Nail & Skin Disorders

Under the Microscope: Brittle Nails

Sometimes called onychorrhexis or onychoschizia, brittle nails peel, split, and break easily.

 

What is it? Brittle nails split, peel, and break easily. It is nearly impossible to grow nails out when they are brittle, because once the nails have any amount of free edge, they split and break. If the nails lack moisture, as they often do with brittle nails, it’s likely the skin will lack moisture as well. The skin surrounding the nails may crack, split, and bleed.

How do you get it? Brittle nails are often the result of a lack of moisture. They can be caused by medical conditions such as a thyroid problem or a hormone imbalance, but more often than not, brittle nails are caused by an interaction with the environment. When fingernails are brittle, but toenails are not, there’s a good chance that the nails are brittle because they are being exposed to something that dehydrates them. Detergents, soaps, or other allergens could cause the nails to split, but a common culprit of splitting nails is plain, everyday water. People who are in and out of water all day long are more likely to develop brittle nails. An unavoidable factor that contributes to brittle nails is age. The body’s ability to retain moisture begins to change at around age 35.

How is it treated? Nails should be hydrated regularly. A moisturizer that contains urea is often recommended. Of course, if the client is in a lot of water, she can wear gloves to protect her hands and nails. Other treatments could include biotin, a B-complex vitamin that is available over the counter. The recommended dose is 2.5-3 milligrams a day for four to six months. Silica or orthosilicic acid may also help clients who suffer from brittle nails.

What can a tech do? Nail techs can treat brittle nails in a number of ways. The first is to work with the client, educating her on ways to keep her hands moisturized. Techs can also offer clients in-salon moisturizing treatments, such as paraffin, and you can sell clients hydrating products, such as your favorite cuticle oil, that clients can use at home. Techs can create an extra-hydrating nail service and market it to clients with brittle nails. Be sure to use a natural nail strengthener under the polish, and apply cuticle oil to clients’ nails before they leave.

What else? Applying and removing polish frequently can also dehydrate nails, causing them to become brittle. Clients who remove their polish more than once a week may complain that their nails have begun to split. Techs can remind clients to moisturize hands as one step in their at-home polish change. You might recommend to clients that they soak their hands in water for a few minutes before bedtime and then add a generous amount of moisturizer to the hands. They should then place cotton gloves over the hands and wear them overnight.

 

Keywords:   brittle nails     nail diseases     onychorrhexis     onychoschizia  

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