MadSci Network: General Biology

Re: Why are my fingernails peeling and what can I do about it?

Date: Mon Apr 6 12:41:56 1998
Posted By: kathi clement, faculty md, family practice, Univ. of Wyoming
Area of science: General Biology
ID: 890082531.Gb

I am assuming that it is the fingernails and not the skin surrounding the 
nails that are peeling (the latter is actually very common).  What it 
sounds like your describing is onycholysis, which is where the nail splits 
off.  There can be numerous things that cause this ranging from a skin 
disease called psoriasis, to infections in the nails caused by yeast.  
Also, there are things you may be doing to try and help this, but it may 
have actually perpetuated it.  Some people react to nail hardeners so that 
the nail peels or splits.  Also, the glue used for applying artifical nails 
can cause nail problems.  Other things include trauma to the fingernail bed 
which at the base of the nail can have long term if not permanent effects 
on the nail.  And also, immersing your hands for long and numerous times a 
day can soften and weaken the nail enough to cause it to split or peel.  
When no other signs of skin disease are evident, onycholysis is most 
frequently seen in women with long fingernails.  With normal activity, the 
extended nail inadvertently strikes objects and  acts as a lever to pry the 
nail from the nail bed.  The cure for this is trimming the nails.
    And finally, if it is simply brittle nails, there are several things 
you can do since this is similar to dry skin.  Almost 20% of the adult 
population have this problem, so you're not alone.  You may want to add 
moisture to the nails.  The moisturizers that contain alpha-hydroxy acid or 
lactic acid such as Lac-Hydrin, help the most especially when applied at 
bedtime and then putting on a glove or cotton sock so the moisturizer 
doesn't rub off as easily.  Also, B complex vitamins or specifically Biotin 
(2.5mg/day and no more) may help.  Good luck.  

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