Brittle Toenails & Fingernails Signs, Causes & Treatment

Brittleness of nails be it on toes or fingers is a condition that no one can stand.  Simply because everyone wants strong, shining and healthy nails that can easily be shaped and painted/polished with colors that match your style and the current trends…Read on to find what brittle nails mean, causes, treatment, home remedies and best tips and ideas to prevent them. 

Brittle Nails-Thyroid and Other Symptoms

Brittle toenails and fingernail are nails that easily become cracked, chipped, split, or peeled.
Having brittle nails may mean a lot. It may be a sign of an underlying condition or ailment which include; liver and kidney diseases, heart and lung conditions, anaemia and diabetes. Brittleness may also imply that you are aging. It may also tell something about your lifestyle for instance too much exposure to water, prolonged, non-stop nail polish use etc.

Brittle nails: Toenails fingernails causes and treatment
Brittle nails

Basically brittle nails can be divided into two depending on the moisture content;

  • Dry and brittle (too little moisture)
  • Soft and brittle (often too much moisture)

It is good to understand the anatomy of your nails before you learn about the conditions that might eat up your nails like brittle nails. Both the toenails and fingernails originate from cells called lunula, which are semicircular in shape. The compound is the one responsible for the production of keratin.

This is a condition that is characterized by nails on the hands and feet break then fall off easily. The other alternate medical names that can be used to describe this is onychorrhexis and onychoschizia.

The condition is not difficult to identify. Usually, the nails split, peel and then break easily. It is almost impossible to grow nails out of brittle nails because the moment the nails have grown to have any amount of free edge, they split then break.

The science behind brittle nails: Nails are composed of very small cells that are known as onychocytes, which are majorly made up of keratin. [Dr. Stern, MD. New York Dermatologist, Specialist in nails and nail disorders]. Looked at under the microscope, nails are made up of so many layers like the layers of a roof. Therefore, there are cells that are very delicate and this makes the nails very absorptive. Any abrasion and injury caused to the nails leads to a brittle condition.

It is essential to be aware that brittle nails cannot just come from anywhere. There must be an underlying condition or cause. It could be a health issue like anemia, or a thyroid condition as noted by Dr. Stern. If that is the case, then make a point of checking with your doctor for the proper and correct diagnosis.

Apart from that, if you suffer from an eating condition or if you are under some chemotherapy, then you are likely to have chronic brittleness of your nails. This is mainly due to protein deficiency in your body. On the other hand, you might not be suffering or a victim of the above conditions, but still a victim of brittle nails. The case therefore would imply that it is a genetic predisposition.

The nature of the nails is that they are absorbent and therefore very susceptible to so many external factors that affect them. They can therefore make the nails to split and break eventually. There are more various causes of the condition. Discussed below is a deeper insight into the same.

Brittle nails thyroid (Hypothyroidism)

Thyroid and brittle nails
Thyroid Gland

Hypothyroidism refers to a condition where there is lesser production of the thyroid hormone. When the body does not produce enough thyroid hormone, the body produces signs of fatigue, weakness, dry skin and more so brittle nails. Others include depression, constipation, memory loss, and irregular periods.

When you have an underactive thyroid gland, you are likely to notice softer nail beds, nail ridges and a lightening or disappearance of the white crescent-shaped area in your nail bed. Overactive thyroid has also contribute much to bringing about brittle nails.

Other Signs & Symptoms of Brittle nails

Many medical conditions affect the fingernails in terms of the texture and their shape. Brittleness of the fingernails could be an indicator of old age where they become cracked, chipped, split and peeled in the curse of time.

The following symptoms should always be looked out for because they could be indicators that brittle nails await you. They include:

  • Feeling dryness
  • Nails break, split or chip easily
  • Nails are sunken in appearance
  • Nails curl around the finger and nail tips
  • Color of the nails change
  • Ridges on the nails

Brittle Toenail and Fingernails Causes

Vitamin deficiency

According to the Standard American Diet, increasingly poor soil quality has gone far to influence the distribution of the minerals in the environment. The nutrients include iron as well as the most basic vitamins needed by the body. Iron for instance is very essential for the nail development, and the lack of it can result to breakage of the nails and hence brittle nails, breaking nails, unusual nail ridging and at times a bluish color of the nail bed. More mineral deficiencies that could result in brittle nails include are deficiency of vitamin C, D, E and B.

