Nails are made up of layers of a protein called keratin, which protects your fingernails and toes. Keratin, which makes up your hair and skin cells, protects your nails from damage.
But it’s not uncommon for nails to crack, break, or break. In fact, according to Harvard Medical School, 27 percent of women have brittle nails, known as onychosis.
This may be the result of an underlying medical condition or other external factors.
Read more about what causes brittle nails and what you can do to keep them healthy and strong.
What causes brittle nails?
According to the American College of Osteopathic Dermatology (AOCD), brittle nails are divided into two categories: dry and brittle or soft and brittle.
Dry and brittle nails are the result of too little moisture. These are usually caused by repeated washing and drying of the nails.
Soft and brittle nails, on the other hand, are caused by excess moisture, which is often caused by overuse of detergents, household cleaners, and nail polish removers.
Other causes of brittle nails include:
Age Nails change with age and often become dull and brittle. Toenails often become thick and hard, while fingernails become thin and brittle.
Iron deficiency. This condition occurs when the body doesn’t get enough iron, which leads to low levels of red blood cells. Your doctor may measure your ferritin level and give you supplements if it’s low.
Hypothyroidism. Along with ingrown toenails, symptoms of low thyroid levels include hair loss, fatigue, weight gain, constipation, and depression. Your doctor may treat hypothyroidism with levothyroxine, a synthetic thyroid hormone that you can take by mouth.
Raynaud’s syndrome. This condition, which is characterized by circulatory disorders in the extremities, affects the health of the nails. Your doctor may prescribe calcium channel blockers such as amlodipine or nifedipine, or other medications such as losartan, fluoxetine, or sildenafil.
AOCD offers diagnostic tips to determine whether your brittle nails are due to internal or external factors: “If fingernails are split but toenails are strong, external factors are the cause.”