How Do I Treat Dry Nails?

Britt Archer

There are certain features of your nails that you can’t do much about, such as how fast they grow, but if you have dry nails, there are several things you can do to help reverse the condition. Some tips revolve around the basics of daily living, such as consuming more water and limiting exposure to certain harsh chemicals, such as those contained in detergents and cleansers. Other tips include wearing protective gloves when washing dishes or performing any other type of work when your hands must be immersed in water, such as washing the car. Some studies say that taking a biotin supplement can help dry, brittle nails. Dermatologists recommend over-the-counter cosmetic products that protect the nails, and they say the ingredients you should look for are amino acid and protein.

Petroleum jelly, which can help moisturize dry nails.
Petroleum jelly, which can help moisturize dry nails.

Moisturizing nails after soaking them can sometimes help because nails are naturally fat-free, meaning they can’t retain moisture on their own. To moisten nails, you can buy over-the-counter skin lotions than contain a humectant, looking for one that has alpha-hydroxy acids listed among its ingredients. You also can opt for the old standby in many home cupboards, petroleum jelly. Women who enjoy wearing nail polish might be disappointed to hear that some polish removers, specifically those that contain the ingredient acetone, can contribute to the problem of dry fingernails, and avoidance is the best treatment in this case.

Exposing the nails to polish remover regularly can dry them out.
Exposing the nails to polish remover regularly can dry them out.

Dry, brittle nails can be prone to a condition known as onychoschizia, which means a split nail, and soft nails are as prone to the condition as dry nails. Sometimes the causes of dry nails can be traced to a vitamin deficiency, such as too little biotin, a B vitamin. Other times, an iron deficiency might be the culprit. Women, who suffer more from brittle nails than men, can develop dry nails as a result of a low level of estrogen in the body. Brittle nails also can be caused by a deficiency of the mineral copper.

Using gloves when washing dishes can help prevent dry nails.
Using gloves when washing dishes can help prevent dry nails.

Improved nutrition for dry nails can sometimes help, but biotin usually will help the condition more than calcium supplements or gelatin. Nail-care professionals maintain that a person's diet has little to do with her nails' condition except in rare circumstances, such as someone suffering from cancer or someone who is following an extreme diet. Hypothyroidism, too, can cause dry, brittle nails that are ridged. One of the symptoms of this condition is a deficiency of iodine in the body.

Biotin supplements can help treat dry nails caused by a biotin deficiency.
Biotin supplements can help treat dry nails caused by a biotin deficiency.

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Discussion Comments


I've had a dry nail problem since I was young. The only two things that have helped me has been taking vitamin supplements regularly and using shea butter to moisturize my nails.

There are supplements in most shops and pharmacies now that are formulated especially for healthier nails, skin and hair. They generally contain biotin, vitamin B complex, vitamin A and E. These help strengthen the structure of our skin, hair and nails which are really similar to one another.

When I take a supplement regularly, my nails are not as dry as usual. I also use shea butter cream regularly to hydrate them. If I forget to do these, I get very dry nails with ridges that chip and break which can be very painful.


@burcinc-- Yea, fake nails and drying nail polish are really hard on the natural nails! I had the same problem a couple of months ago. It looked like the top layer of my nails were stripped off and it was unbelievably dry and dull looking.

Go ahead and try the cuticle cream. They are made to nourish and soften the cuticles so I'm sure they would help the nails too. I personally used a lot of natural oils and thick creams which helped a lot. You can use souffle hand creams which tend to be very moisturizing.

Olive, avocado and jojoba oil is really good too. I made a mixture of these three and massaged them into my nails once or twice a day for several weeks. It helped immensely.


I had acrylic nails on for a long time and finally removed them the other day. But I've noticed that my nails feel very dry and brittle now. They were not like this before I used acrylics.

What can I do about this? I have some cuticle cream at home. Do you think this would help?

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