Brittle nails causes vitamin deficiency in your diet
Vitamin deficiency can cause brittleness in your nails


Diabetics have reduced sensation in the fingertips. This therefore means that they are likely to subject themselves to peripheral injuries of the fingertips. The toenail brittles could also be brought about by the fact that diabetics are prone to fungal infection onychomycosis, that leads to brittle fingers.

Brittle nails diet

Inadequate protein intake:

Your nails are manufactured from a fibrous protein that is known as keratin. The moment the diet does not offer enough of this, then it therefore follows that nails are likely to become weak then start breaking and in the long run break off.

The amount of protein that you are supposed to consume depends on your age, weight and activity level. The standard method that is employed by nutritionists to calculate is to multiply your weight by a factor of 0.37, to get the amount in grams.

More other causes

Acid body pH:

Your body ought to remain in the alkaline region for your body to function normally. A diet that is mainly composed of processed carbohydrates, sugars and grains as well as high alcohol and soda are likely to contribute to change in the body pH to mostly acidic.

The moment your body pH is very acidic, this leads to very serious health problems that range from gastritis to very weak nails and bristle nails among others. Other symptoms that may signify high acid include mouth ulcers, acid reflux, gastritis, ulcers, loose teeth, dull hair, chronic fatigue and headaches. 

Too much nail polish:

Most of the commercial nail polishes have very harmful chemicals that are used as additives, which can weaken your nails in the long run. If you paint your nails more than once in a week, then you should be aware that you are overdoing it. Your nails ought to be given some time to breathe and grow naturally in order to be healthy.

Overusing of the fingernails:

Daily activities like typing, opening things, cashiering, cooking and playing instruments can add to the nail breakage. It is better to file the nails short just in case your job requirement involves the use of your fingers from time to time.


Your body needs enough water for the lubrication of the joints and your hair and most importantly the strength of your nails. You therefore need plenty of this clean and fresh water.  Dehydration will be characterized by brittle nails, dry mouth loss of appetite, dark urine and chills.

Thick brittle yellow toenails

The first thing that can be attributed to this condition is age. Throughout the aging process, old age may lead to a reduced flow of sebum to your nails of the toes. As result, they will become less lubricated and then become weak and fall off in the long run.

Thick yellow brittle nails
Thick yellow brittle nails

An underlying health condition can also lead to of thick brittle yellow toe nails. Inadequate supply of oxygen to your nails on the toes could also precipitate brittle nails. Psoriasis can at times mimic the conditions of fungal infection of the toe nails, making them to fall off with time. Hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism and dehydration could also contribute to a great deal brittle of fingers.

More still, fungal infections are key contributors to this condition. This is given by enough evidence of the change of color of the nails which then fall off. You may notice yellow to brown color around the toe nails. Subsequently, there might be a change in the texture of the nails since keratin s digested by the fungus. If the nails plate are infected, then the nail plate can separate from the rest of the toe.

Nutritional deficiency also plays a great role in brittle nails. Both the hair and nails appearance could give you communication about the nutrient composition of your body. You should ensure that your body gets enough supply of proteins, vitamin C, folic acid and pantothenic acid, or else, they become weak and fall off.

Nail dryness is also a factors as to why you will have thick brittle toe nails: this is a condition that could tell you about your aging process or at times submerging your hands in water for a very long time, exposure to harsh chemicals like those of soap and detergents, overusing of chemicals especially the nail polishes.

Dry brittle toenails with ridges

They can first of all as you advance in age. An underlying condition could also be a great pointer towards this. Make sure you always visit your doctor for the proper diagnosis which will then be followed by the correct remedy or treatment.

Other cases of this condition could allude to the existence of a fungal infection called onychomycosis. Other symptoms include discoloration or dulling of the nails natural shine, thickening of the nails and then the change in the shape.

