Brittle Nails

Nail Disorders Clinic

Dermatology Clinic

(First floor)

West Clinic | Map

451 Junction Rd.

Madison, WI 53717

(608) 265-7670

Brittle nails are those that chip and split easily. This is a very common problem that is partially hereditary (you inherit it from your parents) and partially environmental (due to things in your environment).


We cannot change our heredity. Certain medical conditions such as anemia, thyroid problems and protein deficiency can cause brittle nails. If there are things in your environment that are causing or worsening brittle nails then reducing those things will help reduce your brittle nails.


Some tips for reducing brittle nails are:

  1. Trim your nails to this length: When you place the tip of your finger on a tabletop, the skin of your fingertip touches the table before your nail does.

  2. Keep nails hydrated by wearing gloves for wet work and by putting a moisturizer on them frequently, including after hand washing.

  3. Avoid triclosan (commonly found in antibacterial handwashes) because this dries out the nail.

  4. Wear cotton gloves covered by vinyl gloves for contact with irritants such as water and chemicals.

  5. If you polish your nails, then change the polish no more than every one to two weeks. Both acetone-based and nonacetone nail polish removers dehydrate the nail.

  6. Know that wearing and/or removing nail adornments such as acrylics, gels and shellacs may cause or worsen brittle nails.

  7. Get adequate protein in your diet.

  8. The water-soluble B vitamin Biotin may help strengthen nails and taking 2-3mg (or 2,000-3,000 mcg) daily for a trial period of six months for fingernails and 12 months for toenails may help. It takes six months for a fingernail to grow out and 12 months for a toenail to grow out so you need to take Biotin that long to know whether or not it works for you. If it does work, you will need to continue to take Biotin beyond that initial time frame.