Peeling Nails Causes, Treatment and Care for Brittle, Weak Fingernails and Toenails

What causes your nails to start peeling? Nail peeling can occur in both the fingers of the hands or the feet toes. Nail peeling can be a painful thing. Brittle, dry, weak or soft and thinning nails makes it easy for splitting and peeling to occur.

peeling fingernail

peeling fingernail

Before we focus on the causes of peeling in nails let us look into the nail structure and peeling. The nail consists of three features: the nail plate, the nail matrix and the nail bed that is the skin beneath the nail plate. Your nails are made up of small onychocytes cells that are very delicate.

The nail plate is the hard part composed of mainly dead cells (keratin) and thus can dry out or crack just like the skin. The nail can also absorb since it is also permeable: more than the permeability of the skin.

Causes of peeling nails

The causes we are going to look at account for the peeling fingernails and toe nails.

Do you do inside chores or work outside the house without adequately protecting hands? Whether you do work in the garden, lift heavy things inside the home or scrub the floors, do washing and other tasks involving a lot of handling. Your nails will be chipped and then they will start to peel easily. What else causes nail peeling?

1. Handling chemicals

Did you stop to wonder what caused the sudden change in appearance and texture in nails? In most cases, the damage caused by some of these chemicals eventually make the nails to start cracking hence peeling. Frequent handling of harmful chemicals can struck trauma and physical damage to the hands including the palms. Examples of these chemical substances include pesticides, sprays, paints, chlorine-based cleansing agents and acids among other harmful substances.

Not all chemicals cause damage to skin. Even though that is the case, it is safer to handle chemicals or chemical substances using protective equipment. Whether you find yourself using harsh chemicals against pests, strong paints for the house or powerful, you need to protect your fingernails from serious damage

2. Excessive water exposure

It is true if you do a lot of hand washing the skin on hand will dry out. Consequently, your fingernails are more likely to grow weaker and thinner. They could as well begin to break or tear particularly when you have longer nails. Overexposure to moist conditions or water, as in keeping hands in soapy water for too long can cause our nails to brittle and peel.

3. Secondary infections

peeling nails disease

peeling nails disease

Whether it is about viral, fungal or bacterial infections to nail, damage can occur. If the infection becomes severe, the damage can make both toenail and fingernails are deformed.

A secondary infection is more likely to occur if you have a skin condition such as psoriasis. The symptoms of psoriasis on the nails are normally mild but may flare up if there is no treatment.

Psoriatic nail disease

One of the secondary diseases of the nail include psoriatic nail disease. It commonly affects both the fingernails and toenails. Small perforations or pits on the nails usually indicate this disease.

Other symptoms include, the color of the nails turning yellowish to brown, thickening nails with yellow or white patches on the tips. The affected nail will also become raised and tender. Eventually, the nail will separate from the finger or toe.

According to Dr. Colin Tidy, this disease can produce severe symptoms and become difficult to treat. However, doctors use a combination of products, medications, and phototherapy and nail removal to treat psoriatic nail disease.


oncymycosis in toenail

oncymycosis in toenail

Secondly, Onychomycosis is another infection considered one of the nail abnormalities causing brittleness in nails. The causative agents include dermatophytes, Candida, and non-dermatophytic molds cause it.

The symptoms of Onychomycosis include

  • Thickening of the nails
  • The nail turns yellow, greenish or black with infection time
  • In case of lack of treatment there is presence of white or yellow patches on the nail beds

The disease is common in children. Excessive sweating, swimming, athlete’s foot, injury on feet, living in moist environments and poor feet care are examples of the risk factors. Ageing, diabetes, poor circulation are other risk factor among the adults.

Unless the infection is severe, Onychomycosis normally causes no pain. This infection can be controlled and treated with topical antibiotics easily if examined and diagnosed early.

4. Skin conditions – plaque psoriasis

For example, in the case of psoriasis, the symptoms can be transmitted to the hands and soon you will have peeling fingernails.

5. Medication

Depending on your current medication, there can be side effects such as fingernails becoming brittle. Some people do not realize and may not know that they actually have brittle nails until they begin breaking or peeling.

Read on to know more causes of brittle or Onychoschizia of nails.

6. Artificial or acrylic nails

frequent use of nail polish can cause nail peeling

frequent use of nail polish can cause nail peeling

Fake nails are synthetic extensions placed over your real nails to enhance their appearance and making them more beautiful. If they are fixed anyhow and without care, people with false nails or fake ones find peeling to be a problem. Before you decide to go for gel manicure or get acrylic nails, consider peeling as one of the risks.

A slightly rounded shape is the best shape for acrylic nails. Unfortunately, the round nails are the worst if they are brittle. Round-shaped nails break easily. Furthermore, it is not easy to do manual work with acrylic nails, is it?

7. Nails peeling and vitamin deficiency

Poor eating habits are directly linked to a deficiency in body nutrients. Dr. Waldorf notes that it is after severe vitamin deficiency that you will really start to see the effects.

Lack of fruits as part of your diet, vegetables and food rich in proteins then our nails cannot get the nutrients they need to keep healthy. Change your diet to include more healthy proteins, amino acids and the entire range of B vitamins

  • peeling nails and thyroid
  • medical causes of peeling fingernails
  • top layer of nail peeling off from cuticle nail peeling at the base or from nail bed

8. Weather changes

Both the cold and the dry season favor peeling fingernails. During cold weather,

Nail peeling at the base or from nail bed

If you start to notice a significant change in both appearance and texture or quality of the nails they will start to peel from the cuticle. Peeling nails at the base or the beds can cause pain and will start bleeding if you are involved in activities that involve use of hands.

