Peeling nails (onychoschizia) are one of the two clinical criteria for brittle nails, the other being ridging (onychorrhexis). Peeling nails can be genetic, age related (more common as we age), and product related (strong solvents like acetone can dry out the nail causing brittleness). If these changes come on suddenly in someone who previously always had great, healthy nails, then anemia or thyroid disease should be explored by a physician.
Although challenging to treat, peeling nails can be dramatically improved by the following recommendations:
1) Use a high quality glass file instead of an emery board
These files are great for those who are prone to onychoschizia (peeling and breakage at the tip of the nail) because they do not cause the microscopic tears that typical emery boards cause. Also, they can be sanitized easily for reuse and never dull.
2) Use nail polish remover sparingly and stick to formulas that are acetone free
Polish removers are solvents and tend to be very drying and dehydrating to the nail. Constant use of remover can lead to dry, brittle nails (weak nails and peeling nails). Limit remover use to a maximum of once weekly. Always be sure to wash your hands after polish is removed to remove any solvents.
3) Nail polish can be protective for peeling nails!
Certain nail damage (nail peeling for example) will actually benefit from nail polish because the polish serves as a kind of glue to hold the delicate, fragile onychocytes (nail cells) together. This is especially relevant if your nails are exposed to a lot of water. However, limit polish remover to acetone free formulas and try to limit remover use to a maximum of once weekly.
4) Nail exfoliation
When your skin is dry and peeling you reach for the nearest luffah or Clarisonic brush to exfoliate the dead cells in order to allow for maximum absorption of your moisturizer. The same concept is true of the nail. If you were to look at a peeling nail under the microscope you would see that the nail cells are detached, lifted, separating….this is why the nail peels, splits and even why polish doesn't always go on so smoothly and has more of a tendency to chip. Essential exfoliation (removing the aforementioned damage) is key! Achieve essential exfoliation and beautiful, healthy nails instantly with the Dr. Dana Nail Renewal System. The Nail Renewal System is the first ever nail treatment system to incorporate Glycolic Acid (an alpha hydroxy acid) that has been shown in the medical literature to have nail rejuvenation properties.
5) Treat peeling nails with effective ingredients
Not all nail moisturizers are created alike. Look for formulas that are rich in phospholipids like sunflower oil. Avoid purported nail treatments that require polish remover as this will exacerbate the issue. And always avoid formulas that contain Formaldehyde or Formalin as this chemical in addition to be a potential carcinogen, irritant and allergen will cause the nail to stiffen and eventually induce paradoxical brittleness and peeling nails.
6) Use gloves with any wet work.
Excessive exposure to water can have a harmful effect on the nails. The nail is like a sponge, it is significantly more absorptive of water than the skin (1000 times more than the stratum corneum of the skin) for example and so water can easily diffuse into the nail. The delicate nail cells (onychocytes) are put under significant strain and this leads to brittleness, peeling nails and breakage.