About 20% of the population suffers from brittle nails, and the majority are women, according to the results of a 2020 study published by the NIH's National Library of Medicine. While there are topical treatments and special polishes that may strengthen your nails, there are also things you might consider doing internally to help build stronger nails as well as healthier skin and hair.
In this article, we'll look at natural ways to strengthen nails, including taking supplements to strengthen fingernails from the inside.*
What Causes Brittle Nails With Ridges?
Several things can cause brittle nails, including genetics (some people are just unlucky with nail strength), environmental factors, diet and underlying health conditions. If your nails have suddenly become brittle, it may be time to get a health check and rule out a vitamin or mineral deficiency.
Prolonged exposure to chemicals, cleaners and soaps can weaken your fingernails and nail beds. Nail polishes and fashion nail extensions and enhancements can also be damaging to nails. When they're removed, the removers strip protective top layers of the nails, weakening them.
'Natural' Nail Strengtheners
So, exactly what can you do to naturally strengthen brittle nails? The following tips can help you improve the health and appearance of your fingernails.
- Change your filing technique: Filing your nails by moving the file back and forth like a saw damages the surface of the nail. This motion can create tears that lead to splitting and breakage. Instead, pull the file in a single direction across the nail’s surface. Don’t file the edges too much either, this can undermine the strength of the nail.
- Moisturize your hands and fingernails: When anything is dry, it’s more likely to become brittle and break. The solution is to moisturize your nails and cuticles just like you do your skin. There are formulas specifically for nails and cuticles, but your favorite high-quality skin moisturizer will work.
- Protect fingernails from exposure: Harsh cleaning solutions can make your hands dry and scaly, but they also damage your nails. Wear gloves when you clean to protect your skin and nails from exposure to chemicals. And remember, even non-toxic, natural cleaners and soaps can be drying.
- Add a biotin supplement for nails: Taking biotin and keratin supplements may help strengthen brittle nails. These ingredients have been shown to improve the hardness and thickness of nails, which can reduce splitting and breakage. Consistency is important, though, so you may need to take them regularly to see improvement. Read more about taking biotin nail strengthener supplements.
- Break the nail-biting habit: Do you bite your nails when you’re nervous? Do you chew and tear your nails instead of clipping or filing them? Nail-biting causes splitting and tears that weaken the nail. This habit also undermines your work to improve the state of your nails.
- Rethink artificial nails: It’s tempting to cover short nails with longer, artificial nails, but this can be damaging. Artificial nails can leave your nails thinner and more brittle. They can also lead to the growth of fungal nail infections. Instead, focus on caring for your natural nails, so they grow healthier and stronger.
- Embrace short nails: When brittle nails grow longer, they tend to split and break. In an age when long, pointed nails are all the rage on Instagram, consider foregoing the long (and fake) nail trend! Keep your nails short while you work on improving their strength. It’s easier to care for short nails, and you won’t be constantly battling frayed, uneven nails.
- Use a protective top coat: A clear, protective top coat can give your nails strength while you work on their overall health. Look for a strengthening top coat that doesn’t contain drying, damaging ingredients. These may be marked as non-toxic or 3-free, meaning they do not contain three potentially problematic ingredients.
How to Change Bad Nail Habits
If you have bad habits that are undermining your nail health, now's the time to overcome them. The top offenders are nail-biting, over-filing and filing incorrectly. These are difficult habits to break, but if you want to reverse the fate of your nails, you must approach the problem from multiple directions. This includes changing the bad habits that are damaging your nails and supporting their growth at the same time.
The following tricks can help you ditch bad fingernail habits:
- Replace the habit with another one, like using a stress ball every time you want to bite your nails.
- Apply bitter-tasting nail polish intended to discourage biting. You may also find that you can use some essential oils to prevent biting.
- Use chewing gum as a distraction. It gives you something to focus on, and you may be less inclined to bite your nails with gum in your mouth.
- Keep your nails short and smooth, so there is less to bite on and no rough edges to tempt you to pull or chew.
Next, move to proactive steps like wearing gloves and using moisturizer daily. Replace toxic fingernail polishes and removers with safer, nail-friendly versions. Addressing these issues systematically will make it less overwhelming and more manageable.
Can you Take Vitamins For Brittle Nails?
Last but not least, remember that your nails need support and nourishment just like the rest of your body. If you have trouble growing healthy, strong nails, you might need to look at your nutrition. Apart from boosting your biotin and keratin levels with supplementation, consider taking a look at your protein and iron intake. Talk with your health care provider to rule out underlying issues or a vitamin deficiency that may be contributing to weak, brittle fingernails.
*The information in this article and throughout Trio Nutrition’s blog is for informational purposes only, and should never be mistaken for professional medical advice.