Peeling Fingernails: What Can You Do About Them?

Are your fingernails starting to split and peel? Find out what causes this problem and what you can do about it.

Fingernails serve the useful function of protecting your fingertips from injury as well as making it easier to pick up objects. In modern times, fingernails also make a fashion when painted and embellished with a variety of nail polishes and lacquers. With the fingernails being exposed to so many chemicals, it’s not surprising that they can become weakened or infected by fungi or bacteria. One commonly encountered problem is splitting, peeling fingernails. What causes this problem and what can you do about it?

Medical Causes of Peeling Fingernails

There are a variety of reasons why nails can split and peel ranging from exposure to harsh chemicals to infection of the nail. One of the most common infectious causes of splitting, peeling fingernails is a fungal infection. Although fungal infection is more commonly seen in the toenails, the fingernails are not uncommonly affected. Because the fungus can eat away at the keratin protein that makes up the nail plate, it can cause the nail to completely separate from the nail bed if not treated early. Another medical reason for splitting, peeling nails is psoriasis. When psoriasis affects the nail it causes it to split, peel, and eventually crumble if left untreated. Psoriasis of the nail should be treated by a dermatologist.

Nonmedical Causes of Peeling Fingernails

Most causes of peeling fingernails are non-medical and are related to exposure of the nail to harsh chemicals or over exposure to water. This causes the nail to lose its natural oil and moisture barrier. Sometimes low humidity during the winter and even the natural aging process plays a role in robbing the nails of essential moisture As aging occurs, particularly after menopause in women, less moisture is produced which causes fingernails to become dry and more prone to splitting.

Treatment of Peeling Fingernails

If there’s discoloration of the fingernails along with splitting and peeling, it’s more likely be a fungal infection which will require medical treatment by your doctor. If you have a history of psoriasis, you’ll also need to see a doctor. Otherwise, the best treatment for splitting, peeling nails is replenishing lost oils and moisture.

One of the best ways to replenish moisture to nails is to apply vitamin E and jojoba oil to the fingernails three times a day. If done consistently, this will rehydrate the nail and stop the peeling and splitting.

It’s also important to avoid any chemicals or solvents that can further dry out and damage the surface of the nail and to keep the hands out of water as much as possible. A good pair of rubber gloves can be worn to protect the hands when cleaning around the house or washing dishes. It’s also important to reassess the products you’re using on your nails such as polishes and polish removers which may be robbing your nails of much needed moisture.

What About Nutrition?

Although vitamin and nutritional deficiencies, particularly protein deficiency, are sometimes blamed for splitting, peeling fingernails, this is probably not as common as most people believe. Most people have adequate protein in their diet to maintain the health of their nails unless they have an eating disorder or underlying medical problem. It may be helpful to eat fatty fish twice a week since fish oils may have some benefit in the treatment of peeling fingernails.

If splitting, peeling nails fail to resolve with home treatment, consult a dermatologist.

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