Could formaldehyde in remover be causing nail splitting?
I’m a nail student. My aunt’s nails peel and split. I have used Nail Envy nail hardener but within a couple of days her nails begin to peel and split again. She’s a kindergarten teacher so her hands are in water a little more than the average person’s, but they don’t improve during the summer when she isn’t at school. I checked to see if her lotion has sodium hydroxide in it, and it doesn’t. She uses nail polish remover less than once a week. Could there be formaldehyde in the nail hardener or polishes? What can I do?
Sunil Sirdesai: I don’t think the lotion is affecting the nails. Nail Envy does contain formaldehyde. It is not uncommon to have formaldehyde in nail hardeners as it is the component responsible for hardening the nails. We have noticed that a small percentage of people get peeling and splitting when they use formaldehyde. In most cases, this problem is solved by switching to a formaldehyde-free formula.
Dr. Phoebe Rich: Your aunt has brittle nail syndrome. The typical brittle nail is thin, peeling or splitting sometimes with longitudinal ridges that can chip at the free edge. It is not known for certain exactly what causes this condition but an important factor is dehydration of the nail plate. Brittle nails are exacerbated by frequent exposure to detergents, soapy water, and solvents. Anemia (iron poor blood) can be a rare cause of brittle nails. There is often a familial tendency to have thin, fragile nails.
Treatment should be aimed at moisturizing the nails. You are correct to check for ingredients in lotions and nail cosmetics that might worsen the problem. It is doubtful that there is free formaldehyde in her polish. (Toluene sulfonamide formaldehyde resin is a common ingredient in polish but this chemical does not contain formaldehyde.) The main problem with free formaldehyde is primarily an allergic reaction and your aunt has different symptoms. Have your aunt use a heavy moisturizer on her nails every time she washes her hands. Nail Polish is OK if she does not over-use polish remover. She may also want to try a vitamin called Biotin that can be purchased at the health food store or pharmacy. It will take at least four months to see progress.