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Flaky & Weak Nails

By Terri Williams ; Updated August 14, 2017

Healthy fingernails are an extension of beautiful hands and feet. When your nails look good, you’re confident wearing eye-catching nail polish, showing off your rings and bracelets and wearing fashionable sandals. However, weak and flaky nails are susceptible to brittleness and breakage, and aside from being a cosmetic blight, may be symptomatic of a serious problem.

Health Conditions

Flaky and weak nails may be caused by certain health conditions. For example, Raynaud’s disease causes extreme sensitivity of the fingers and toes to cold temperatures and can weaken nails. Hypothyroidism, a condition that occurs when the thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormones, is another possible culprit. Psoriasis, which is a chronic inflammatory skin disease, and alopecia areata, a condition that also causes hair loss, can also cause flaky and weak nails. Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune condition, and tuberculosis are other health conditions that may negatively affect the condition of nails.

Nutritional Deficiencies

A failure to consume an adequate amount of nutrients can cause flaky and weak nails. Certain nutrients in particular can affect nail health. An iron deficiency, which is more common in women with heavy menstrual periods or people who use ibuprofen excessively, is an essential nutrient needed to produce healthy nails. Since nails are made of protein, an insufficient amount of this nutrient can also result in weak and flaky nails. Zinc is used to regulate the body’s ability to make protein, and a lack of this nutrient can cause nail brittleness, weakness and flakiness.

Beauty Routines

Acetone, which is commonly used in nail polish removers, has a drying effect, which can weaken the nail bed and cause flakiness and brittleness. Gel manicures, which can last for two weeks without chipping, can cause a variety of nail problems, including thinning, brittleness, peeling and cracking, according to the American Academy of Dermatology; one reason is that the polish from a gel manicure must be removed by soaking the nails in acetone remover for at least 10 to 15 minutes.

Harsh Environments

Exposing nails to certain types of environments, especially when protective gloves and moisturizers are not used, can ause nail dryness, flakiness and weakness. For example, prolonged or continuous submersion in water produces a drying effect. The same can be said for using harsh chemicals, such as bleach, ammonia and alcohol, commonly found in cleaning products. Being outside in extremely cold weather for prolonged periods of time can also cause nail dryness, and lead to flakiness and weakness.

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