Nails are derivatives of the skin. Both external causes and diseases can affect their condition. Therefore, it is worth paying attention to a change in color, the appearance of black vertical stripes, the delamination of the nail plate, and a change in the surface from smooth to rough. But nails become thinner and break more often due to household habits and improper care. We tell you what could be the cause and how to fix it.
What is the reason
Brittle nails are common, especially in women:
- Nails become thin and soft.
- The free edge may peel or break off with the minimal physical impact.
- Chips may appear.
If the problem concerns only the hands and the toenails in order, it is probably due to improper care, household habits, or age: the fingernails have become thinner and more brittle over the years.
But there are common causes of nail damage. These include:
- The habit of washing dishes and cleaning without gloves. This practice is not good for the skin of the hands and nails; it stresses them – prolonged contact with water and detergents can damage the skin’s protective barrier and soften the nails. Therefore, a moisturizer is needed not only for the skin of the hands but also for the nails.
- Manicure with artificial coating. Coating nails with gel polish or acrylic composition requires special preparation of the nail: it is polished, and the nail plate is mechanically damaged. The chemical composition of the coating can also damage the nail. In addition, the artificial coating needs to be removed – such manipulations worsen the condition of the nails. The American Dermatology Association recommends saving artificial nail polish for special occasions or taking a few weeks off to allow your nails to heal and avoid acetone-based nail polish removers.
- Eating habits. Monotonous nutrition and fast food reduce the intake of useful vitamins and trace elements from food – this can affect the skin, nails, and hair. A balanced diet should fully cover a person’s needs for essential nutrients: vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber.
The recommendation to drink vitamins to strengthen nails and hair growth has a weak evidence base. Biotin is a B vitamin often prescribed for brittle nails and hair problems and is found in many foods: meat, liver, eggs, fish, nuts, spinach, broccoli, and potatoes. Biotin deficiency is rare. With a balanced, varied diet, you do not need to drink supplements with this substance to improve the condition of the nails.
How to take care of your nails
It is best to keep your nails clean and dry by wearing gloves when cleaning and washing dishes. Remember about ordinary gloves in cold weather to reduce damage to the skin of the hands and nails.
Trim your fingernails and toenails regularly after a shower when they are soft. To do this, it is better to use sharp nail scissors or special nippers. Fingernails can be slightly rounded along the free edge. Toenails should be cut horizontally, so they do not grow into the skin.
Apply a moisturizer not only on the skin of the hands but also on the nails with cuticles; it is better several times a day.
If the problem doesn’t go away
If nails continue to break despite care, good nutrition, and no gel polish, it is best to see a doctor for advice. The nail plate can become thinner when:
- Anemia occurs when the body lacks oxygen due to a shortage or breakdown of red blood cells (erythrocytes). Iron deficiency, or B12-folic anemia, is more commonly associated with brittle nails. In addition, with anemia, there may be weakness, fatigue, headache, seizures in the corners of the mouth, and palpitations. It is worth contacting a therapist; he will prescribe additional tests to confirm the diagnosis and select a treatment;
- Skin diseases, such as psoriasis. The nails may begin to crumble, the surface becomes rough, and hemorrhages appear under the nails. This causes discomfort, sometimes pain. A dermatologist can help;
- Fungal infections, then the nails become not only brittle but also dull, with a yellowish tint. In this case, it is better to consult a dermatologist for treatment ;
- Eating disorders – anorexia and bulimia also affect health. In this case, brittle nails and hair problems appear due to lack of nutrition – tissues, and organs “suffer from hunger.” These conditions require observation and treatment by a psychotherapist;
- Other diseases include hypo- and hyperthyroidism, diabetes mellitus, and Raynaud’s disease. Under these conditions, the microcirculatory bed suffers – this worsens the blood supply to the hands and nails. They don’t get the right amount of oxygen and nutrients. These conditions develop gradually. Therefore, it is worth regularly being examined by a therapist.
Brittle nails can have multiple causes, both external and internal. Improper care, such as washing dishes without gloves, frequent use of artificial nail polish, and poor diet, can lead to brittle nails. To maintain healthy nails, it is recommended to keep them clean and dry, trim them regularly, and apply a moisturizer. If the problem persists despite proper care, it could be due to underlying health conditions such as anemia, skin diseases, fungal infections, eating disorders, and certain illnesses, in which case it is best to seek advice from a doctor.