Many patients notice that their fingernails become thinner, more brittle and fragile with age.
As the years go by, our nails can become thinner, more brittle, and take longer to grow. This is common because the nail plate hardness and well-being is dependent on its state of hydration. Brittle nails usually result from repeated cycles of hydration and dehydration, often caused by washing dishes without using gloves, frequent hand washing, or overuse of dehydrating agents such as nail enamels or nail enamel removers.
Nail care products contain, in varying amounts, many toxic and potentially hazardous ingredients that may damage nails. Nail polish can cause yellow-orange staining and brittle nails, and sometimes may cause an allergic skin rash. Acetone-containing nail removers lead to excessive nail dryness and inflammation of nail folds, which are the areas of the finger around the nails. Artificial nails (which may contain methyl methacrylate) may cause thinning, splitting and discoloration of the nail, loss of cuticle, or allergic skin rash. Nail hardeners (which may contain formaldehyde) may cause bluish discoloration of the nail.
Also keep in mind that cuticles play an important role in sealing the area between the nail fold and the nails. It is recommended not to manipulate or cut away the cuticles, as doing so compromises the natural barrier and may result in infection or chronic inflammation.
Here are some things you can do to keep your nails healthy:
Always wear gloves when working in water, like washing dishes
Always moisturize your hands after washing and drying them
Apply moisturizers that contain lactic acid, urea, phospholipids or mineral oils
Soak hands it in lukewarm water for 10 minutes at bedtime to help rehydrate
Wear cotton gloves to protect nails from damage or possible injury when working
Wear cotton gloves over moisturizing cream at night for deep moisturizing
Take a daily multivitamin that contains iron, thiamine (vitamin B5), cysteine, and/or pantothenic acid (vitamin B5)
Don’t bite your nails or the protective cuticles around them
Use a nail hardener or clear polish to strengthen the nails
Go polish-free in between maincures to give nails a break
Limit the use of nail polish removers to 1-2 times per month
Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water
Ask your dermatologist about topical prescription medications for brittle nails. Make sure to check with your insurance company to see if the medications are covered.
For our patients who suffer from nail fungus, brittle or discolored nails, or those who are allergic to chemicals in commercial nail polish, we offer a line of nail polishes by Dr.’s REMEDY. Dr.’s REMEDY offers over 40 different shades of nail color along with nail care products such as base coat, top coat, cuticle care and a nail hydration. Each product is infused with a special blend of ingredients including: wheat protein, tea tree oil, garlic bulb extract and lavender. Dr.’s REMEDY products do not contain formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, toluene, camphor or pthalates or DBP. Dr.’s REMEDY is a great alternative to traditional nail polish.
Biotin is a popular over-the-counter supplement that has been shown to strengthen nails. It’s important to note that the FDA recently issued a warning that Biotin may seriously interfere with different types of bloodwork, including thyroid studies and troponin- a biomarker that is used in diagnosing heart attacks. According to the FDA, the daily recommended allowance for Biotin (0.03 mg) does not typically cause significant interference in blood studies. However, supplements containing biotin usually contain much higher levels of it — often hundreds of times above the recommended daily allowance. At this time, the FDA is currently working to better understand biotin interference and to develop recommendations regarding biotin. Therefore, in the meantime it would be prudent to limit Biotin use to 0.03 mg per day.
If you have abnormal nail symptoms, or any changes on your nails or fingers, make sure to see your dermatology provider for evaluation as some types of nail abnormalities may be signs of concern.