Doctors say that your eyes indicate the status of your health. But with all due respect to the medical professionals, the gaze might need to shift down to your hands, too. When your nails get brittle, they can be signaling that something deeper could be off-balance — not just your nail polish. Damaged nail products, like serums and creams, work to strengthen weak nails that suffer seasonal wear and tear.
“The nails truly tell a story and can reveal underlying systemic conditions in some cases such as vitamin deficiencies, anemia, liver disease, and kidney disease," Dr. Mara Weinstein Velez, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist and assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Rochester, tells TZR. Other underlying inflammatory conditions like psoriasis (nail pitting, discoloration of the nails called oil spots) and lichen planus (longitudinal ridging and thinning along the nail plate), are also visible through the nails, according to Dr. Weinstein Velez. Factors like cuticle biting or fungal infections, which are more common than you'd think, are also top reasons that Dr. Weinstein Velez cites.
“Infection may occur if the cuticles are constantly cut, picked, or the underside of the nail is cleaned with a stick or anything other than a gentle nailbrush," says Dr. Heidi Waldorf, a dermatologist and founder of Waldorf Dermatology Aesthetics in Nanuet, New York, says. The cuticle and the hyponychium, which is found under the nail, are like caulking around a tub — they seal and protect the nail bed and nail matrix [where the nail grows], Dr. Waldorf explains. "Damage breaks that seal and allows the entry of bacteria, yeast and fungi. Then the infection separates the nail from the nail bed — if it lasts long enough or recurs frequently, the damage and separation can be permanent."
Instead, ask the manicurist to use a softer brush to push down your cuticles. And instead of removing an excess amount of the skin, take a small amount and leave it alone.
There is hope for strengthening weak and fragile nails according to dermatologists — it will take patience and approximately six months to heal a damaged nail bed. “Some nail bed injuries can be fully repaired, and your nail could return to normal,” Dr. Howard Sobel, MD, New York City dermatologist and founder of Sobel Skin explains. “Keep in mind that it takes three to six months for a nail to grow from the cuticle to the tip of the finger."
Although you should let your nails have a break if you still plan on visiting a nail salon during your nail- strengthening journey, know that it's essential that the technician use sterilized tools that come from an autoclave, which is the metal container used to clean the tools.
Ahead, see products that will help to repair damaged nails and give them their strength back.