What Causes Brittle Toenails? | How To Manage Brittle Nails?

Beautiful nails are an important part of a person’s look and appeal.

You might be just envying your friends who are Instagramming their latest beautiful nail arts or their DIY manicure tips and tricks.

Unfortunately, splitting, peeling, breaking, cracking – there are a lot of things that can go wrong with your nails.

Dr. Dana Stern, M.D., a well-known dermatologist and nail specialist from New York, says, “If you were to look at the nail under a microscope, it actually looks almost like layered roof shingles. So these cells are very delicate and the nail is actually extremely absorptive.” According to her nails are 10 times more water-absorbent than skin. Even the strongest nails can become brittle with anything that alters the structure and composition of the nails.

Many people do get brittle nails which make the fingers and toes look ugly. It badly affects the shape and structure of the nail by making them cracked, split, peeled, or chipped.

In most cases, the toenails are more prone to become brittle, discolored, flaky, ridged, split, or cracked they are more exposed to adverse conditions that change the basic composition of the nails.

The nails becoming fragile and delicate is natural to old people; a sign of weakness and disintegration of body parts that occurs with the aging process. But the fragile and flaky nails in young people could be a visible symptom of poor nutrition, ill health, or infection.

What Causes Brittle Toenails And Fingernails?

Nails become brittle and weak due to several reasons.

Most people have brittle toenails or fingernails because of old age, frequent exposure of nails to water, and heavy moisture or regular use of nail polishes over the years.

Here are some of the major reasons that account for the brittleness of the nails:

Brittle Nail Syndrome

Nails become easily breakable because of excessive dryness. This condition can also be caused by a lack of nutrients like iron, zinc, or biotin in the diet. Lack of vitamins C, D, E, and B are also responsible for the diminishing health of the nails. A sufficient intake of biotin is necessary for healthy and strong nails.


The nails can become fragile and weak because of severe health issues like lupus, jaundice, lichen planus, psoriasis, eczema, anemia, endocrine disorders, heart ailments, autoimmune hepatitis, etc.

Fungal Infections

Many of the problems that affect the nails are actually caused by different types of fungal infections; some of them make the nails weak and fragile.


Low thyroid hormone in the body makes the nails fragile. The most visible symptoms of hypothyroidism seen on nails are nail ridges, nail thickening, discoloration, and soft nail beds.

Acid Body pH

The pH level of anything above 7.0 is alkaline, anything below 7.0 is considered acidic. Usually, people with high acid pH levels suffer fragile and weak nails besides other health problems like gastritis, loose teeth, chronic fatigue, ulcers, dull hair, etc.

Lack Of Protein

Nails are made of a fibrous protein called keratin. Protein deficiency in the diet can make the nails weak and brittle.


Excessive dryness of the nails caused by dehydration in the body makes the nails fragile and weak. An adult person needs to drink a minimum of 8 glasses of water daily to keep the nails, skin, and hair healthy.

Manual Works

Many people get brittle nails because of the type of hazardous manual labors they perform daily. It is important to wear industrial gloves if you have to perform works that may directly hurt or damage your nails.

Regular Use Of Nail Polishes

Most nail polishes contain harmful chemicals that can damage and weaken the toenails and fingernails. Nail polishes and polish removers make the nails thick and diminish the natural firmness of nails. Avoid any nail care products containing formaldehyde, acetone, or toluene which are harmful to nail health.

Lack Of Nutritious Diets

Having a balanced diet daily is essential for wellbeing and health. Eat nutrients rich organic foods like vegetables, lean meats, eggs, dairy products, whole grains, nuts, and fruits. For healthy nails, Vitamins A, C, D, E, and B Complex, protein, iron, zinc, and biotin are necessary.

Remedies For Brittle Toenails

Alternative Solutions For Brittle And Flaky Nails

Brittle, cracking, dry, or splitting nails need to be treated in time to prevent total damage to nails.

There are effective natural remedies that can help you overcome the problem of fingernails or toenails turning brittle and discolored. Natural remedies are safe and effective without any side effects. However, you need to be consistent and regular with the home remedies to get the best results with them.

Here are 12 popular natural remedies for making your fragile nails strong and beautiful.

1. Apple Cider Vinegar Soaking

Apple cider vinegar is an excellent remedy for getting rid of brittle nails. ACV is naturally endowed with several essential nail growth nutrients like magnesium, calcium, potassium, iron, and zinc. Most importantly, ACV can protect the nails from fungal infections that damage the nails in several ways.

Directions For Use: Take 20 ml ACV in a bowl and add an equal amount of water to it. Soak the nails in this ACV solution for 5 minutes and daily repeat this treatment to make your nails and cuticles healthy and strong.

2. Biotin, Iron, And Zinc Supplement

Deficiency in nutrients like biotin, iron, and zinc are certain to make your nails fragile and weak.

You need to undergo an occasional medical examination to ascertain if your body lacks any of the crucial vitamins required for the healthy growth of nails.

Most people develop weak nails, particularly due to poor intake of biotin-rich diets. In such cases, a daily intake of biotin supplements can strengthen both nails and hair. It is good to consume biotin-rich foods such as cereals, cauliflower, egg yolks, whole grains, soybeans, milk, fish, and bananas.

3. Coconut Oil Treatment

Coconut oil is a versatile oil that has numerous health benefits, including nail nourishment and protection. It can moisturize the dry nails and prevent fungal infection that damages the nail.

