Why Do I Have Brittle Nails?

Why Do I Have Brittle Nails

Did you know that your nails can reveal quite a lot about your overall health? It’s important to take notice of any changes in your nails’ color and texture because these imperfections can provide you with clues regarding your current health status. Your nail color alone can say a lot about your liver, lungs, and heart condition. Discoloration or rippling in your nails can often be an indication of disease.

Your nails are made up of Keratin, which is the same substance your body uses to create hair and the top layer of your skin. Your nails start out as living cells but the root, a structure just beneath the skin found behind the cuticles on your fingers and toes, forms the nail as it cobbles living cells. You had fingernails before you were even born.

Brittle nails in general can be classified as brittle (dry) due to too little moisture and brittle (soft) due to too much moisture. Dry, brittle nails are commonly due to repeated washing and drying of your hands, while soft, brittle nails are caused by too much moisture, especially if you frequently use detergents, household cleaners, and nail polish remover.

Brittle damaged nails

There are several nail abnormalities that you should pay attention to, especially if your symptoms worsen over time or are not easily remedied. Some warning signs can include:

  • Discoloration (dark or white streaks; changes in nail color)
  • Changes in nail shape (curling or clubbing)
  • Changes in nail thickness
  • Nails that become brittle
  • Nails that are pitted
  • Bleeding around the nails
  • Swelling or redness around your nails
  • Pain around your nails
  • Nails are separating from your skin

It is important to note that not every symptom listed above is an indication of a serious health condition. Some of these anomalies can be attributed to common triggers that can easily be addressed.

Common Causes of Brittle Nails

  1. Nail Biting: Your saliva, which is supposed to help digest your foods, can also weaken your nails.
  2. Low Iron Levels: A decreased level of iron leads to decreased oxygen to your nails.
  3. Lack of Vitamin B: Vitamin B is an essential vitamin for strengthening your nails.
  4. Overuse of Your Nails: Using your nails instead of the pads of your fingers for tasks like texting, typing, or opening a can of soda can cause your nails to crack and break.
  5. Use of Alcohol-Based Products: Alcohol can cause your nails to dry out, which predisposes them to crack and breakage.
  6. Aging: As you age, your fingernails can naturally become thinner and brittle, whereas your toenails are the complete opposite, becoming thicker and harder. These changes can be attributed to the weakening of the bonds between the keratin filaments in the nails. This is made evident as atrophy takes place in the thinning of the nail plate as it grows slowly.
  7. Nail Psoriasis: Psoriasis of the nails is caused by the same autoimmune mechanisms as psoriasis of the skin.

Splitting and peeling nails

Knowing the underlying causes of brittle nails can help you safeguard yourself from weakening and breakage. The tips below can help you protect your nails from unnecessary damage.

1. Lessen Water Exposure

Soaking your hands for long periods of time may cause your nails to become weak and brittle. When taking a bath, try to keep your hands out of the water as much as possible. When doing household chores that require your hands to be in contact with water, try wearing gloves.

2. Drink Enough Water

Make sure to get enough water each day to avoid dehydration.

3. Pay Attention to Your Nutrition

Consider eating more foods that help support healthy nails. Be sure to include foods rich in protein, calcium, and biotin in your diet. Foods that can improve your nails include fresh fruits, lean meats, nuts, and whole grains. To prevent dry and brittle nails, you should also consume adequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, like those found in fatty fish, soy, eggs, walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds.

4. Be Mindful of the Nail Products You Use

Get rid of those nail polish removers that remove nail polish really quickly, as they usually contain acetone. Acetone can dry out your nails and make them weaker. As much as possible, avoid using gel or acrylic nails. A layer of nail polish can actually help protect soft brittle nails.

5. Keep Your Nails Short

To avoid your nails from breaking, consider keeping your nails trimmed short.

short nails

6. Let Your Nails Breathe

If you constantly use nail polish, you may want to give your nails a time out to allow your nails to recuperate.

7. Don’t Overuse Alcohol or Alcohol-Based Products

Alcohol and alcohol-based products like hand sanitizers can be the kiss of death for your nails. They may do their job to disinfect your hands but can be incredibly harsh on your nails. An alternative is to use sanitizing wipes so that you can avoid your nail area.

8. Slather on Some Moisturizer

Use hand creams or lotions to keep your nails moisturized.

9. File in One Direction

Filing your fingernails with the use of a soft nail file (in one direction) can prevent the risk of tears that lead to peeling and hangnails.

10. Eat Biotin-Rich Foods or Take Supplements

Biotin is a B complex vitamin, also known as Vitamin B7. It is vital in keeping your skin, hair, eyes, liver, and nervous system healthy. It also fosters healthy cell growth.

Biotin food sources

If after taking the steps above you continue to have brittle nails, it might be time to consult with your doctor to rule out any underlying health conditions. During that meeting, your doctor might discuss:

Hypothyroidism: Low thyroid levels can lead to different symptoms, such as fatigue, brittle nails, dry skin, weight gain, constipation, and aches and pain. Further testing will be required to officially diagnose a thyroid issue.

Anemia: Anemia is a blood disorder characterized by a lack of the healthy red blood cells needed to deliver adequate amounts of oxygen to your tissues.  Anemia can trigger vertical ridges and changes to your nails that make them concave or spoon-shaped. Other symptoms of anemia can include pale skin, shortness of breath, chest pain, a fast or irregular heartbeat, and light-headedness. Anemia is diagnosed through a complete blood count or CBC.

Brittle nails

Raynaud’s Syndrome: Raynaud’s Syndrome is usually triggered by cold temperatures, anxiety, or stress. It can cause discoloration of your fingers due to the temporary vasospasm of blood vessels. It can also affect the toes and other areas. With Raynaud’s Syndrome, your nails can become brittle with longitudinal ridges.

Cancer Treatment: Although the effects can sometimes be temporary, it is important to note that chemotherapy or targeted therapy can cause your nails to become dark and brittle. So, if you are about to undergo chemotherapy, ask what skin and nail-related side effects are common for the type of treatment you’ll be receiving.

Nails do not care

Brittle nails can indicate something as simple as a deficiency in Vitamin B complex, calcium, or fatty acids, but can also be a manifestation of an underlying medical condition, such as hypothyroidism or an iron deficiency. While there are many things you can do to better care for your nails, it is important to take notice of any significant changes that can’t easily be explained or remedied. Your nails say a lot about your health, so dry, brittle nails should not be ignored. If you have concerns, it is best to consult with your doctor for an accurate diagnosis.

Discover the best way to slim and heal your body naturally! Click here to learn more.

Slimming Healing Book