Few beauty problems are more upsetting than nails that are consistently brittle, flaking or breaking. Not only are brittle nails an uncomfortable and unsightly predicament, but healthy nails are also important for your overall health.
Neglected fingernails can cause severe problems. Nails are one of the first lines of defense against the countless objects you touch every day. They protect the delicate skin of your fingers from bacterial and fungal infections. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to protect your fingernails from consistent brittleness.
General rules for fingernail health
It’s reasonably simple to keep your fingernails in good shape, as long as you stick to a regimen of active nail care. When you’re taking a shower or washing your hands, make sure to scrub underneath your fingernails. Once they’re clean, try to keep your nails dry and clean as much as possible.
In terms of the extra steps you can take for nail health, dermatologists recommend using moisturizer daily. For people prone to brittle nails, a nail hardener can work wonders. Additionally, research suggests that biotin supplements are also a beneficial addition to a healthy nail care routine.
How to identify nail problems
Unfortunately, even the best nail care can’t prevent brittleness in some cases. If you’re concerned that your nails might be unhealthy, here are some warning signs to keep an eye out for, aside from obvious breaking or flaking.
- Discolorations in the nail: The darker the nail, the more serious the problem might be.
- Odd nail shape: If you find that your nails are consistently curling downward, for example, it could be a sign of a larger issue.
- Bleeding: Consistent cracking or bleeding around the nails or cuticles is something to consult a physician about.
- Change in density: If your nails suddenly become thicker or thinner, you could have cause for alarm.
If you’re following a standard nail care routine and notice that your nails continue to look and feel unhealthy, there could be external factors weighing in. Here are four of the most common causes of brittle nails and how to stop them.
1. Biting your nails
Thousands of people at every age bite their nails. Unfortunately, this unconscious habit could be more harmful than you realize. When you bite your nails, you could break the skin and leave yourself open to infection. What’s more, the digestive juices in saliva have a corrosive effect on the nail and cuticle. Prolonged exposure can leave both weakened, causing lasting damage.
You can curb this habit by keeping your nails short, which makes them harder to chew. There are also nail coatings you can use to make your nails taste unpleasant. It may also be worthwhile to explore why you resort to biting your nails and investigate the underlying causes behind the habit, like hunger or stress.
2. Texting and typing
No matter what you do for a living, almost everyone finds themselves typing for a large portion of their day. Even if you’re not working on a keyboard, you’ll probably pull out your phone and send a few texts to friends or family.
When you’re typing, if you notice a consistent click-click-click noise, it’s likely your fingernail tapping against the glass or hard plastic of your smartphone or keyboard. Believe it or not, this repeated stress can result in cracks and breaks at the very top of your nail.
You can approach this problem one of several ways. You can strengthen your nails with a natural supplement to minimize damage. You can type more consciously (which typically means typing slower). Or, you can trim your nails down so that your finger pads hit the keys instead of your nails.
3. Lack of vital nutrients
There are several crucial vitamins and nutrients that contribute to the strength of your nails. For example, people who don’t get enough iron in their diet might see dents and divots appear on their nails. A lack of vitamin B, on the other hand, can leave your nails peeling at the tips.
Take a look at your average daily diet and see whether you’re getting the full range of nutrients your body needs. If not, you might benefit from a nutritional supplement or a balanced meal plan. Your nails—and your overall health—will thank you.
4. Overuse of product
Damage might also stem from products that are actually designed to improve the strength or appeal of your nails. Though you may have the best of intentions, it’s possible to overdo it when it comes to these items.
For example, nail polish should be taken off after five days. Otherwise, it can begin to eat away at your nails. The acetone-based nail polish remover you use might make the nail polish removal process easier, but it can also be corrosive. And, cuticle clippers might make it more convenient to trim back unsightly cuticles, but they are also very damaging.
When you’re going about your daily beauty routine, make sure that you are mindful of whether the products you’re using are doing more harm than good.
Let your nails guide you
If you stick to a routine of proper nail care—washing your hands regularly, using moisturizer twice a day and keeping your eyes peeled for damage—you shouldn’t have any problem keeping your fingernails healthy!