why do my nails split and peel

Brittle nails, characterized by nails that split or peel into layers, affect as much as 20 percent of the population, according to a report by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Some health conditions can result in peeling of both fingernails and toenails, but if only your fingernails are affected, the cause is likely to be external. Most cases of splitting nails are caused by moisture, according to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. Repeatedly wetting and drying your hands, and, by extension, your fingernails, can cause the nails to dry out. Too much moisture can also weaken the nails, softening them and causing them to peel. Fingernails can be protected from moisture by wearing gloves for activities in which the hands are immersed in water, such as washing dishes. The AOCD recommends applying a lotion containing lanolin to relieve dry and brittle nails. Injuries to the nail can cause them to split and peel. Nail biting leaves fingernails ragged and prone to additional damage. Using your fingernails as tools for scraping and prying will also cause nail injuries, and nails can break and split during normal everyday activities. Keeping your nails trimmed short and filing them with an emery board into a rounded shape can prevent the splitting and peeling from getting worse. Chemicals, including household cleansers, can dry out fingernails. Colored nail polish, adhesives used in glue-on nails and nail polish remover, particularly if it contains acetone, can all cause nail damage.


The effects of chemicals can be remedied by limiting exposure and moisturizing the nails after contact. Applying a coat of clear nail polish once a week may also prevent damage, according to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. Medline Plus states that splitting nails may be caused by hypothyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid gland is underactive and doesn't produce enough hormones. Other symptoms of hypothyroidism include weakness, fatigue, unintentional weight gain, joint pain and heavy menstrual periods. See your doctor if you experience these symptoms, as your peeling nails may have a medical cause. Iron deficiency anemia may result in brittle nails, according to MayoClinic. com. Iron helps the body produce hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying portion of red blood cells. Iron deficiency anemia can also cause cold hands and feet, pale skin, headaches and a poor appetite. A diet of iron-rich food or iron supplements can resolve the deficiency, but a doctor should be consulted to diagnose the problem if symptoms are present.
Most cases of brittle, splitting and peeling nails aren't due to a vitamin deficiency. Onychoschizia, the medical term for splitting nails, affects more women than men and typically results from excessive exposure to water or harsh, drying chemicals, such as nail polish remover and dish detergents. However, some vitamin deficiencies can affect your nails, causing them to become brittle and more likely to split and peel.


If you have splitting and peeling nails that aren't due to environmental causes, consult your physician for the correct diagnosis before treating them with a vitamin supplement. You need iron to manufacture hemoglobin and myoglobin, the proteins responsible for transporting oxygen to your tissues and muscles, as well as for proper growth and development and functioning of your immune system. According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency worldwide and is caused by an inadequate amount of iron in your diet, poor iron absorption from your digestive tract or excessive bleeding, including heavy menstrual periods. Along with fatigue, decreased body temperature and an inflamed tongue, an iron deficiency also causes brittle, splitting nails. Iron-containing foods include chicken liver, red meat, dark turkey meat, soybeans and fortified cereals. Severe zinc deficiency is very rare in developed countries, and most cases are due to an inherited condition, acrodermatitis enteropathica, caused by an inability to absorb zinc properly. Zinc is critical to normal growth and development and is needed for production of about 100 different enzymes. A zinc deficiency is characterized by delayed growth, frequent infections, slow-healing wounds and brittle, splitting nails with white spots. You may be at higher risk for a mild zinc deficiency if you are a vegetarian, a sufferer of Crohn's disease or other conditions causing malabsorption of nutrients, pregnant or an alcoholic.


Zinc is found in oysters, beef, pork, yogurt and beans. Vitamin A is not just one substance, but a group of carotenoid compounds you need to maintain a healthy immune system, vision, mucous membranes and skin. Vitamin A levels have a direct impact on your levels of iron. Vitamin A is required to transport iron from storage, so inadequate vitamin A levels create a functional deficiency in iron. As a result, you can also develop symptoms of iron deficiency, including pale skin, fatigue and brittle nails that split. Foods that are high in vitamin A include carrots, liver, spinach, cantaloupe and fortified foods, including milk and breakfast cereals. Although low levels of biotin don't cause brittle nails, supplementation with biotin does appear to be effective in treating dry, brittle nails that split and peel. Biotin, which is also referred to as vitamin H, is one of the eight B vitamins. According to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, there is some indication biotin may improve the structure and thickness of your nails, which reduces splitting. However, only a few small studies have been performed, so more research is necessary to confirm biotin's effectiveness. Get your physician's advice before taking biotin for brittle, splitting and peeling nails.

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