Brittle and split nails:
Brittle, split or cracked nails are usually due to excessive water exposure or overdrying of the nail plate. It also can be from irritant contacts with chemicals or from the frequent application and removal of nail polish. If nails are hard and brittle, this is suggestive of overdrying of the nail plate. This is seen with dry hands and over-washing of the hands and feet.
Soft, brittle nails suggest too much water exposure as seen in a dishwasher or someone who walks around in wet shoes. In a healthy individual, diet is usually not a contributing cause for nail changes. Some people do believe that biotin and calcium are helpful for nail growth and strength, however, there are no good medical studies to support this claim.
The nail plate forms from the white area at the base of the nail. It is adherent to the underlying skin until the nail grows out to the end of the finger or toe. Occasionally, there is separation of the nail from the underlying skin. This gives a deformed white or brown appearance to the nail. The most common causes of separation are trauma, irritant solvents, allergic reaction, fungal infection or psoriasis. Growths underneath the nail such as warts or possibly skin cancer can also cause separation. Once the nail has separated, it will not re-attach to the underlying skin. New nail grows gradually from the base replacing the separated nail.
Nail colors: Nail polish colors usually do not cause problems so pick your favorite color such as pink, green, blue or yellow. Nail staining, however, may result from deep red, orange or yellow polish, especially if applied without a clear base coat. Discoloration usually disappears in 14 to 21 days. Cigarette smoking (nicotine staining) also causes a yellow discoloration of the nail.
Application of nail paints with an airbrush may cause superficial tattooing on the skin around the nail.
Most common methods are nail dryers and ultraviolet light. If drying with an ultraviolet light, make sure you are not taking light sensitive medications.
Watch for trauma when the nail is peeled off and when the artificial nails do not fit well. Consider a silk or linen cloth wrap combined with nail sculptures to give added protection and strength to the elongated portion.
- Like your skin, nails can get overly dry or “waterlogged.” Use common sense as far as water exposure. Moisturizers are beneficial as well as nail conditioners.
- Avoid excessive use of nail polish remover as this may dry the nails and surrounding tissue.
- Do not remove your cuticles - push them back.
- When using acrylic nails, watch for trauma and damage to the base of the nail plate. Acrylic nails may leave the nail plate soft and weak.
- If you have brittle nails, consider a diet rich in protein. Some researchers support a biotin supplement. Allow nine months to see results.
- Make sure your nail instruments are sanitary. Consider buying your own.
- After a manicure, ask your salon to apply sunscreen to prevent sun damage and nail polish from fading.
- Allow nails to rest one to three months per year from cosmetic procedures such as overgrooming, press-on nails, acrylic nail sculptures, and adornments.
- If nails are thick and difficult to cut, soak them in warm salt water (1-tsp salt to 1 pint of water) for five to ten minutes and apply a 10% to 40% urea cream. You may then trim as usual.
- Nails should be cut straight across and rounded slightly at the tip for maximum strength. Use sharp nail scissors or clippers to do the job. Filing the nails into points will weaken them.
- Use a “fine” textured file to keep nails shaped and free of snags.
- Avoid biting fingernails.
- Avoid digging out ingrown toenails, especially if they are already infected and sore. Toenails should be cut square to avoid cutting deep into the corners.
- Report any nail irregularities to your doctor. Nail changes, discoloration, swelling and pain could signal a serious problem.