Peeling Nails? Reasons Why It’s Happening

If you have recently noticed that your nails seem to be peeling and there doesn’t seem to be any reason for it, you might be alarmed. While there are times that your body is lacking nutrients or you may have some illness which is causing the problem, most often it is something you are doing that is the ultimate cause of peeling nails. Before working yourself into a panic because your nails are not as strong as they once were, take a look at some of the reasons why this could be happening.

Heavier Than Usual Chores

One of the main reasons why our nails peel easily is because we are just subjecting them to too much work! If you have been doing some extra heavy duty house or yard work, you could simply have damaged your nails without realizing it. Nails don’t always chip or break from trauma. Sometimes the split is between layers on the nail rather than a nice clean horizontal break. Try wearing gloves to protect your nails when doing heavy chores around the house.

Lack of Adequate Proteins/Amino Acids

When I was a little girl I remember my mother soaking her nails in plain gelatin (yep, the stuff that makes Jell-O wiggle!) because she swore it made her nails strong yet pliable. If you think about it, it makes good sense because your nails are made up of keratin (structural proteins) and gelatin is nothing more than amino acids, the building blocks of protein. While you may not want to soak your fingers in gelatin before your weekly manicure, a bowl or two of Jell-O a day couldn’t hurt!

Insufficient Vitamins and Minerals

Just as a lack of protein can cause your nails to split and crack, so too can insufficient vitamins and minerals. Many people claim that it is almost impossible to get insufficient vitamins, minerals and proteins in our diets but that just isn’t true. First of all, most of the foods we eat are highly processed which kills up to 90% of the nutrients and then there is protein to think about. Our bodies don’t assimilate animal proteins and in order to manufacture usable protein we need a complete variety of amino acids that will be assembled into protein the body needs. Keep in mind that healthy nails also need biotin and the full range of B vitamins.

Yeast Infections

While yeast infections live under the nails, often causing them to turn colors and even fall off, those nasty little infections can also cause our nails to literally chip and peel. OTC anti-fungal ointments and creams are available if you don’t have a prescription from your doctor. It is recommended that you refrain from wearing polish for at least two weeks and apply the cream liberally once in the morning and once at night. Make sure to get some of the preparation under the nail as well!


Not only can a good number of medications dry your nails and skin, but some medications also deplete certain nutrients in the body. One of the things you might want to do if you are taking any prescription or OTC medications is to check the known side effects to see if that could be the problem. Unfortunately, if the medication is a prescription you just can’t stop taking it. But, what you can do is to try keeping your nails moisturized and if all else fails, try my mom’s gelatin solution! (She had the best nails on the block long before fake nails were en vogue!)

Chemicals and Household Cleaners

Ah, the wonders of all those modern household cleaners. If you are going to be exposed to working with any chemicals, do yourself (and your nails!) a favor and wear heavy latex or rubber gloves. Don’t forget that if your nails are splitting because of those chemicals your body is also absorbing them as well. I hate to think about what this is doing to you on the inside!

Changing of the Seasons

Just as your lips tend to crack and bleed with the changing of the seasons, so too are your nails affected by climatological changes. Whether it suddenly turns hot or suddenly turns cold, your nails are susceptible to extreme and rapid changes in weather. Here again, keeping your nails moisturized with a good lotion is the best remedy to peeling nails from seasonal changes in weather.

Soap and Water

Doing dishes, giving baby a bath, household chores and a number of other activities require extended periods of time where our hands are literally soaked in water. That can cause inordinate peeling and flaking, but the water is only half the problem. Soaps can have drying affects which is why we are told not to use soap on our faces. If soap dries your skin, what do you think it does to your nails? The simple remedy is to wear gloves to protect both the skin on your hands as well as your nails.

Nail Tips and Nail Treatments

Having your nails tipped or wearing acrylic full nails provides for lovely manicures. But what if you decide to go au natural? Chances are your nails will chip, flake and peel as the tips and acrylics take layers of nail with them when they are removed. A good nail strengthener polish helps to protect thin nails while a good vitamin supplement will help to strengthen them as well. Also, you will want to keep them moisturized and away from chemicals and soap by wearing gloves when working around water.

Keep in mind that repairing peeling nails may take several weeks or even a month or two. However, with consistent efforts you can strengthen your nails while preventing further peeling. A good clear nail strengthening polish will help keep the peeling from working its way down toward the cuticles while providing the strength necessary to keep them from breaking off. If at all possible, don’t wear acrylics or nail tips because they are the biggest culprits in weakening your nails. Keep your hands moisturized at all times but most importantly during seasonal weather changes. With time and effort, even the most damaged of nails can be restored.

Comments 9
  1. I appreciate the well written tips, but some of your facts are not supported by evidence. For example, that humans can not absorb amino acids from animal protein? Or that fingernails can absorb protein from gelatin? I'm sorry, but those are two examples that are just wrong.

  2. Very good article. I have very dry nails that keep splitting and peeling and they won't grow. I keep spending money on bits for them and nothing seems to be working. They still split and break I see all this wonderful nail polish that I can't wear.

  3. Will never have my nails gelled again, they are now flaking and look awful. Will try the gelatine and hope that works!

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