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What causes brittle nails?

April 18, 2010 | Bookmark +

I have ridges and splitting on the ends of my nails. It’s as if my nails are shedding along the edges. Is something lacking in my system?


It sounds like brittle nail syndrome, which occurs when the nail plate is unable to maintain moisture and becomes dehydrated. It occurs most frequently in individuals who already have a tendency for dry skin. This is because the syndrome is like having “dry skin of the nails.” There are many causes for this syndrome. In an otherwise healthy individual this can be treated by applying moisturizers to the nails on a regular basis and by taking oral biotin supplements, a minor B vitamin, daily. In addition, people with this disorder should avoid nail products containing formaldehyde or acetone.

Occasionally, the syndrome can be caused by medical problems. These include an underactive thyroid, low iron or zinc levels in the blood, or, if a sudden onset of this condition occurs in an elderly person, it might indicate a systematic disorder. All of these cases require a doctor’s evaluation.

Excess use of soap and water with strong chemicals or detergents can also be the cause of brittleness. If so, minimize exposure by wearing gloves and by not immersing hands for long periods.

If there are only ridges in the nails going from the cuticle outward, then this may simply be due to the aging process. There is no way to prevent ridges associated with aging, but lightly buffing the nails no mire than once every 10 days should eliminate them. -- Dr. Scher


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What’s the cause of the pinkish-red oval area on the pad of my client’s toes?

I have a client who has a recurring problem with her fourth toes during the winter months. Both of her “ring finger” toes develop a pinkish-red oval area on the pad. Then a month later, when I see her again, the skin has become dry and hard like a callus, with the layers of skin peeling away to reveal a deeper, dark epicenter.  It’s extremely painful for her and, needless to say, we do not touch it. But it clears up in the summer when she’s wearing open-toed sandals, so I suspect it has to be due to the boots she wears in the winter. Plus she never puts lotion on her feet or uses a foot file in between visits. What do you think causes this?

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What are the big white spots on my natural-nail client’s nails?

I have a client who has been with me for about two years. She used to wear acrylic nails but has been a natural nail client for eight months or so. She has these white spots on her nails — big spots that are dry, but not flaky, right in the middle of the nail. I did try to buff them lightly but they do not come off or grow off. I had a new client come in last week who had the same on her toenails. She said it started after she had a pedicure done at another salon. Can you help?

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