Brittle Nails: Natural Treatment and Prevention
Brittle nails are common today, especially among women. Over time, continual exposure to water, toxins found in many nail applications, soaps and cleaning products can cause nails to lose their natural oils. These oils act like adhesives which bind the nail layers together. The first sign that fingernails are becoming brittle is a fraying of the edges. Eventually the layers come apart and splitting occurs. Using nail hardeners weakens the nail further because they contain formaldehyde, alcohols and other chemicals which strip away the natural oils. These hardeners may make the nails stronger in short term, but after a couple of weeks the nail becomes more brittle than ever. Other possible causes of brittle nails are internal health conditions such as nutrient deficiency, hypothyroidism, Raynaud’s disease, tuberculosis and endocrine disorders. A good way to tell whether brittle fingernails are cause by external stresses or internal health conditions is to check the toenails. If they are in good condition brittle fingernails are caused by external stresses.
Brittle Nail Natural Treatments
Daily exposure to water through cleansing, soaking and swimming causes nails to absorb water that leads to brittle nails. According to Herbert Luscombe, M.D., professor emeritus of dermatology at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University nails absorb between twenty to twenty-five percent of their own weight in water. This causes nails to expand when wet and contract when dry. Continual expansion and contraction weakens nails and makes them brittle.
Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to make nails strong enough to withstand the daily traumas they must endure:
Biotin - Studies have shown that biotin has the ability to thicken nails and protect them against cracking and splitting. The best source of biotin is cauliflower. Other rich sources include lentils and peanuts. To receive the full benefits of biotin one study suggests that supplementation is necessary. In the study people consumed 2.5mg of biotin daily and found a significant increase in nail thickness and strength after six months.
Shea Butter, Jojoba oil, Avocado oil - brushing any of these rich oils on and underneath the nail and massaging it after each water exposure helps restore moisture necessary for proper cohesion. In fact, these oils are better than commercially sold nail care products because they don’t contain alcohol, which dries the nails. It is important to apply the oil after a water exposure because oil will not absorb into dry nails.
Clipping and Filing - Nails are brittle when they are dry so clipping and filing will only make them worse. Always clip or file nails after exposure to water. Clip with sharp clippers and gently file the edges afterwards.
Limit exposure to toxins - When doing rough work or exposing hands to harsh chemicals always wear gloves.
Nutrition - nail supplements are available. Ingredients will vary but they should contain biotin and silicon. Eating a nutritious diet which includes fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans, fish, nuts and seeds will allow you to get a combination of nail nutrients which will work synergistically to strengthen nails. Healthy diet should always be the first and most important step to improving any health condition. Avoiding toxic, processed and refined foods is also important.
Nails grow slowly and it will take time to see an improvement to brittle nails. Depending on the condition of the nails, it could take up to one year of proper nutrition and nail care to fully restore them.
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