9 main causes of dry and brittle nails


If the nails exfoliate, break and peel off, something urgently needs to be done about it. But first, let’s see why this happens?

When a manicure doesn’t make you happy

Nails are made up of several layers of a protein called keratin. They play an important role in the human body: they protect fingers and toes from damage.

Like skin, nails can lose moisture, become brittle, and dry. According to experts Harvard Medical School, about 27% of women have brittle nails. And this can be «guilty» of both external and internal reasons.

What should you pay attention to first of all?

Top 9 Causes of Brittle Nails

1. You bite your nails a lot.

1. You bite your nails a lot.

It doesn’t matter why it happens — due to boredom, increased anxiety, or for other reasons, this habit not only contributes to nail breakage, but also opens the way to infection.

“Enzymes that are contained in human saliva are designed to break down food. But they, getting on the nails and cuticles, make them weak and brittle. In addition, fungi and bacteria can enter the body through damage and provoke the development of infections,” warns MD, dermatologist. Rachel Nazarian.


If you can’t kick the habit yet, keep your nails as short as possible and try polishes that give off a bitter aftertaste. In addition to this, use techniques to relieve stress: it works!

2. Your diet is low in iron.

Concave, as if «depressed» nail plates may indicate a lack of iron in the body. “The fact is that this substance is involved in the production of hemoglobin, transporting red blood cells loaded with oxygen to the root of your nail,” explains MD, dermatologist Ella Toombs. “Without it, the nails become thin and brittle, grow slowly.”


If you find cavities and grooves on your nails, make an appointment with your doctor. While waiting for your consultation, eat iron-rich foods: spinach, legumes, oysters, dark chocolate, liver, pomegranate.

3. You work at a computer

On the one hand, playing the piano, just like typing on a computer keyboard, stimulates nail growth. Relevant research suggests this. But on the other hand, if the nails are long, this can contribute to their breakage.

“If your nails hit the gadget’s keyboard again and again, this can lead to chipping, breaking or delamination at the edges,” warns Dr. Ella Toombs.


If your work is connected with frequent typing on the keyboard, leave no more than 2-3 mm of the free length of the edge of the nail. So the nails will be safe.

4. You are deficient in B vitamins

4. You are deficient in B vitamins

2017 study published in the journal Cosmetic Dermatology, showed that taking 2.5 mg of B vitamins on a daily basis reduced brittle nails and increased their strength after 6-9 months. So if the nails exfoliate and have longitudinal ridges, pay special attention to your diet.

On a note!

B vitamins are found in eggs, salmon, beef, sweet potatoes, nuts, rye bread, cauliflower, broccoli and dairy products.

5. You neglect hand cream

Moisturize your skin with cream not twice a day, as some experts advise, but every time after you wash your hands.

“If the skin around the nail is dry, it’s likely that the matrix (root of the nail) that is underneath it is too. This means that the nail that it forms will also be prone to breakage, delamination and cracking, ”explains MD, dermatologist Ellen Marmur.


Choose a fast-absorbing moisturizer that you can apply to your hands throughout the day, focusing on the area under the cuticles.

6. You wear too much nail polish.

Many conventional nail polishes contain substances that cause the coating to harden faster. At the same time, the «drying effect» of the nails does not stop after the varnish has hardened.

“These ingredients draw moisture out of the nail beds, thereby weakening them. They are even found in 5-Free non-toxic varnishes. These are, first of all, the solvent toluene and the plasticizer dibutyl phthalate,” warns Dr. Ellen Marmur.


To keep the beauty of your nails, wear the coating for 5 days, then remove the varnish and take a short break. Of course, this is not very convenient, but the impeccability of manicure and the strength of the nails are worth it.

7. You mess with disinfectants

7. You mess with disinfectants

Just as frequent hand washing can lead to dry and brittle nails, the constant use of disinfectants is fraught with identical consequences. “They contain a high concentration of alcohol,” explains the MD Shil Desai Solomon.


To ensure that the treatment of the skin of the hands does not lead to negative consequences, use every time after it means to restore the balance of moisture.

8. You use acetone liquids all the time.

It’s no secret that acetone washes away natural oils from the nail plates, thereby contributing to their dryness and brittleness. Therefore, products with it in the composition should be used as little as possible and with great care. If your nails are naturally thin and brittle, you can’t resort to them at all.


Look for liquids without acetone, containing natural oils. They will maintain the health and beauty of nails, prevent possible damage.

9. You’re still trimming your cuticles.

The skin roller at the base of the nail performs important protective functions. It protects the matrix from water, dirt, bacteria, fungi, mold and other irritants.

“If you trim the cuticle (its “living” part), you deprive the nails of the protection,” says MD, dermatologist Dana Stern.

On a note!

Modern recommendations for nail care call for not cutting the cuticle, but gently pushing it back. For example, a washcloth after taking a shower or bath, or a special orange stick.

Expert comment

Kathy Warwick, nutritionist

Long healthy nails are not just beautiful. They protect your fingers from accidental damage and make everyday tasks easier. At the same time, there are many factors that can contribute to the formation of breakages, cause dryness and delamination of the nail plates.

In addition to external causes, internal problems of the body also contribute.

Weak and brittle nails can indicate deficient conditions and be an early marker of health problems. For example, diseases such as psoriasis and diabetes cause deterioration of the skin of the hands and nails. And only a well-thought-out tactic recommended by a doctor can improve the situation.

Therefore, if home remedies and comprehensive care for hands and nails do not solve the problem of dryness and brittleness of the nail plates, you should consult a doctor.

Brittle nail syndrome: a pathogenesis-based approach with a proposed grading system / Kerkhof PC, Pasch MC, Scher RK, et al // J Am Acad Dermatol. 2005

Oral supplementation with specific bioactive collagen peptides improves nail growth and reduces symptoms of brittle nails / Hexsel D., Zague V., Schunck M., et al // J Cosmetic Dermatol 2017


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