Peeling Nails: Causes and Treatment

Peeling Nails

Nail peeling is a nail disorder, wherein the fingernail splits off from the nail. However, this condition is not severe and can be easily prevented and taken care of. It is usually observed with brittle and weak fingernails, often in women with long nails. Peeling nails can be the result of environmental or internal issues. Your nails and skin are a prime resource if you want to tell if your body is healthy. Of course, your nails are also heavily utilized in everyday activities which can also cause damage. Understanding what is causing your nails to peel can help you determine a proper solution and whether or not your condition requires medical attention.


Nails are made up of hard keratin material that serves to protect nail-bed from trauma due to environmental and physical forces; however, certain risk factors may lead to dissolution of protective nail enamel; thereby exposing the sensitive nails to damage. A few notable causes include:

  • Additional Stress on the Hands. Performing extra chores that puts stress on the hands can wind up damaging your nails. Chores such as yard work, heavy lifting or scrubbing can chip the nails, which can result in the layers peeling in some cases.
  • Exposure to Harsh Chemicals. Cleaning with harsh chemical products can damage the skin of your hands or cause your nails to peel. Items intended for pest control, paint or stripping products or heavy cleansers can wind up causing your nails serious damage.
  • Overexposure to Water. Submerging your hands in water for long periods of time, especially water that is soapy, can result in your nails drying out and peeling.
  • Insufficient Nutrients. Your body requires a sufficient amount of protein and amino acids to build hair, skin and nail tissue. When your body is lacking in these ingredients, your nails can begin to suffer the consequences. Similarly, if you do not have enough B vitamins in your diet, this can result in brittle nails that can easily become damaged.
  • Infections or Skin Conditions. Skin conditions such as psoriasis or a yeast infection can cause the nails to peel if the symptoms begin to transfer to the hands.
  • Changing Seasons. Rapid changes in the environment, most notably the drying of the air that happens when it gets colder out, will have an effect on the body. Dry, static air can dry out your skin and nails, which can result in your nails peeling more frequently.
  • Medications. Many medications can dry the skin and nails because they deplete the nutrients in the body. Like a poor diet, this can result in your nails becoming brittle which makes it more likely that they will peel.
  • Nail Treatments. Acrylic nails, gel manicures and nail polish can cause your nails to chip, peel or flake once the treatment is removed. Some nail solutions such as formaldehyde can also worsen nail symptoms.

Self – Treatment

You might panic but you need to because a peeling nail can be repaired easily. Just add a little patience and do the following:

  • Never peel the nail off but rather carefully trim your nails directly beneath the damaged section but don’t trim too close to the nail bed. IF you do, you are increasing chances of getting infection.
  • If you don’t want to shorten your nail, get a toothpick and nail glue. Using the toothpick, apply a small amount of nail glue and apply directly to the peeling area.
  • Polish the outer layer of your nail in one direction.
  • Bring back the moisture to your nail by applying petroleum jelly or olive oil and massage it to the nail.
  • When washing your hands, use lukewarm water and add a mild moisturizing soap.
  • Always dry your hands thoroughly.
  • Using a nail hardener, polish your nail completely. But before you apply a second coat, make sure that the first coating has already dried.
  • Wearing gloves in doing chores. This is to prevent the exposure of your nails to potentially harmful chemicals you’re using during the chores like detergents and cleansers.
  • Give your nails a break! To do so, simply don’t overuse them as they are not made to substitute tools. Don’t use your nails in poking, opening a soda can or prying on something.
  • Massaging your nails as it increases blood flow to the part. As blood flow increases, it can assist in a stronger and faster growth of the nails.
  • Nourish with cuticle cream before going to bed. Cuticle creams aids in resuscitating drying cuticles and damage nails with its Vitamin E content.
  • Keep yourself hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Not only that it is good for the overall health, it also keeps the nails from being dehydrated.
  • Minimize exposure to nail polish removers as it contains agents that damage the nails. Minimize the use to twice a month but never use an acetone-based remover.
  • Keep a balance diet to ensure that you are providing all the nutrients that your nails required. Also, it is good for your whole system.

Peeling nails is not severe, but it is important to see your primary care doctor or dermatologist to determine the cause of your symptoms and discuss appropriate treatment.