Why Do I Have Brittle Nails? A Guide to the Causes, Treatment, and Prevention

Have your nails started to break or split? This is more than annoying and horrible to look at. Your nails protect your skin from taking on serious amounts of damage.

Brittle nails are also a sign of iron deficiency and other health problems. So, they shouldn’t be ignored.

Health issues aren’t the only reason why your nails are falling apart. Something as simple as biting your nails when you’re nervous can have lasting effects on them.

Check out this guide for an entire list of reasons why your nails break and find out how you can treat the problem.

Causes of Brittle Nails

There are a million and one things that can cause healthy nails to turn brittle. Your age is a huge factor. You also might not be moisturizing enough.

You could have a vitamin deficiency, or maybe your problem is a little more self-inflicted.


As you get older, your body goes through certain changes. One of these changes is that your nails begin to dry out. The strangest thing is that your toenails will grow thicker and become impossible to break.

Your fingernails, on the other hand, become thin and brittle. There is no telling when you’ll enter this stage of life. It happens overnight.

Sometimes, the elderly never reach the stage where their fingernails break and fall apart. It varies from person to person and depends on how you take care of your nails.

Too Much Moisture

If you moisturize your hands 24/7, it may end up having the opposite effect that you want. Too much moisture can make your nails brittle.

You see, your nails swell up when your hands get wet. As they dry, they shrink again. This constant fluctuation will dry your nails and make them easy to break.

Putting on a bunch of lotion isn’t the only thing that will cause this problem. Using heavy amounts of nail polish remover will also do it.

Too Little Moisture

On the flip side of our last point, not having enough moisture can also dry your nails out. You shouldn’t put on moisturizer 24/7, but only putting it on in the morning won’t do you any favors either.

Water has this nasty habit of drying out your skin and nails. That’s why if you work as a dishwasher, your nails are prone to breaking. To counteract this problem, put on moisturizer whenever you wash your hands.

You Bite Your Nails

Nail-biting is a bad habit that many people can’t quit. It’s a common anxious twitch, after all. The problem is that your saliva is a digestive enzyme.

Its purpose is to help dissolve food. If you’re constantly coating your nails in saliva, it will break down your nails and cuticles too.

The worst part is that your mouth is also the home of bacteria. When you destroy your cuticles and nails, these bacteria can get into your skin and cause infections.

Iron Deficiency

Suppose your nails are concaved and look as if a spoon-shaped them; this is a common sign of anemia. Anemia is caused by a lack of iron in your blood.

Your body doesn’t have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen around. Not only will this make your nails brittle, but you’ll stay tired. Sometimes this can be fixed by taking an iron supplement.

If you still feel sluggish and weak after taking supplements, see your doctor. Your anemia might be caused by a health condition that stops your body from absorbing iron.

You’re Using Too Much Hand Sanitizer

Hand washing, in general, can dry out your hands. It doesn’t matter if you’re using soap and water or hand sanitizer. It’s full of alcohols that can dry out your skin and nails.

If you must use it, follow it up with a moisturizer. This will sort of balance things out and stop your nails from becoming brittle.

You Need Beauty Supplements

Many people think that beauty supplements are a load of garbage, but they contain the vitamin B needed for you to have healthy nails.

Having enough of it in your system will keep your nails strong and stop them from breaking. We will say that protein deficiencies are rare. However, if your nails are brittle or have little ridges in them, biotin can do wonders for you.

Low Calcium Levels

It would help if you had calcium for strong bones and teeth. It’s also essential for your nail health. Hypocalcemia is a condition where your body doesn’t have enough of this helpful mineral.

Like protein deficiency, hypocalcemia is a rare condition. If you have it, you might experience shortness of breath, fatigue, numbness, irritability, and brittle nails.

Why Do I Have Brittle Nails A Guide To The Causes, Treatment, And Prevention 2

Brittle Nail Treatment

Now that you know what causes brittle nails let’s talk about how to fix the problem. The general rule of thumb is to take care of your nails and keep them protected. You should also use moisturizer and go to the doctor if you think the problem calls for it.

Use Moisturizer

Again, if you only apply lotion in the mornings as part of your routine, you’re selling yourself a bit short. It would help if you were using it throughout your day.

Moisturizers that contain alpha-hydroxy acids work great to combat brittle nails. We know we said water would dry out your nails, but soak your fingertips in water for 5 minutes or so before applying the cream.

Keep Your Hands Protected

We’re not saying that you should wear gloves during your entire day. What we do mean is that you should wear them when you’re doing any cleaning.

The harsh chemicals from the cleaners will dry out your nails. It won’t do your skin any favors either. The same goes for the hot water that you use to wash the dishes.

Take Care of Your Nails

If one of your nails is broken or chipped, grab a filer and smooth it down. A metal filer will do more harm than good. Don’t use metal nail care tools.

When you’re ready to use a nail polish remover to get rid of your color, make sure you use a solution that doesn’t contain acetone. Keep your nails trimmed. If your nails are shorter, it’s harder for you to chew on them.

Change Your Diet

Your nails are made out of protein for the most part. So, it stands to reason that you need it in your system to stop your nails from getting brittle.

It would be best if you also had a little iron in your diet. If you’re deficient, switch over to red meats and spinach.

You can also take supplements for vitamins and minerals that you’re deficient in, but make sure you talk to your doctor first. They might not mesh well with your current medications.

Talk to Your Doctor

If none of the methods above fix your brittle nail problem, you might have to go to the doctor. You could have a serious medical condition that you didn’t know about. They’ll be able to diagnose and work with you to treat your issue.


Sweat works as a moisturizer for your skin and nails. If you have hypothyroidism, your body will secrete less sweat, which means less moisture.

Brittle nails aren’t the only symptom of hypothyroidism. You might also experience hair loss, constipation, depression, and weight gain. Your doctor can test your hormone levels and give you a treatment to balance things back out.

Raynaud’s Syndrome

Raynaud’s syndrome is a condition where your blood doesn’t circulate as it should in your hands and feet. This stops your nails from getting the blood they need to be healthy. Brittle nails are the result.

The doctor can prescribe calcium blockers and other medications to get the circulation going again.


Anorexia is an eating disorder that affects people of all ages. The most common symptom of anorexia is weight loss, but the lack of nutrition can affect many bodily processes. This includes your nails.

Keep Your Nails Healthy and Strong

Are your nails falling apart? Many things can cause brittle nails, and almost as many things can solve the issue. You may have to change up your diet and wear gloves when you wash dishes.

If basic nail care doesn’t seem to help you, the only choice you have left is to go to a doctor. They’ll be able to prescribe medication that will get you on the right track.

Are you looking for more ways to keep your body and nails healthy? Check out our blog daily for all the latest wellness information.

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