If you’re suffering with dry and brittle nails you’ll know how uncomfortable they can be. Brittleness can cause nails to crack or chip more easily. Nails can also be prone to splitting or peeling when they’re dry, and winter weather often makes symptoms worse.
Why do we get dry/brittle nails?
It’s first important to understand why we get dry and brittle nails. There are usually two main reasons: a lack of vitamins or a lack of moisture. In an otherwise healthy person a lack of moisture is the usual culprit and can be easily managed using the advice below.
It should be noted, however, that in some cases brittle nails can be a sign of an underlying medical condition. Anaemia, an underactive thyroid or certain forms of arthritis can cause dry and brittle nails, so it’s worth getting your nails checked by a doctor if you are at all concerned.
- Use a hand cream designed for dry skin
A hand cream should be applied frequently as hand-washing, central heating and a lack of moisture in the air can reduce its effectiveness. If you have dry or brittle nails you should also make a point of massaging the hand cream around the nails so that it is absorbed through the epidermis (the top layer of skin surrounding the nails). It’s particularly important to apply hand cream after washing hands, or having a shower or bath.
Try and use a hand cream that has emollient properties, as these will ‘sit’ on the surface of the skin, creating a barrier and preventing any further moisture loss. Ingredients that have emollient properties include cocoa butter, shea butter or propylene glycol as well as some plant oils.
- Apply a cuticle oil
Cuticle oils that include ingredients such as Vitamin E, Coconut Oil, Almond Oil or Jojoba Oil are all fantastically nourishing and deeply hydrating for both the nails and the skin surrounding them.
As with hand creams, cuticle oil should be applied frequently. If you need an extra boost, apply a generous layer around the nails down to the third knuckle and leave to absorb overnight, wearing cotton gloves to prevent oil being rubbed off.
3. Take a Biotin supplement
Biotin has been shown to help dry and brittle nails, with one research study showing a 25% improvement after 6 months of daily supplementation.
Take 2.5mg daily and you should see a difference after a couple of months. Please note Biotin (Vitamin B7) is not always appropriate e.g. if you’re pregnant, so please check with your doctor before starting to take Biotin.
You can also increase your intake of Biotin through your diet. Eggs, nuts and seeds, wholegrains and meats are all high in Biotin.
Paraffin wax is fantastic for softening and nourishing skin and nails. It acts as an emollient (see above), but also increases circulation and opens pores, allowing creams and oils applied afterwards to work more deeply.
A great monthly treatment which means any products you use between appointments will be even more effective.
- Avoid products that dry out the skin
These include specific nail products such as nail polish remover as well as general household products.
Try to avoid toulene and acetone in any nail polish removers as these act as nail dehydrators.
Also try to wear rubber gloves when cleaning around the house. If possible, avoid coming into contact with any household products having high levels of fragrances or acids as these can be irritating on dry skin.