Thyroid disorders of hyper and hypothyroidism have been found victims of this condition. Deficiencies of important body minerals like the vitamins as well as other nutrients could also be a precipitants of this condition on the toe nails in persons of all ages.

Brittle toenails in toddlers

Baby’s toe nails are very delicate and can be subject to a lot of minor but very painful problems. To prevent baby toe nail problems like fungal infections and brittle nails, you should ensure that the nails are always clean.

The first suspect of this condition is the genetic wiring of the child. If your child inherits a defective gene that advocates for brittle toenails, then it is likely that it won’t take long before you start seeing this condition take stage in your young one.

The other case is in the event that there is a medical condition called Raynaud’s disease. This is where blood flow to the toes and fingertips is hindered by your child’s extreme to conditions that are very cold. This can cause the toenails to be deprived of oxygen and hence make them brittle.

Skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis could attack your toddler’s toenails and then compromise the integrity. Psoriasis, which is a skin condition could also find a way into the nails and bring about crumbling of the nails.

Brittle nails in toddlers and babies
Toddler nais

Brittle Toenails & Fingernail Treatment/Cure

Biotin Supplement

Biotin is very important for strong and healthy nails. It can be very effective in treating splitting, thin or brittle nails. According to a study done in Switzerland and published in the journal Cutis found that people with brittle nails had a 25 percent increase in nail plate thickness after taking 2.5 mg of biotin daily for up to six months.

Therefore, ensure you take a biotin supplement daily to strengthen your weak nails. Consult your doctor for the correct dosage. Also, include biotin-rich foods like egg yolks, whole grains, cereals, cauliflower, soybeans, fish, milk, lentils, and bananas in your daily diet.

Home Remedies for Brittle Nails

Lemon Juice

To strengthen and improve the condition of brittle nails, lemon juice is yet another good option. Apart from that, it will help brighten your nails and make them look whiter than ever. The procedure is straight forward where you have to:

  1. Mix one tablespoon of fresh lemon juice and three tablespoons of olive oil in a small bowl.
  2. Heat it in the microwave for a few seconds, until the mixture feels warm to the touch.
  3. Apply it to your nails using a clean cotton swab before going to bed.
  4. Wear gloves and leave it on overnight.
  5. Another option is to mix together equal parts of fresh lemon juice and Argan oil and soak your nails in the solution for 20 minutes.
  6. Follow either of these remedies once daily for two to three weeks.


Beer is another effective home remedy for brittle nails. It has selenium, potassium, phosphorus and biotin that help make your nails strong and healthy.

  1. Heat one-quarter cup of olive oil until it is warm to the touch.
  2. Mix it with one-quarter cup of apple cider vinegar and one-half cup of beer.
  3. Soak your nails in this mixture for 10 to 15 minutes.
  4. Follow this remedy once or twice a week.

Blackstrap Molasses

Note that lack of iron in the body can make your nails weak and brittle. Blackstrap molasses is a good source of iron. It contains several nutrients that benefit your overall health. To be used,

  1. Mix one tablespoon of blackstrap molasses in a cup of hot water or milk.
  2. Drink this once or twice daily for a few weeks.

Beware that this remedy is not recommended for those who are diabetic.

Blackstrap Molasses
Blackstrap Molasses

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil comes in as a nourishing agent for weak and brittle nails. The saturated fat in coconut oil works as a great moisturizer. It in addition prevents many kinds of nail infections. The following procedure would be ideal to make a regimen out of the oil:

  1. Slightly warm some coconut oil and apply it on each nail.
  2. Massage gently and thoroughly for almost five minutes.
  3. This will improve blood circulation and keep the nails moisturized.
  4. Follow this remedy two to three times daily.

You could also try another alternative where you:

  1. Mix one-quarter cup of warm coconut oil and a little lemon juice in a bowl.
  2. Soak your nails in this solution for 10 minutes before going to bed.
  3. Wear gloves overnight for best results.
  1. Follow either of these remedies for several weeks until your nails become healthy and strong.
  2. Along with coconut oil, you can also use olive oil to treat brittle nails.

Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)

This component is yet another good remedy for brittle nails. It has quite a number of nutrients that are healthy for your nails, such as vitamins, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and iron. Plus, it has malic acid and acetic acid that can help fight nail infections.

Procedure of preparation of a regimen:

  1. Mix equal amounts of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar and water in a small bowl.
  2. Soak your nails in this solution for a few minutes.
  3. Immediately after, gently push down the cuticles.
  4. Do this once daily and within a few days your nails will become much stronger.
  5. You can save the solution for future use.

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil can also help treat brittle nails, especially when caused by fungal infections. Being a powerful antiseptic, it helps fight infections. It will also help treat discolored nails.

  1. Mix one-half teaspoon of vitamin E oil and a few drops of tea tree oil.
  2. Rub this solution on each of your nails and massage gently for a few minutes.
  3. Leave it on for 30 minutes.
  4. Rinse it off with lukewarm water, pat dry and apply a moisturizing lotion.
  5. Do this twice a day for a month.

Sea Salt

Sea salt has many healing minerals that are good for your nails. It can help strengthen brittle nails as well as soften cuticles and add a brilliant shine to your nails.

  1. Mix two tablespoons of fine grain sea salts in a small bowl of warm water.
  2. Add two drops each of wheat germ oil and frankincense, myrrh and lemon essential oils.
  3. Soak your nails in this solution for 10 to 15 minutes.
  4. Rinse it off with warm water, pat dry and apply a hand cream.
  5. Follow this remedy two or three times a week and very soon you will notice the results.


It contains high amounts of silica, a vital mineral for strong and healthy nails. Plus, this herb can help get rid of white spots in your nails. To do this successfully;

  1. Add two teaspoons of dried horsetail herb to a cup of hot water.
  2. Cover and steep for 10 minutes.
  3. Let it cool down and then soak your nails in it for about 20 minutes.
  4. Pat dry your nails and then rub some olive oil on them.
  5. Leave it on overnight, wearing gloves for best results.
  6. Repeat this remedy three or four times a week.
  7. You can also drink one to two cups of horsetail tea daily for added benefits.
Using horsetail as a home remedy for brittle nails

Vitamin E Oil

In most cases, the main culprit behind brittle nails is lack of moisture. Vitamin E oil is a great remedy to keep your nails moisturized as well as being hydrated. It will also help strengthen and nourish your nails and cuticles.


  1. Break open a vitamin E capsule to extract the oil.
  2. Apply the oil on your nails before going to bed.
  3. Massage gently for five minutes to help increase circulation to the nail bed.
  4. Do this daily for one or two weeks to notice a change in your nails.
  5. For added benefits, you can also take vitamin E capsules orally.

Tips and Ideas to Prevent Soft, Brittle & Weak Nails

It is recommended that you consider going for non-invasive methods to deal with brittle nails. This is to be done before you settle on the invasive methods which come in handy when they are the only options left to save the condition. Additionally, the following care tips are very crucial:

  • Avoid using nail lacquers, polishes or adhesives that have harsh chemicals like acetone or formaldehyde.
  • Do not cut away the cuticles. You can push them back to avoid infection. Use cuticle oil or cream to avoid dry skin and hangnails.
  • Expose you nails to natural sunlight for a few minutes daily to nourish them with vitamin D.
  • Follow a healthy diet and drink adequate water throughout the day to avoid dehydration.
  • If you have weak and brittle nails, avoid using artificial nails as they can lead to nail fungus.
  • Keep an eye out for signs of fungal infections, so that the problem can be treated quickly.
  • Rub petroleum jelly or a thick cream onto your nails several times a day to hold moisture around and under your nails.
  • Steer clear of alcohol-based hand sanitizers as they can make your nails dry.
  • Take a break from wearing nail polish occasionally to allow your nails to be exposed to natural air.
  • Wear plastic gloves to protect your hands and nails from exposure to water or chemicals. If you can’t wear gloves, keep your nails short to minimize the surface area where water and chemicals can be absorbed.
  • When choosing nail polish, opt for fortified polishes.

Sources & References


Originally posted 2020-12-31 10:57:44.

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