Directions For Use: Apply coconut oil on nails daily and also massage the nail for 5 minutes using the oil.  Repeat the application of this oil on nails twice daily to strengthen the nails and to ward off fungal infections. Alternatively, you can also soak the nails in coconut oil mixed with lemon juice for 10 minutes daily before going to bed.

4. Petroleum Jelly

If your nails have become fragile, cracked, or flaky because of excessive dryness, petroleum jelly can do a world of good to your nails. Daily application of petroleum jelly on nails can make the nails and cuticles well hydrated and healthy.

Direction For Use: Smear some petroleum jelly or Vaseline on your nails twice daily (preferably once in the morning and once before retiring to bed in the evening).

5. Lemon Juice Soaking

Lemon juice is excellent for fighting nail infections and removing conditions that make the nails brittle and cracked. Lemon juice is also beneficial for removing the discoloration of the nails caused by stains.

Directions For Use: Slightly warm up three tablespoons of olive oil or argan oil in a bowl in a microwave oven and add one tablespoon of lemon juice to it. Apply the lemon juice solution on nails with a cotton ball till the nails are well soaked. For best results continue the treatment daily till the nails have become strong and healthy.

6. Horsetail Herbal Treatment

Horsetail is a popularly used herbal remedy for various hair and nail treatments. Leaves of this herbal plant contain high amounts of silica which is beneficial for making the brittle toenails and fingernails strong and healthy. This herb is also beneficial for getting rid of discoloration and spots on the nails.

Directions For Use: Add two teaspoons of horsetail dry leaves powder in 1 cup of hot water. When the water is cooled down, soak your nails in this water for 15 minutes. You can pat dry the nails after soaking and apply olive oil to retain the moisture on the nails.

7. Vitamin E Oil

If your toenails have turned brittle due to dryness, Vitamin E oil is one of the best remedies for it. Vitamin E oil can provide the much-needed hydration and moisture badly required for dry and flaky nails.

Direction For Use: Apply the Vitamin E oil on nails with a cotton ball before you retire to sleep at night. You can also use this oil for massaging the nails and cuticles to strengthen them.

 8. Sea Salt Soaking

Sea salt contains very useful minerals that can improve the strength and structure of the nails. It can add shine to the nails and elasticity to the cuticles.

Directions For Use: Take a bowl of warm water and add two tablespoons of table salt to it. If possible, you can also add two drops of each lemon, myrrh, and frankincense essential oil to the saltwater solution.  Soak your nails in the salt-water for 10 minutes daily; pat dries the nails and apply petroleum jelly on the nails to keep them moisturized and soft.

9. Tea Tree Oil Treatment

Tea tree oil is best for treating the fungal infection that might damage the nails and make them brittle and cracked. The antifungal properties of this natural oil can easily remove all types of microbial infections affecting the nails.

Directions For Use: You can directly apply the tea tree oil on nails with the help of a cotton ball on the fungus-infected nails. For strengthening the nails you can massage the nails with the mixture of Vitamin E oil and tea tree oil; rinse the nails after 30 minutes of applying the oil.

10. Egg Yolk and Milk Soak

Consuming eggs and milk can supply the body with the protein and calcium required for strengthening the nails.

It is beneficial to soak the nails in a mixture of egg yolk which makes the nails strong and prevents cracking, peeling, or splitting of the nails. This mixture makes the nails bright, soft, and flexible by moisturizing them.

Direction For Use:  Thoroughly dilute an egg yolk into two tablespoons of milk and massage this mixture onto your nails. Let the application remain on the toes for 20 minutes and then wash the nails with lukewarm water.

11. Blackstrap Molasses

Blackstrap Molasses is one of the best-known natural diets for the ample supply of iron minerals required for making nails healthy and strong. It also contains several other nutrients beneficial for the body.

Directions For Use: Mix one tablespoon of blackstrap molasses in one cup of milk or water and drink once or twice daily for two weeks. This treatment is said to be not healthy for diabetic patients.

12. Beer Soaking

Soaking the nails in beer is effective for giving strength and softness to the nails. Beer contains potassium, biotin, phosphorus, and selenium that are useful for making the nails healthy and strong.

Directions For Use: Take one-half cup beer in a bowl and add one-quarter cup apple cider vinegar to it. Soak your nails in this mixture for 15 minutes and repeat this treatment twice a week.

Natural Remedies For Brittle Nails

Tips For Preventing The Nails Turning Brittle And Weak

In most cases, it is easy to prevent and protect the nails from becoming brittle by adopting necessary care and caution. Here are a few useful tips for keeping your nails healthy and strong.

  • Wear protective hand gloves to prevent the nails from getting exposed to water or chemical while doing various manual works;
  • Keep your nails well moisturized and healthy by applying petroleum jelly or nail care creams on nails and cuticles;
  • Stop using artificial nails on your weak nails;
  • Do not cut cuticles as they are necessary for the protection of nails from fungal infections
  • Avoid nail polishes as much as possible; and if you have to use it, then use only the fortified polishes;
  • Do not use harsh and chemical-rich nail polishes and removers;
  • Treat and get rid of nail fungal infections at the initial stages itself;
  • Make sure to have a healthy and balanced diet daily which contain all nutrients required for healthy nails, skin, and hair;
  • Drink a minimum of eight glasses of water daily to keep your body well hydrated
  • Use super moisturizers beefed up with avocado oil, Shea butter, and Vitamin E