How To Treat Peeling Nails Caring Tips For Your Nails
Nails protect your fingertips as well as enhance your ability to pick up items. Nowadays fingernails serve a cosmetic purpose, but their primitive uses included digging and defending. Nails are made from keratin, a protein that’s also found in your hair. They have multiple tough layers that can peel. This can cause them to appear thin or become weakened, causing them to split. The medical term for peeling nails or splitting fingernails is onychoschizia.
Peeling nails can be the result of outside or external trauma to the nail. More rarely, they can indicate a systemic condition or a sign that a pathologic process is occurring inside your body.
It takes six months for a fingernail to grow to its full length. That means it’s possible to experience nail abnormalities as a result of something that occurred months earlier.
What causes peeling nails?
Trauma or damage to the nail itself can cause peeling. Soaking your hands in hot water while doing the dishes or engaging in any other prolonged water exposure can dry out the nails. This can also cause peeling.
Other traumatic causes of peeling include:
- any activity that presses on the nail
- overusing the nails as a tool
- picking or peeling off nail polish
- applying false or acrylic nails
If you can’t attribute your peeling nails to an external or internal cause; one way to tell the difference is to compare your toenails and fingernails. If your fingernails are peeling but your toenails aren’t (or vice versa), this signals an external cause. If both your fingernails and toenails are peeling, this signals an internal cause.
Internal causes can vary, but sometimes dry, peeling nails can indicate a vitamin deficiency, typically an iron deficiency.
When to seek medical help
Peeling nails rarely have internal causes or are a medical emergency. However, if your nails are causing severe pain or bleeding in addition to peeling, you may want to seek urgent medical care.
Most often, at-home treatments can reduce the incidence of peeling nails.
How do I care for peeling nails at home?
Fixing Peeling Nails From the Inside
First, let’s focus on what you can do to improve the overall health of your nails.
- Drink lots of water. Peeling can be the result of dryness, so try moisturizing from the inside out by drinking water throughout the day. This benefits not just your nails and skin, but your entire body.
- Eat the good stuff. Boost your intake of iron- and biotin-rich foods such as:
- Whole grains
- Cooked eggs
- Baked potato with skin
- Fortified breakfast cereals
- Lean meats
- White beans
- Take a multivitamin. Other nutrients found in vitamins can help build your nails’ strength, too. They work together with each other and with the foods you eat to keep all your body systems humming.
If you take a multivitamin, read the label carefully. Not all manufacturers include iron as a part of the standard multivitamin.
According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, taking more than 25 milligrams of elemental iron reduces the body’s ability to absorb zinc. To prevent this adverse effect, avoid taking excessive iron supplements.
In addition to incorporating iron in your diet, the Mayo Clinic recommends taking biotin to help strengthen nails.
Attack Peeling Nails From the Outside
Peeling nails can be the result of too little moisture or too much. The former can be caused by repeatedly getting the nails wet and then drying them. With the latter, sheer soaking in water while performing such things as household chores makes the nails soft and possibly causes peeling or sloughing of the nail.
You can protect your nails by applying clear nail polish. One with nylon fibers may be especially helpful in strengthening the nail.
Another way to prevent peeling nails is to avoid using the nails as tools to pick up or open items, which can weaken them. Instead, use the pads of your fingers.
Now, let’s think about how to moisturize your nails.
Here are a few tried-and-true remedies:
- Soak your nails in olive or coconut oil. Just pour some oil into two small bowls (melt the coconut oil for just a few seconds in the microwave); moisten your nails a bit, stick them in the bowls, and relax for a while.
- Use gentle polish remover. Use acetone-free nail polish remover for sensitive skin. It might take a bit longer to get the nail polish off your nails, but it’s far kinder to them.
- Try nail-hardening polish and topical treatments. Here are a few to check out:
- Consider forgoing polish altogether for a while. Going au naturel reduces the drying effects of harsh chemicals. Plus, you’ll allow sunlight to reach your nails and cuticles; it’s vital to cell repair and regeneration.
- Buff. Pick up a 4-in-1 nail buffer to smooth rough edges so they don’t catch so easily.
- Wear gloves. How often your hands are in the water? How often are you using chemicals and cleaning products? What exactly is getting used on your hands and how often? Sometimes we don’t think about how the things we do and the products we use affect our nails. If you’re frequently submerging your hands in water for whatever reason (washing dishes, work-related responsibilities, etc.) gloves can go a long way toward nail health. No, they’re not pretty and they can be cumbersome, but they’re the best way to keep your hands and nails healthy.
How can I prevent peeling nails?
You can take a few preventative steps to improve your nail health, too:
Don’t resort to the fakes. Acrylic, press-on, and gel nails can make things worse; turning your already damaged nails into something that only time will help.
Don’t expose your hands to water without moisturizing afterward. It sounds counter-intuitive, but water—specifically, the evaporation of water—dries skin out. The lotion is your nails’ friend.
Don’t use your nails as tools. Don’t use them to pick apart things, open soda cans; or do any of the hundred other things that an actual tool or a better method can accomplish without damaging your nails.
Don’t bite your nails. When a nail is peeling, it’s very tempting to bite it off. That’s a bad idea because, first, you’ll weaken your nail, and second, think of all the things your fingers touch in a day. Now imagine licking them all. “Unhygienic” is an understatement. If a strip of the nail is beginning to peel, clip it and buff or file the edge.
Speaking of buffing: Do it in one direction! Buffing and filing back and forth can weaken your nail beds and make peeling more likely. Instead, use gentle, steady movements in one direction only.