(Nails)

The Underrated Antioxidant That Might Just Fix Those Weak, Brittle Nails

Manicurist-approved.

Getty Images/Anna Webber

Do your nails have white spots or discoloration? Are they peeling or brittle? If so, there’s a good chance that your nails are unhealthy and dehydrated. Restoring thin, rigid nails comes down to one thing: reintroducing moisture. “Using an ultra-hydrating moisturizer rich in vitamin E or tocopherol — the fat-soluble vitamin that's an excellent antioxidant and moisturizer — will even [out] your nail plate (hard part of the nail),” says Mary Lennon, founder of Côte.

Vitamin E, since it is an antioxidant, helps to protect against free radical damage to the nails by fighting off bacteria and viruses, while deeply hydrating and healing both the nail plate and surrounding skin — like your cuticles. There are several types of vitamin E categories. “Cosmetic grade vitamin E that is included in formulations and should not be applied directly to your skin,” says Chris Cabrera, founder of Naturally London, “There is vitamin E that you can buy from your beauty or drug store, which more than likely is mixed with another type of carrier oil. Finally, there is your supplement encapsulated with vitamin E that some break open to use on their skin and nails. This option is totally preferential because vitamin E as a supplement is not regulated by the FDA.”

Ahead, discover all the benefits of adding vitamin E oil to your nail routine, according to top manicurists across the country. Plus shop a few of their favorite vitamin E-rich products.

What Causes Nails To Become Dehydrated?

“It all boils down to some type of deficiency, either dietary or supplemental,” says Cabrera, “If your diet lacks omega 3s, zinc, biotin, vitamin D or E, you are more likely to suffer from dry, brittle and peeling nails.” For that reason, Cabera recommends adding eggs, fish, green leafy, nuts, and seeds to your diet for healthy nails.

But say you are eating a well-maintained diet but your nails are still weak — it could be the excessive use of hand sanitizers and frequent hand washing that is causing dry and brittle nails and cuticles right now.

“Peeling nails could also be due to external trauma to the nail itself, such as removing acrylic nail polish,” Samara Walker, CEO and founder of Àuda.B shares. “Another common symptom of unhealthy nails is when they’re weak and soft. This is typically caused by overexposure to harsh moisture or chemicals, such as detergents, nail treatments, or cleaning fluids.” Another tip for minimizing damage through these sorts of ingredients is using gloves whenever possible.

What Are The Benefits of Vitamin E Oil For Nails?

“Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that protects the nail plates from free radical damage and deeply hydrates and heals both nails and surrounding skin,” Anastasia Totty, LeChat Nails educator, tells TZR, “It is a fat-soluble nutrient, which increases moisture to the nail bed and the skin around the nail to restore and rejuvenate.”

Vitamin E works to moisturize the nail plate by providing nutrients for the nails. “It prevents cracked cuticles and dry skin around the cuticles,” says Walker. “[It] has also been shown to prevent yellow nail syndrome, which causes the nails to peel, crack, and yellow.”

Nails — which are made up of dead keratin cells — need to receive a regular amount of blood supply that is full of vital nutrients. Vitamin E gives the blood supply those essential nutrients to deliver to the nails. Additionally, the experts explain that the hero ingredient can reverse damage caused by nail polish remover and nail polish, or the constant switching in between polish colors.

How Often To Use Vitamin E Oil To See Results?

In general, anyone experiencing yellowing or brittle nails will find using vitamin E beneficial. You can apply it up to twice a day, working it into the cuticles and nails with an oil, or all over hands and nails with a hand cream rich in vitamin E. “Allow the dryness factor of your nails to dictate how often to use the oil,” says Lennon, “The only item to pay attention to, however, is making sure that you completely clean your nail plate with acetone-free remover and rubbing alcohol prior to reapplying paint. Do not use traditional acetone as it is extremely harsh and drying, and can cause nails to peel, separate or break.”

Anyone who is looking to hydrate and strengthen their nails and cuticles should consider adding vitamin E oil to their routine. And because finding the perfect vitamin E oil or hand cream can be a game of trail-and-error, below are five expert-approved products.

We only include products that have been independently selected by TZR's editorial team. However, we may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.