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Causes of Brittle nails and how to manage them 


Composed of layers of a protein called keratin, your nails are nature's way of protecting your fingers, toes, and skin. Keratin is the prime ingredient that makes up the cells in your hair and skin and helps protect them from superficial harm. 

However, it's normal for nails to break or peel. This condition is called onychoschizia. It is generally a side effect of certain medical conditions. If you are looking for ways to treat brittle nails and make them stronger, then keep on reading. 

What Causes Brittle Nails

Brittle nails usually fall into two categories. The first one is when the nails are dry and brittle while the second one is when the nails are soft and brittle. 

brittle nail

Dry and brittle nails means your skin lacks hydration or moisture. This happens when we are continuously washing and drying our hands. Too much exposure to water and cleaning products makes our nails weak. 

While soft and brittle nails are brought on by too much moisture. This happens when we are frequently using cleansers, detergents, and nail polish remover. 

Five reasons for brittle nails include: 

  • Age: Just like our skin, our nails also change regularly. As we age, our nails become weak and brittle. While toenails generally get thicker and harder, fingernails become thinner and weaker.  
  • Iron Deficiency: It is a medical condition that happens when the body isn’t receiving a sufficient amount of iron that it needs to keep making a healthy amount of blood platelet. Your physician would conduct tests to determine the ferritin levels and in case the numbers are low, they will suggest iron supplementation that will be useful in treating brittle nails.
  • Hypothyroidism: A weak thyroid could also mean brittle nails. Other symptoms of hypothyroidism include exhaustion, weight gain, depression, hair fall, weakness, anxiety, and mood swings. Your physician would recommend a synthetase thyroid chemical levothyroxine, which can be taken orally for treating hypothyroidism.
  • Raynaud's disorder: This is a medical condition that slows down the blood circulation in your body that causes your body to feel numb. Lack of proper blood circulation could also cause brittle nails. Your physician might recommend calcium channel blockers to treat the disease. 
  • Chemical substances: Too much exposure to chemical products like detergents, nail polish removers, or even industrial chemicals could lead to brittle nails. If you cannot avoid such chemicals then to protect your nails you can wear gloves. 

What Can I Do About Brittle Nails? 

You can't do much if your nails have become brittle due to age-related changes, however, you can prevent the danger of soft, broken, and brittle nails. Below have mentioned some tips that you can follow to keep nails healthy and strong:  

  1. Moisturization is Essential  

If you have brittle nails then you need to be applying hand creams that are loaded with lanolin or alpha-hydroxy acids to keep your skin hydrated and nails strong. You can also invest in a lanolin-rich nail polish remover and nail polish. Always moisturize your nails and hands before going to bed. 

hand care
  1. Protect Your Hands and Nails  

If you have to do chores at home that may involve washing dishes or usage of chemical-based products, then wearing gloves is the perfect way to protect your hands from going dry and brittle nails. 

nail care
  1. Nail Care is Key

Keep your nails short to limit the nail surface region, where water and chemicals can be retained. A fine emery board is a perfect tool to file your nails. Filing your nails is the best approach to treat brittle nails as you can get rid of irregularities, prevent breakage, and peeling. Do not bite your cuticles or nails.  


Brittle nails mean your nails are dry, weak, (too little hydration), or soft (due to an excessive amount of hydration). If you are not able to treat brittle nails using these simple home remedies like wearing gloves and hydration, then you need to talk to a physician, in case there is an underlying issue. Brittle nails can also mean you might be facing undetected medication conditions like hypothyroidism or iron deficiency.

Treating these medical conditions is one of the ways to overcome brittle nails and get strong and healthy nails. 


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