Q&A

How can I stop the natural nail from peeling?

Q.

A few clients of mine who wear acrylics are experiencing peeling of the natural nails from underneath the free edge. When the nail peels, water gets trapped and bacteria grows. How can I stop the natural nail from peeling? Why does this happen?

A.

Peeling of the nail plate, referred to as onychoschizia, may occur from a variety of causes. By far the most common cause is dehydration, or loss of moisture. It may be seen in people who have dry skin (some refer to this as “dry skin of the nails”) or in patients who have eczema. Overuse of soap and water, too-frequent washing, and frequent contact with detergents may also precipitate this problem. In addition, the nail plate becomes drier with age so that in the elderly, peeling is more common. When the nail plate is in this condition, it is more brittle, cracks easily, and frays at the edges. Dermatologists often refer to this as the brittle nail syndrome. Artificial nails, whether sculptured nails or nail wraps that utilize adhesives, also have a tendency to cause peeling in some people. Those individuals who are susceptible, which might include your clients, are probably prone to dry skin and nails.

There is no foolproof means of preventing the nails from peeling. However, if you buff the nail plate slightly to smooth the surface prior to applying acrylic, peeling is less likely to happen. It also helps to keep the nails well-moisturized when the acrylics are removed. Sometimes vitamin supplementation with biotin, a vitamin found in eggs, is also beneficial.--Richard K. Scher, M.D.

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