I'm a woman, I'm 30, and I'm trying to understand why sometimes my nails are hard and strong and sometimes they're flaky and brittle. Could it be that at some points in my life I am missing a nutrient that is abundant at other times?
When nails flake and peel horizontally this is called onychoschizia and when it occurs longitudinally it is called onychorrhexia. The two conditions are commonly referred to as "brittle nail syndrome." There are many potential causes of this syndrome ranging from benign to more serious. The most common cause by far is frequent wetting and drying of nails which occurs through washing dishes and hands, cleaning, or swimming. It is also possible that your diet might be affecting your nails as certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies can cause weak flaky nails. B complex vitamins (especially biotin), calcium, and zinc have all been implicated. There are other medical conditions which can cause brittle nails such as anemia (low blood count), thyroid disorders, and skin disorders such as lichen planus and psoriasis. It is important to see your primary care doctor or dermatologist to determine the cause of your symptoms and discuss appropriate treatment. Protect your nails by avoiding prolonged exposure to water, wear gloves during cleaning, avoid nail polish and removers, take a multivitamin, and use a good quality moisturizer such as eucerin on your hands and nails.
This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.
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