The common causes for this kind of peeling include fungal infections, skin conditions such as psoriasis can make the nails to begin splitting from the nail beds.

Dry and brittle peeling nails

Flaky peeling nails

Flaky peeling nails

Brittleness is the quality of a substance or anything solid to break easily due to its quality to break or snap easily upon applying pressure or force. However much the hardness in our fingernails seems to be brittleness in them can make them to dry out easily, get damaged and vulnerable to peeling.

Causes of brittleness in nails include

  1. Nail polishing directly on to your naked nails
  2. Frequently applying nail polish which contain drying ingredients
  3. Vitamin deficiency especially Iron, Biotin or vitamin B-complex
  4. Using the wrong polish removers
  5. Damaged and dry cuticles and lack of adequate moisturizing after washing, cooking, etc.

Certain medications can also make the nails become brittle. Other than the above reasons, brittle nails is also a sign of (starting to) ageing.

How to fix weak or brittle peeling nails

Some people have naturally thinner nails and this may predispose them to peeling. Here is a quick fix on how to help your weak and brittle nails. First, consider using nail strengtheners and replace this with polishing.

  • Moisturize regularly more so after washing
  • Try soaking them in warm salt water
  • If your nails become brittle due to fungal infections then you should see your podiatrist after you have consulted a doctor

These are not the only remedies. There are many more things you can do yourself and help improve the texture and appearance of the nails. After treatment, continue to take good care for the fingernails and toenails.

Peeling nails treatment

severe fingernail peeling

severe fingernail peeling

Some conditions causing the nails to peel are treatable. Getting the right treatment for peeling nails is predetermined by causes. If you do not treat or find cure for your peeling nails, bleeding may result.

However, prior to treatment a proper medical examination or diagnosis may be necessary in order to establish the exact cause and find the best cure for the condition/disease causing peeling nails. Take caution while using any product as a moisturizer. Some products are likely to worsen symptoms (if any is experienced).

According to beauty experts, proper nail care and strengthening are the basic approaches to solve the problem if no other symptoms are seen. If this does not work then you need to see nutritionist. If you experience bleeding and pain urgently visit your doctor.

Strengthening products is another treatment. Ask a beauty expert how achieve this. In the next section, we are going to look at some of the great remedies and natural means to deal with nail peeling.

Care for peeling nails – remedies

How badly damaged are your nails after peeling? Are they weak, rough, painful, looking yellowish, discolored or what do they look like? Taking extra care of your nails requires not only great attention but also patience especially the fingernails.

You may count on these simple advice and best tips for caring your fingernails and toenails. Above all, always keep in mind that not everything will work for you. In addition, for that reason you really have to know what your nail problem is. Remember to include these procedures in your daily skin care for yourself and little loved ones.

Olive oil soaking

Do you have dry and brittle fingernails due to frequent exposure to drying agents such as water? Extra virgin Olive oil could be all you need to bring life back and make look cute. Ensure that at least a day does not elapse before you do soaking. Take 15 – 20 minutes off your day and do it for yourself.

Don’t forget your gloves

Those harsh soaps and detergents you continually touch may be what is triggering dryness in your nails. No one wants them to dry out anymore. So, while cleaning and clearing the gardens always put them on give protection to your fingernails.

Antibacterial products such as washing solution

Wash your hands using antibacterial soap or solution to control and avoid reinfection.

Moisturizing creams

Creams also play an integral part as far as treatment of nail peeling is concerned. Creams soften the cuticle and this offers protection for the nail beds. Parents are also advised to take right measures to minimize thumb and finger sucking in children who make this habitual.

Keep aside all the stresses to your nails

These include all the factors that may lead to thinning out or weakening any physical damage. Thus, avoid scratching them with sharp tools to remove nail polish or as a means of readying them for manicure.

How to prevent your nails from peeling

Preventing the nails from peeling is the best way to grow pretty nails. If you practice the correct nail care and manicure, you reduce the chances of them starting to peel. The first thing is to avoid using the fingernails as opening tools or tool opener.

i.  Stop the self-manicures

Avoid applying the bad gels, acrylic (fake nails), nail paints especially if you have thin nails and they take too long to regrow after trimming.

ii.  Trim them

Learn to trim and file the nail by the edges. In addition, keeping them as shorter as possible has an added advantage.

iii. Use nail strengthener

Make sure you use the best nail strengthener for your peeling nails but ensure that they are in the perfect condition. If you have no problem with polishing then do it in a one-direction polishing.

iv. Treat your vitamin deficiencies

Incorporate food or food supplements rich in Iron, Vitamin B, including the vitamin B complex and multivitamin especially for the children. As you take them (or give to your child), ensure that you regulate the amounts you consume because excessive vitamins than the body requires is dangerous.

Also, take sufficient whey or lean proteins and fatty acids from fish oil. Lastly, boost your body hydration by drinking enough water during the day

v. Fee care

Use breathing footwear to minimize chances of fungal infections.

In order to find the best treatment and remedy for your damaged or peeled nails, first know what the problem is. You may be struggling all the treatments but may be you only need to adjust the dietary needs to cater for a vitamin deficiency.

You may also like 
  1. Strengthen Your Weak, Brittle Nails, Amy Marturana, Oct 18, 2013,
  2. Brittle Nails, Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD,
  3. The 10 easiest beauty hacks for damaged, dry-as-heck nails, SheKnows,
  4. Nail abnormalities,, updated Nov 1st 2016, accessed on 21 Nov 2016.
  5. Strengthen Your Weak, Brittle Nails, Amy Marturana,, accessed on 22nd November 2016

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