What can I do About Weak Nails?

B. Miller

Weak nails can be caused by a number of things, including poor diet, chemicals found in nail polish, nails that are too long or treated poorly, or nails that are overexposed to water, among others. To help weak nails, you should determine which issues are causing the weakness and address them; if a poor diet is causing nail problems, for example, increasing the amount of protein you eat, along with adding more fruits and vegetables, can help. Weak nails may be brittle and prone to breaking, cracking, or peeling, and it is important to take care of the nails both for appearance's sake and for good health.

A nail technician polishing a woman's fingernails.
A nail technician polishing a woman's fingernails.

It is important to get enough protein in the diet to prevent weak nails. In addition, fruit and vegetables are important for the health of the entire body, including the finger nails. Some people find success by taking a supplement of biotin, which may encourage nail growth and promote healthy nails. There are also some nail hardening products that may be applied directly onto the nails to prevent breaking.

Exposing the nails to polish remover regularly can weaken them.
Exposing the nails to polish remover regularly can weaken them.

Frequent use of nail polish and nail polish remover are common causes of weak nails. If you choose to wear nail polish, try to choose brands that are formaldehyde-free, and do not leave nail polish on all the time. It is important to allow the nails at least a few days to "breathe." A clear base coat applied before polish may help prevent nails from staining. In addition, choose a polish remover that is free of acetone, which is extremely drying.

Using gloves when washing dishes can help prevent weak nails.
Using gloves when washing dishes can help prevent weak nails.

As nails get longer, they get weaker. Keep nails trimmed to an appropriate length, and file them into a square or rounded shape without any jagged edges. When filing, only file the nails in one direction, not back and forth. This see-saw motion can cause tiny cracks in nails and weaken them. In addition, overexposure to water can cause nails to weaken; do not file nails when they have just been soaking in water and are soft.

Those with weak nails should avoid filing the nails in a back and forth direction.
Those with weak nails should avoid filing the nails in a back and forth direction.

Treat nails carefully. This means wearing gloves when using cleaning products, washing dishes, working outside, or gardening. Do not treat the nails as if they are sturdy tools for opening containers or scraping, and of course, do not bite the nails.

It is also important to moisturize the hands regularly to prevent weak nails. Applying a thick moisturizer before bed, then putting a pair of gloves or even a pair of socks on the hands, can be a great way to condition and treat nails overnight. If weak nails are persistent, or they appear to be flaking, peeling, or developing spots, it might be necessary to visit a dermatologist to rule out a fungal infection.

Nail strengtheners can be applied when nails are soft, weak or pliable.
Nail strengtheners can be applied when nails are soft, weak or pliable.

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Discussion Comments

anon231989

I have heard that lightly buffing the nails regularly increases circulation, hence strengthening the nails.

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