Unhealthy fingernail
Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
October 23, 2023 ·  4 min read

Why Your Nails Keep Peeling and Flaking—and What to Do About It

Keeping our nails healthy and strong is necessary for our overall grooming routine. However, it can be frustrating and concerning if you constantly find yourself dealing with peeling and flaking nails. There are several reasons why your nails may be experiencing this problem. Let’s look at the possible reasons so that you can better understand why your nails might be peeling and what to do about it.

10 Reasons Why Your Nails Keep Peeling and Flaking—and What to Do About It

broken peeling nails
Credit: Shutterstock

While the nails might not be the first thing you notice about someone, they are still important to keep clean and tidy. After all, when you notice someone’s hands whose nails are dirty or poorly kept, it does make you question their overall hygiene. While this may not indicate how clean they are, it often gives people the ‘ick.’ Perhaps your nails have started peeling, splitting, and flaking, and you can’t figure out why. Let’s look into ten possible reasons so that you can identify your culprit and make the necessary changes to solve the problem. (1, 2)

1. Dryness and Lack of Moisture

Closeup of male hands pumping out cream from white bottle on fingertip. Cream drop on index finger. Taking care of your skin - F 2.8
Credit: Shutterstock

One of the most common causes of peeling and flaking nails is dryness. When the nails are exposed to excessive amounts of water or harsh chemicals without proper protection, they can become dehydrated and brittle. To combat this, make sure to moisturize your nails and cuticles regularly using a moisturizing nail oil or cream. You may also wish to wear gloves while performing these tasks, to protect your nails from become overly wet.

2. Frequent Use of Nail Polish Remover

Nail polish removing
Credit: Shutterstock

Regularly using nail polish remover containing harsh chemicals can strip your nails of natural oils, leaving them weak and prone to peeling. Opting for acetone-free nail polish removers and limiting their use is recommended to avoid further damage. Additionally, give your nails a break from polish every now and then to allow them to breathe.

3. Nutritional Deficiencies

Selection of healthy fat sources on wooden background.
Credit: Shutterstock

Our nails reflect our overall health, and deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals can cause them to become brittle and prone to peeling. Ensure that your diet includes adequate nutrients such as biotin, vitamin E, iron, and zinc to promote healthy nail growth. Foods high in these nutrients include (3):

  • Biotin: eggs, almonds, avocados, salmon, whole grains, and walnuts.
  • Vitamin E: Sunflower seeds, spinach, and other leafy greens.
  • Iron: Liver, red meat, beans, spirulina, and soy products.
  • Zinc: Oysters, beef and chicken

Read: 15 Foods To Eat More of For Healthy Hair and Nails

4. Excessive Use of Gel or Acrylic Nails

Manicure. Strengthening of natural nails with artificial material-gel. Nail care in a beauty salon. Close-up
Credit: Shutterstock

While gel and acrylic nails may polish your nails, they can also cause long-term damage if not properly cared for. The process of applying and removing these types of nails can weaken the natural nail bed, leading to peeling and flaking. Allow your nails to recover by taking breaks between gel or acrylic applications, and consider using strengthening products to protect your natural nails.

5. Nail Trauma

nervous young woman biting her nails on gray background
Credit: Shutterstock

Physical trauma to the nails, such as biting, picking, using them to open or cut things, or constantly exposing them to harsh conditions, can lead to peeling and flaking. Avoid habits that stress your nails, and protect them by wearing gloves when performing household chores or other activities that may cause damage. Also, avoid using your nails as a means to open or break into packages and things – there are tools for this that will be better for your nails and do a better job.

Read: 8 Vitamin Deficiencies That Show Up On Your Skin

6. Fungal Infections

Fungus Infection on Nails Hand, Finger with onychomycosis. - soft focus
Credit: Shutterstock

Fungal infections can cause nails to become brittle, discolored, and prone to peeling. If you suspect a fungal infection, seeking professional medical advice and following the prescribed treatment plan is crucial. Maintaining good hygiene and avoiding sharing nail care tools can help prevent these infections.

7. Improper Nail Care Techniques

closeup of hands of a young woman filing her nails with pink manicure with a purple nail file. Woman polishing fingernails with nail file. Doing manicure with nail file. Body-care of hands
Credit: Shutterstock

Using metal tools or improper filing techniques can damage the structure of the nails, resulting in peeling and flaking. Instead, opt for glass or crystal nail files that provide a smoother and gentler filing experience. Additionally, always file in one direction to reduce the risk of injury to the nail bed.

8. Underlying Health Conditions

A dermatologist wearing gloves examines the skin of a sick patient. Examination and diagnosis of skin diseases-allergies, psoriasis, eczema, dermatitis.
Credit: Shutterstock

Certain health conditions, such as psoriasis, eczema, thyroid disorders, or anemia, can affect the health of your nails. If you suspect an underlying health problem, consult with a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.

9. Excessive Exposure to Water

Cropped closeup photo of young african guy in the morning at the kitchen wash the dishes.
Credit: Shutterstock

Exposing your nails to water for prolonged periods can weaken them, making them more prone to peeling. Wear gloves during activities like washing dishes or swimming to protect your nails from excessive moisture. Always remember to dry your nails thoroughly after contact with water.

10. Lack of Proper Nail Care Routine

Pretty black woman lying on bed with nail file, doing manicure, taking care of her hands at home. Charming African American lady making self-care procedure indoors. Wellness routines concept
Credit: Shutterstock

Neglecting to follow a proper nail care routine, which includes regular moisturizing, trimming, and cleaning, can contribute to peeling and flaking. Invest in quality nail care products, such as a strengthening base coat or cuticle oil, and dedicate time to care for your nails properly.

The Bottom Line

Credit: Shutterstock

Addressing the underlying causes of peeling and flaking nails is crucial for promoting their overall health and strength. By incorporating these solutions into your nail care routine, you will be on your way to achieving beautiful, healthy nails that are less prone to peeling and flaking. Remember, consistency and patience are key to achieving long-lasting results.

Keep Reading: Dermatologist Reveals 3 Places You Must Wash To Avoid Life-Threatening Infections

Sources

  1. Peeling Nails.” Healthline. Rachel Nall, MSN, CRNA. May 9, 2023.
  2. 9 Reasons Your Nails Are Peeling and Flaking, According to Dermatologists.Prevention. Kaitlyn Phoenix and Ardenis Perez. June 28, 2023.
  3. 10 Foods You Should Eat If You Want Strong, Healthy Nails.” Freeland Foot & Ankle