Making Your Peeling, Dry or Brittle Nails Healthier.

In natural nail care on January 15, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Why do I have ridges on my nails?
Why are my nails dry and brittle?
Why do my nails peel?
Do nail hardeners really work?

What are nail ridges?

The truth about ridges is that you do not ( technically ) have “ridges”. You have groves or low areas, not raised ridges. The nail matrix produces the nail plate. The length of the matrix determines how thick the nail plate will be. The longer the matrix, the thicker the nail plate. When the matrix is damaged, injured, or malnourished, fewer nail plate cells will be produced causing a thin area or groove on the surface of the nail. So the “ridges” you see are actually the normal thickness of your nail and the low areas or groves between the “ridges” is actually just thinner nail plate caused by damage to the nail matrix.

Who cares what causes it, what to do about it?

If the ridges are minimal and your nails are strong and healthy, other than the ridges, you can buff the surface smooth with a natural nail buffer. These buffers have three sides. Black, gray and white. Buff gently with the black side of the buffer until the ridges are smooth. Finish by buffing the entire nail with the white and finish with the gray sides of the buffer for a high gloss shine.

If the ridges are severe, do not buff. Remember, it is thin areas that cause the ridges not thicker areas, so, if you buff the thick part off you are actually thinning the entire nail and your nails will peel and break. Use a ridge filler. If your ridges are very pronounced, use two coats allowing the ridge filler to dry between coats, about two minutes.

What to do if your nails are dry, brittle or peeling.

Most often the cause of weak, peeling or dry and brittle nails is water. Bathtubs and jacuzzis are relaxing for your muscles but not good for your nails. Keep your nails out of the water as much as possible. Wear gloves when doing dishes, washing the dog or bathing your child. The nail plate swells when soaked in water forcing the cells of the nail apart and causing the nail plate to become brittle and/or peel when the water evaporates and the nail returns to its normal shape. The repeated flexing of the nail caused by the swelling and consequential evaporation of water from the nail plate causes microscopic fissures in the free edge and then they peel, chip and break.

Using a penetrating nail oil daily will help restore dry, brittle, weak and peeling nails. Olive oil, jojoba oil and almond oil are the best, because of a smaller molecule than other oils, for penetrating the nail plate and healing dry, brittle or peeling nails.

Hot oil treatments are great for restoring water damaged nails. For an easy, at home, hot oil treatment take 10 cotton balls saturated in olive oil, jojoba oil or almond oil and place the cotton balls on each nail then secure the cotton balls to your fingers with 4″ X 4″ squares of foil. Relax for 10 minutes. The heat of your body will heat the oil and help the oil penetrate the nail plate.

For a whole hand treatment apply the oil to your entire hand and nails and dip in paraffin wax and /or heated mitts. You will need to use plastic liners if you want to use heated mitts so you do not get wax or oil all over the inside of your mitts.

Apply olive oil, jojoba oil or almond oil daily and do a hot oil treatment weekly.

What about nail hardeners?

Diamond is the hardest known substance, but is easily cut into smaller stones or faceted into a gem. Why? Diamonds are quite brittle and not particularly strong. Nail plates that become too hard also become very brittle. Nail plates that are too soft are more easily scratched or stained and have a tendency to peel or become pitted. Healthy nail plates need to be hard, but not too hard or they become easy to shatter or split. For example, overuse of nail hardeners may cause excessive hardening and rigidity which leads to brittleness and breakage. Nail hardeners are usually best for weak, thin, flexible nails—they’re not for use on brittle or very rigid nails.

Nail polish and nail hardeners that contains formaldehyde will dry your nails out and make them brittle. Nail hardeners are hardeners not nail strengtheners most contain formaldehyde because it drys the nail out and makes them harder, not stronger. Dried out nails are hard but they are also brittle and they will break. Look for nail strengtheners that are formulated to increase the nails flexibility and read the label to be sure that there is no formaldehyde in the product.

All the major brands of nail polish no longer contain formaldehyde because of a ruling in California banning its use in nail polishes sold in California ( long story that has nothing to do with this article ). Check the label on off brands of polish to be sure they do not contain formaldehyde, some still do.

What about nail strengtheners?

Our nail plates need to be strong enough to resist the stress we put on them by picking, prying, scratching and clawing. All that we do to our natural nails is proof of their strength, but strength alone does not create a healthy nail. Steel is strong, but nails of steel would be too rigid. It’s a benefit that nail plates aren’t too strong. When the nail plate breaks, it prevents injury to the matrix area where the nail grows. Nail strength is important, but the nail must also be flexible..

Flexibility is the ability of a nail plate to bend and absorb a load or impact. If the nail plate didn’t bend, most bumps or bangs would result in cracks, breaks or chips.

What factors can affect nail flexibility?

Age, diet, health, prolonged or repeated exposure to harsh cleaners and solvents, excessive hand washing or moisture, and heat or cold can all affect nail flexibility

Nail toughness is a balance of strength and flexibility for resistance to breakage If strength and flexibility are in balance— the result is a tough, durable nail plate. Nails that are rigid, brittle, easily fractured or torn, are showing signs that toughness has been lost. Healthy hair and nail plates are normally tough. Wet hair can stretch up to 50 per cent of its original length without breaking. Hair has great toughness, but not as much as the nail plate. The extreme toughness of a healthy nail plate is one of its most useful properties.

Why do nails become brittle, snap or split too easily?

When strength or flexibility are too far out-of-balance, then toughness is lost. Nail plates that are too flexible will lose strength. The reverse holds true; if a nail plate becomes too strong, it loses flexibility. Either way this out-of-balance nail plate has lost toughness and is more likely to break or split. Sharp breaks, cracking or fracturing are all sign of brittleness. The best way to keep nails tough is to keep their strength and flexibility in balance. You can restore some balance to brittle or overly rigid nails with daily home treatment using high-quality, penetrating nail oil that improves the nail’s flexibility and helps restore toughness. Avoid repeatedly soaking nails in water, since water dramatically increases the nail plate’s flexibility and lowers its toughness.

Why did artificial nails make my nails weak and cause them to break?

Nail plate surfaces are worn away by files coated with abrasive particles. Most nail files have a layer of a black, crystalline mineral called silicon carbide, which is nearly as hard as diamond. On a one to ten scale, diamond hardness is ten while silicon carbide is a nine. Aluminum oxide is another abrasive used on files; it is white and a little softer with a hardness of 7.5. That’s why an identical grit file, made using aluminum oxide, is noticeably less aggressive on the nail plate, which is only a 2.5 in hardness. If not used carefully, the more aggressive diamond and silicon carbide files can damage the much softer nail plate. Aggressive or heavy-handed filing can quickly wear away the surface of the nail plate by scratching off too many layers. Lower grit files create larger and deeper scratches which lead to thinner and weaker nail plates. Using too much downward pressure while filing increases nail thinning and weakening. Electric files rotate at speeds p to 30,000 rpm and should not be used on the natural nail by anyone who has not had extensive electric file training. Over filing the nail plate, not the acrylic product, thins the nails and causes them to be weak and break

Remember, your nails are jewels not tools.

  1. […] Well Katherine has these answers and more on her blog, Go check it out!! NailsAtPanache Blog […]

  2. Thank you your advise is excellent. I will try your suggestions. Thanks again. Greta

  3. Very good advice,got satisfied with your explanation

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