What You'll Need to Avoid Brittle Nails

If you have brittle nails, don't wash dishes without wearing gloves.
If you have brittle nails, don't wash dishes without wearing gloves.

The perfect manicure is simply never going to happen if your nails are dry and brittle. Chances are, however, that your problem is fixable using a few easy steps. In fact, by following these and other nail care suggestions, you can have nails fit for a hand model in no time!

There are a multitude of reasons behind the development of brittle nails. Some people are just genetically inclined, whereas others lead lives that are naturally hard on the nails, like heavy cleaning, gardening, or frequent exposure to chemicals or water. It's even been shown that brittle nails can be a symptom or side effect of an underactive thyroid or poor circulation. Some experts disagree on whether brittle nails are caused by low moisture or low protein levels, but they do agree that treatment is often very easy and effective.

Vitamin deficiency can also wreak havoc on your nails, so consider taking an iron supplement or multivitamin containing iron. Or, simply up your intake of iron-rich foods, like eggs, leafy green vegetables or red meat. Generally speaking, however, if you have a vitamin deficiency it would present in both the fingernails and the toenails. So take a look at your piggies before landing on that diagnosis yourself.

Many experts tout the effectiveness of taking a regular biotin supplement as part of a Vitamin B complex. Foods rich in biotin include peanuts, bananas, oatmeal and soy, if you want to avoid pills.

Another easy option is substituting your standard base coat with a nail protein under your polish. Or, indulge in a vitamin-fortified nail polish specifically created to treat dry or brittle nails. Gentle formulations of nail polish remover that do not include acetone or formaldehyde as ingredients tend to be less abrasive, and therefore easier on sensitive nails.

In terms of lifestyle changes, wear rubber, latex or gardening gloves to protect your nails when possible. Repeated exposure to water and soap, other than standard hand-washing, can seriously dry out your nails and the skin on your hands.

It's also mega-important to pamper your hands by moisturizing regularly. You can pick up a nail-specific lotion at your local drugstore, or just slather on the petroleum jelly. Both will do the trick nicely.

It also pays to think about how you're treating your nails before you blame their fragility on other factors. Common missteps include nail biting, using fingernails as tools (like getting the blasted cover off of the remote control), scraping them with metal cuticle pushers or metal nail files and picking nail polish off instead of using a liquid remover. Also, consider occasionally giving your nails time to breathe, product-free! A little bit of plain old air can work wonders, especially if you moisturize properly.

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  • Dr. Rob. "Can Fingernails Indicate a Health Problem?" MSN Health & Fitness. 2012. (Sept. 18, 2012). http://healthyliving.msn.com/health-wellness/skin/can-fingernails-indicate-a-health-problem-1
  • Kashuk, Sonia. "Pretty Hands and Feet." 2012. (Sept. 18, 2012). Ladies Home Journal. http://www.lhj.com/style/beauty/body/pretty-hands-and-feet/
  • Wadyka, Sally. "What Your Nails Are Telling You About Your Health." MSN Health and Fitness. 2012. (Sept. 18, 2012). http://healthyliving.msn.com/health-wellness/what-your-nails-are-telling-you-about-your-health-1