Strong, smooth nails are a sign of good health. They’re also attractive and fun to decorate with nail polish and even rhinestones when you’re feeling fancy. But brittle, split fingernails can be a cause of frustration and even concern.
Discover below how to stop your nails from breaking once and for all.
Get To Know Your Nails
Your nails, along with your hair, are made up of the protein keratin. And these tough tips on your hands and feet are actually made up of several different parts.
The nail plate is specifically what you’re thinking of when you reference your fingernails and toenails, as it’s the visible part of your nail.
The nail bed is the skin just underneath your nail plate.
The cuticle is the tissue overlapping and rimming the base of your nail.
The nail folds are the skin folds framing and supporting your nail on three sides.
The lunula is the whitish part at the base of your nail, noted for its half-moon shape.
The nail matrix is under the cuticle, and it’s where your nail begins to grow.1
Splitting Nails: Underlying Health Conditions And External Factors
Your fingernails and toenails serve as protection to your — you guessed it — fingers and toes. However, weak nails — nails that are brittle, thin, splitting, or soft — can hardly serve their natural purpose to protect your hands and feet.
External factors that may cause nail breakage form two categories: soft and brittle or dry and brittle.
- Soft and brittle nails may be the result of too much moisture, usually from overexposure to nail polish remover, detergents, and/or household cleaners.
- Dry and brittle nails, alternatively, are often caused by a lack of adequate moisture, usually from constant washing and drying of your hands and nails.2
Underlying health conditions that may cause nail breakage might include:
- Vitamin deficiencies
- Low thyroid levels
- Circulation issues3
Just the natural process of aging also affects how your nails grow, with fingernails often becoming more brittle and thinner, and toenails becoming harder and thicker.4
Nail Care Tips And Tricks: From Gloves To Alpha-Hydroxy Acids
There are a few tried-and-tested things you can do to keep your nails (and skin) healthy.
Consider a dietary supplement.
Your nails need the right nutrients to grow strong and healthy. Talk to your doctor about whether or not a dietary supplement is right for you. Look for supplements with biotin and folate as key ingredients.5,6
Wear gloves to protect your hands from the elements and harsh chemicals.
Cold, dry weather can do a number on your skin and nails. So can exposure to cleaning chemicals and keeping your hands wet. Gloves to the rescue: wear rubber gloves for household chores, like washing the dishes, and your favorite winter gloves for venturing out into the cold.7
Moisturize your hands and nails regularly.
Look for a lotion that contains the humectants alpha-hydroxy acids, glycerin, or lactic acid, which can help keep moisture in your nail plates to prevent your nails from drying out and cracking.8
Give your nails a little TLC with nail dip using natural oils.
Soaking your nails in coconut or olive oil for 10 minutes once a week may help with blood circulation to your nail bed as well as support restoration of key nutrients to your nail bed and damaged nails.9
Rethink your gel manicure.
Gel manicures can be particularly harsh on your hands and nails. Gel nail polish needs to cure under ultraviolet (UV) light, which can be bad for your skin. And gel nails must be removed with moisture-stripping acetone.10,11
Go on a one-week no nail polish break.
Nail polish doesn’t allow adequate oxygen to the nails. Additionally, many can’t resist the temptation to pick at the chipped polish, which can cause further damage in nails. Allow yourself at least one week of no polish after two weeks of polish to give your nails time to repair.12,13
Strong, Healthy Nails Are Within Your Hands
Hopefully one or two (or all) of these tips and tricks have helped explain nail breakage and ways you can potentially prevent it. But if you don’t see any improvement with these simple lifestyle tweaks, speak to your doctor — no one needs to live with brittle nails, and there is a solution for you too.