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What causes weak, splitting nails?

What causes weak, splitting nails?

Soft, weak nails that split down the middle, on the sides or just peel in layers are unfortunately common.

I recently answered a question about splitting, soft fingernails from a reader of one of the popular web sites where I contribute as a skin expert.  The question was so good - and so common - that I wanted to include my answer here.

The reader asked why she might have soft, splitting nails and what she could do to try to improve the health and strength of her nails.

Here's my answer to her:

What causes soft, splitting fingernails? 

  • Hereditary nail syndromes that cause nails to be deformed
  • Age causes nails to become dry, ridged and split over time.
  • Thyroid problems commonly affect nails.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis will cause nails to thin and split.
  • Harsh nail care products damage nail structure leading to splitting. 

All of these can also cause these changes. It's probably best to see a dermatologist, or at least your primary care doctor to be certain your nail changes are not the 'tip of the iceberg' for some other health issue such as a thyroid problem. If there isn't a health related cause for your nail changes then the most effective, and almost miraculous way to improve nails is with good old fashioned Bag Balm.

What are the best ways to strengthen soft and splitting finger nails?

The simple, regular application of Bag Balm helps normalize peeling/splitting nails. In my almost 30 years practicing dermatology, I've never found a better nail product for this type of nail problem.  For Bag Balm to work it's magic, it's always important to apply it to nails that just had a nice soak in water (ie after washing your hands, bathing, doing the dishes, washing the dog or car etc).

Are there vitamins that will strengthen soft fingernails?

People often also ask me for a vitamin recommendation for their nail problems too.  Of course you should always eat a balanced and healthy diet so that you're fortifying your nails with the vitamins and minerals they need from the inside out. A biotin supplement may also be helpful.  I usually recommend asking the supplement expert in your local health food store for a hair and nail vitamin/mineral formula that contains biotin. Nails grow slowly so you need to give your nails about a year before you decide if the supplement is having an impact on your nail health.

I've recommended Bag Balm to so many people with so many different types of nail problems and it's power to help reform the nail plate continues to impress me.   I've also made a "turn-key" hand and nail care kit that covers all the bases that I recommend you do to hydrate and heal your dry nails and hand skin.

Click here to learn more about Bag Balm

Buy Bag Balm 1 oz

Click here to see my Dry Hand Skin (and nail) Repair Kit which includes:

  • Bag Balm for your nails.  It's also great for a nightly therapeutic/hydrating moisture drench to heal hand skin or just to keep it healthy,
  • a really great non-greasy hand cream,
  • the right foaming and non-drying hand soap,
  • the best cotton gloves to cover your Bag Balm when you do that nighttime hydrating treatment.


Dermatologist's dry skin hand skincare kit


Photo: Thanks and gratitude to Fing'rs