for the condition to get any worse. So always wear gloves when have to get into contact with water and chemicals for longer durations. This will protect your nail layers from damage like cracking and chipping. Make a routine to moisturize and also trim and file your nails twice a week. Filed and trimmed nails show less damage if they suffer any injury.
While it is understandable that you like to walk into a party with your nails done, but it’s better if you give your nails some break once in a while! Manicures, use of nail polish and having acrylic nails can make your nails weak so avoid such procedures/ cosmetics to avoid further weakening of nails.
Nails strengtheners are available that help to repair nail damage and also frequent or daily use of moisturizers will also add to make this process even quicker. But you should take a little precaution before purchasing a nail strengthener to check its ingredients as some ingredients used in such products have been linked to breast cancer in women. So it would be better if you go for nail strengtheners with natural ingredients like vitamin E, Jojoba oil, and alpha-proxy acid. Moreover, if you want healthy and beautiful nails then you must avoid the habit of nail biting.
Avoid nail hardness
Do you want to know the solution to all your nails’ problems in one word? The one word answer to all your questions is “diet”. If your diet is healthy and all you eat is balanced food then you may never have to face the problems of brittle nails. Here are some diet tips that you should keep in mind.
- For healthier nails, eat foods rich in protein, especially protein coming from lean sources. Sources of lean protein are fish, poultry and beans.
- Drinking adequate amounts of water would also help to keep your skin and nails hydrated.
- If your nails re damaged or chipped then use diet rich in vitamin B complex like green leafy vegetables. Among B complex vitamins, biotin is the most important vitamin that promotes the health of nails. It is quite rich in eggs and other poultry items.
- Among minerals that are necessary for healthful nails, zinc is the most important. It is naturally rich in sea foods. In addition, you can increase your daily intake of zinc by eating multivitamin supplements with minerals in them.
Another thing that you should try on regular basis is exercise. When we say exercise, we don’t mean that you get up and start running miles. Even mild to moderate exercise lasting 15-20 minutes a day is perfect for the health of your nails.
How exercise helps?
Here is how:
- Regular exercise improves the supply of blood to your body organs like nails.
- When you exercise, you’re actually making sure that all the nutrients are being evenly distributed throughout your body systems, including the nails.
- It saves your nails from the harm inflicted by oxidative stress.
- It also helps you shed off different chemicals and toxins that might be hampering the growth of your nails.
If your nails are changing their color and breaking then without further delay, you should consult your doctor. It would be better if you take some affirmative measures before condition gets worse. Sometime it might be the initial symptoms for some serious condition that can damage your whole body. In case of infection like yeast infection and psoriasis medical attention in initial stages would lessen the chances of your condition getting worse.
Some remedies for brittle nails
There is no harm in seeking medical assistance. But, there is also no harm in using couple of home remedies before you can actually go to a doctor. These remedies prevent and repair your nails from splitting, breaking, weakening, peeling and all other possible nails problems and make them stronger and healthier. One point that you should keep in mind is that you should get realistic while opting these measures as you might have to wait for as much as six month if you want your healthy nails back. Some home remedies for brittle nails are discussed below.
Soak nails in olive oil
Oils and salves
Applying oils and salves onto your nails will boost up their repair process. A cream containing calendula and comfrey works for damaged nails. Use of comfrey is especially effective as it speeds up the regeneration of cells making up nails. Some essential oils also make their place in the list of ingredients helping in the regeneration of nails. Oils make the nails surface more flexible and moisturized so they become less likely to suffer any damage. Oils like holy basil, grapes seed, rose hip, pumpkin seed, rosemary, and tea tree work best for your peeling and damaged nails.
Hot oil treatment
This treatment is very effective for the nail damage done by water. This remedy is very simple and you can do it at home as well. For that, take ten cotton balls soaked in some oil like olive oil, jojoba oil or almond oil and place these ball on your nails and secure them with 4x4 square of foil and wait for ten minutes. The heat of your body will help the oil penetrate into your body system. This will help rejuvenate the nail growth.
Paraffin wax/heated mitts treatment
Use a cuticle cream
Eat biotin-rich foods
We’ve already mention how important diet is in having stronger nails, but the importance of biotin can’t be underestimated and deserves a second mention. Foods like cooked eggs, liver, whole grains, cauliflower and avocado are naturally rich in biotin .Otherwise, you can just go for a good multivitamin supplement with all the essential amino acids in them.
Don’t miss use your nails
If you’re in the habit of using your nails as tools, for playing guitar, opening soda cans and using your finger nails as screws then these habits need to stop right away! Giving up on these habits will make sure that your nails remain strong and beautiful.
Multivitamins can do wonders for your health, as using multivitamins nourishes your body from head to toe. Use a multivitamin having calcium, vitamin C, vitamin A, biotin and zinc. All these ingredients are pivotal in having younger looking skin and healthier nails.
Avoid nail polish removers
If your nails are already in a bad shape then it would be wise not to exacerbate the damage. So, what you need to do is decrease the use of nail polish remover as it dehydrates your nails and speeds up their breakdown. You should be particularly cautious about nail polish removers containing acetone and formaldehyde.
With the help of some lotion or doctor’s recommended nail cream, massage your finger nails. It will increase the blood circulation to your nail bed. In addition to massage, you should make sure that the moisture of your skin and nails doesn’t go away after hand washing or coming into contact with water. For that, make sure to use a lotion or some moisturizer right after coming into contact with water. This will decrease the chance of your nails getting dehydrated.
If the water reserves of your body are running low, you might experience symptoms like dry, hanging skin and brittle nails. So, the easiest thing you can do while trying to get attractive nails is stay as much hydrated as possible. When you drink water, it results in improved shape and structure of your nails. You can also increase the intake of water by drinking fruit and vegetable juices.
It’s preferable that you completely give up the use of acrylic nails. The reason is that when you use acrylic nails, they adhere to your nails and take away the layer of living cells when are removed. But, who doesn’t want long and shiny nails, right? The tip to remember here is that you should use a strengthener lotion on your nails while using acrylic nails. This way, the acrylic nails will get attached to the layer of strengthener instead of coming into contact with the layer of nail cells. That’s how you can minimize the damage done by acrylic nails.
With the help of all above mention remedies you can cure your damaged nails but you have to be consistent. Nails make an important part of your body and add a great deal to beauty as well. Ironically, the maximum damage done to the nails is by poor diet, lifestyle and poor habits. So, keep in mind all the points mentioned in this article and stick to the plan. Be consistent and see the results coming!
|Written by:||Michal Vilímovský (EN)|
|Education:||Medical student, 3rd Faculty of Medicine, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic|
|Article resources:|| Management of simple brittle nails
 Nutrition and nail disease
 Role of vitamins and minerals in nail health
|Published:||February 26, 2015 6:52 AM|
|Next scheduled update:||February 26, 2017 6:52 AM|