Why Are My Nails Peeling and What to Do?

Exposing your nails to certain conditions or failing to provide the proper nutrients for your body can cause your nails to peel. Understand the causes and treatment options.

Peeling nails can be the result of environmental or internal issues. Your nails and skin are a prime resource if you want to tell if your body is healthy. Of course, your nails are also heavily utilized in everyday activities which can also cause damage. Understanding what is causing your nails to peel can help you determine a proper solution and whether or not your condition requires medical attention.

Causes of Peeling Nails

There are a number of causes that can result in your nails starting to peel or chip more regularly.

1. Additional Stress on the Hands

Performing extra chores that puts stress on the hands can wind up damaging your nails. Chores such as yard work, heavy lifting or scrubbing can chip the nails, which can result in the layers peeling in some cases.

2. Exposure to Harsh Chemicals

Cleaning with harsh chemical products can damage the skin of your hands or cause your nails to peel. Items intended for pest control, paint or stripping products or heavy cleansers can wind up causing your nails serious damage.

3. Overexposure to Water

Submerging your hands in water for long periods of time, especially water that is soapy, can result in your nails drying out and peeling.

4. Insufficient Nutrients

Your body requires a sufficient amount of protein and amino acids to build hair, skin and nail tissue. When your body is lacking in these ingredients, your nails can begin to suffer the consequences. Similarly, if you do not have enough B vitamins in your diet, this can result in brittle nails that can easily become damaged.

5. Infections or Skin Conditions

Skin conditions such as psoriasis or a yeast infection can cause the nails to peel if the symptoms begin to transfer to the hands.

6. Changing Seasons

Rapid changes in the environment, most notably the drying of the air that happens when it gets colder out, will have an effect on the body. Dry, static air can dry out your skin and nails, which can result in your nails peeling more frequently.

7. Medications

Many medications can dry the skin and nails because they deplete the nutrients in the body. Like a poor diet, this can result in your nails becoming brittle which makes it more likely that they will peel.

8. Nail Treatments

Acrylic nails, gel manicures and nail polish can cause your nails to chip, peel or flake once the treatment is removed. Some nail solutions such as formaldehyde can also worsen nail symptoms.

How to Treat Peeling Nails

Several ways are provided, including methods for both mild and severe conditions.

  • Prevent damage. If you believe chemical exposure or performing stressful tasks such as doing the dishes are causing your nails to peel, start wearing protective gloves when you perform these tasks. This can help prevent your nails from becoming too dry and provide a layer of protection so that they do not wind up chipped or cracked, which can lead to peeling. Keeping your nails trimmed and filed can also help prevent damage because your nails will be much less likely to strike against objects and break.
  • Restore nails. When your nails become very weak it's important to give them a rest. Hold off on using nail polish, getting manicures or having acrylic nails applied until your nails have had a chance to grow stronger. Applying a nail strengthener and moisturizers to the nail area regularly can make this process go more quickly. Just make sure you read the ingredients on any nail strengtheners you use as some have been linked to higher incidents of breast cancer. You can also massage your nails with vitamin E, jojoba oil or alpha-proxy acids to help restore them.
  • Change diet. Eating a proper diet is also key to getting healthier nails. Get plenty of protein, especially from lean protein sources such as beans, fish or poultry. Drink plenty of water to keep the skin and nails hydrated and eat items like green leafy vegetables that are high in B vitamins which will help your hair, skin and nails grow. If your diet is severely lacking in this category, taking a B vitamin or biotin supplement can help restore your nails as well. Exercise regularly to help make sure adequate blood flow is reaching the fingers and toes to ensure that proper nutrients and oxygen are reaching the nails.

See a doctor

If you notice that your nails appear to be discolored or are crumbling then you should seek out medical attention for your condition. These could be signs of a more serious condition that could be damaging your body as a whole. If you are showing symptoms of a yeast infection, a fungal infection or psoriasis, then you will need to receive medical attention to help alleviate your symptoms of peeling nails and others.



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