Weakened, brittle, or soft nails may indicate an underlying condition that requires medical attention, such as liver disease, kidney disease, or psoriasis.
However, the way a person treats their nails can also directly affect their health and strength. The following are general tips and tricks people can try to strengthen and maintain the health of their nails:
A diet rich in minerals and vitamins may help keep nails strong.
A well balanced, nutritious diet that contains plenty of minerals and vitamins can help with a range of health-related issues — including keeping a person’s nails strong.
If a person does not consume enough minerals and vitamins through their diet, they may consider taking a multivitamin. However, always speak to a doctor before taking any multivitamins to ensure they will not interact with existing medications.
Multivitamins are available to purchase in stores and online.
However, biotin is water-soluble, which means that a person does not store it in their body. As a result, a person needs to take in biotin either through their diet or supplements.
People should talk to their doctor before taking a biotin supplement.
Biotin supplements are available to purchase in stores and online.
Drink plenty of water
Being hydrated has a direct effect on the health of a person’s nails.
When a person is not getting enough fluid, their nails can become brittle. When a person’s nails are fragile, they break or peel more easily.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that most people can get enough fluids to remain hydrated by drinking water when thirsty and when eating a meal. However, if a person feels they are not getting enough fluid, they can increase their daily intake by:
- carrying a reusable water bottle
- choosing water over sugary drinks
- drinking water at meals instead of other beverages
Avoid gel or acrylic nails
Constantly using gels or acrylic nail polish can damage a person’s nails, causing them to peel.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, the UV light that people use to dry the polish also carries a potential risk. This is because UV light has links to both skin cancer and premature aging. The Foundation recommend applying sunscreen to the hands 20 minutes before a nail salon appointment as a preventive measure.
To help keep the nails strong and healthy, a person should take a break from gels and acrylic polishes — or avoid using them altogether.
Avoid certain nail products
Many nail products can also cause damage. Nail polish remover and other nail treatments may contain chemicals that can make nails easy to break.
Make sure that products do not contain toxic chemicals, such as formaldehyde, before applying them to the nails.
Avoid using nails as tools
The role of the nails is to protect the soft skin underneath them. It is not a good idea to use them as tools to get things done.
A person can easily break or chip their nail if they use them to open a can, for example. So to protect nails, try using a flat object or the pads of the fingers to pry it open.
Not using nails as tools can help prevent damage and improve nail strength.
Keep nails short
Shorter nails are less likely to become damaged. When a person has very long nails, they are more likely to break, chip, crack, or catch on something and rip off.
Keeping nails trimmed can help avoid accidental breakages and maintain their strength.
Use lotion frequently
Using a moisturizing hand lotion can help keep the nails hydrated.
A person should apply lotion after washing their hands or after removing nail polish to help restore moisture to the nails.
Moisturizing hand lotion is available to purchase in stores and online.
Avoid excessive hand sanitizer
If a person has to use hand sanitizer, they should use only a small amount.
People often use hand sanitizer as a substitute for washing or when they are unable to wash their hands.
However, hand sanitizer often contains alcohol that can dehydrate the hands and nails.
Using hand sanitizer frequently can leave the nails brittle and easy to break.
If using hand sanitizer is the only option, a person should avoid getting it on their nails and only use a small amount.
Wear gloves when using cleaning products
Cleaning products often contain dangerous chemicals.
Though a person may not notice any issues with their skin or nails when using a cleaning product, they can cause damage to either one or both.
Try wearing rubber gloves when handling any cleaning products to avoid potential damage.
Avoid excessive exposure to water
Prolonged exposure to water can cause a person’s nails to soften, which means they can break easily.
Ways to reduce exposure to water include keeping hands out of bathwater when bathing and wearing gloves when washing dishes.
Consume enough protein
Protein is essential when it comes to healthy nails.
If someone is deficient in protein, their nails will not grow as strong. A person can increase the amount of protein they consume by including it in their diet.
Lean meats, fish, eggs, and beans are all excellent sources of protein.
Certain medications, particularly diuretics, can dehydrate a person’s nails.
If someone notices weakened nails, they should speak to their doctor about potentially changing their medications to avoid the side effect if possible.
When to see a doctor
A doctor can advise on whether any supplements to strengthen nails will interact with other medication.
A person should speak with their doctor if they have tried to strengthen their nails but have not been successful.
A dermatologist can assess a person’s nails, health history, and personal care and suggest potential treatments or solutions. This may include using prescription-strength nail treatments.
A person should also see their doctor before starting to take a new supplement, particularly if they are taking medications or other supplements.
A doctor can help determine if the supplement will interact with any of their medications.
Lack of care, lifestyle habits, or poor diet can cause soft, brittle, or weak nails. People can naturally strengthen nails with adequate hydration, a proper diet, and possible use of biotin supplements.
People can also prevent weak nails by avoiding exposure to chemicals, including nail polishes and polish removers, and over exposure to water.
If a person has tried several different ways to strengthen their nails without success, they should speak to their healthcare provider about what to do next.
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