Brittle Nails: Causes & How to Fix Brittle Fingernails

If you were an anxious young adult, you might have taken to biting your nails. I know I did. And nothing my mother said could stop me. I didn’t feel the nail going into my mouth, it was just there, lips looking for ridges, teeth pulling the piece away only to create more ridges. One thing she said did stick in my mind: when I grow up and finally stop biting my nails, she said, my nails will grow brittle and I would not be able to have long, manicured beautiful nails.

Boy, was she right.

At 19, I finally stopped biting my nails. For the next 20 years, I could not grow them long. They were so brittle that they broke very easily. No amount of nail polish could stop that from happening.

Statistics show that about 20% of the population have brittle nails. This phenomenon varies in severity but the fact remains the same; many women are unable to grow long fingernails.

Brittle Nails

What are Brittle Nails?

Brittle nails are categorized as those which:

  • Growing thin
  • Are soft to the touch ans bendable
  • Breaking easily with minimal force
  • They chip easily
  • Peel in horizontal layers

To understand what is going on, we have to know what the nail is made of and how it grows.
The nails are combined of many layers of protein called keratin, which is made of amino acids bound together with a glue-like substance. There is a seal between the nail plate and the nail bed, called the onychodermal band. The nail is protected with a layer of thin skin at the base and grows out about 3mm a month. When this delicate structure is disturbed, the nail might become brittle.

Fortunately, brittle nails are not indicative of a medical issue, as other nail deformities are. In most cases, it is caused by behavioral issues and thus can be changed with minimal attention and effort.

Brittle Fingernails: Causes

Dryness: The nail bed underneath the nail has become dry and doesn’t feed the nail as it should. That can happen when you change climates drastically, as when traveling. It can also be caused by staying in heated room for long periods of time.

Dryness can be caused also by a hormonal change in the body. It is known that women past menopause, when the estrogen level decreases, tend to develop brittle and curving at the tip nails. Estrogen, among its other functions is responsible for the moisture retention in the body. Less estrogen causes the skin to dry.

Moisture: soaking the nails in water softens the keratin. If you work requires you to have wet hands, it is probably the main cause of your brittle nails. For the same reason, biting nails causes brittle nails. The nails are touched by saliva many times during the day and remain moist most of the time.

Chemicals: Not only the chemicals in regular house cleaning products can affect the condition of the nails, chemicals in nail polish and especially in nail polish removers can cause the nails to dry and become brittle.

Lack of vitamins: especially vitamin C, folic acid and Omega 3.
There are some medical conditions that cause brittle nails as well, but the other symptoms of the diseases (low thyroid function, psoriasis, lung problems) are much more severe and noticeable.

How the Reverse Brittle Nails?

The treatments for brittle nails involves a few aspects:

Eating a balanced diet which includes vegetables and fruit that is rich in protein and vitamins. Taking supplements of vitamin B and C, and Omega 3 will help as well.

Providing moisture
When moisturizing the hands it is important to pay extra attention to the nails. Some go further and soak the nails in vegetable oil for a few minutes a few times a week.

Another popular remedy is to use vitamin E oil, puncturing the capsule and extracting to oil to the nail and the nail base.

Avoiding chemicals
Wearing gloves when submerging hands in water for a long time or when using chemicals of any kind.

Keeping hands as dry as possible, making sure the nails are dry as well.
This applies also to the products used in the nail care process. Nail polish removers that contain acetone will dry the keratin. Artificial nails that have to be removed with acetone will make your nails brittle. Even the new gel/color which doesn’t chip for two weeks will cause the nails to dry out.

No nail biting
If you are an adult and still bite your nails, admit to the fact that your stress levels are high. Learn to relax (meditation, yoga, exercise) in other ways.

Don’t use your nails as tools
They might seem strong but don’t use nails to pry open a screw, peel a sticker or become an emergency toothpick. Use the instruments that we have around us to do those things. Tearing your nail while trying to do one of those things will cause pain, discomfort and will open the nail to diseases and fungus.

File the nails
Filing the nails on a regular basis not only provides a gentle massage the encourages nail growth, it also makes sure that there are no ridges that can be caught on cloth. Try filing your nails instead of cutting them.

Products and Creams
One of the easiest ways to strengthen nails is to make sure they are covered by a clear coat of special protein nail polish. The most interesting product on the market today is no other but hoof cream. Yes, it’s the same substance that is rubbed into the hooves of million-dollar thoroughbreds. The grooms have noticed that their fingernails get stronger and grow harder as a result of using the cream on horses. The leap to using it for humans was not far behind. This cream comes under different names when it is formulated for people; Barielle Nail Strengthener Cream, Gena Healthy Hoof Cream and Hard As Hoof.

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