Why do nails peel? Causes, treatments and solutions

If you’ve ever asked the question — Why do my nails peel? — then this is the article for you. There are a lot of things that could cause someone’s nails to peel, from stress to a poor diet, experiencing thyroid problems or leaving your hands in water for a long period of time.  This article will take a look at causes, treatments and solutions for nails that peel.

What causes nails to peel

As previously said, there are several different causes that could lead to nails peeling.  It’s good to talk to your doctor about it, but you could also treat it at home, or use preventive treatments.

If a poor diet is what’s causing your nails to peel, this is due to a lack of calcium.  In order to counteract this, you need to consume dairy, like milk, yogurt, cheese and also spinach, Swiss chard, and all other leafy green vegetables.  Avoid consuming sodas, yerba mate, tea, coffee, etc., because they block optimal absorption of this vital nutrient.  You could also take supplements for Vitamins A, B and D, or calcium.


If the cause is due to lack of hydration, we recommend consuming fruits, liquids (water and juices), and also vegetables, like tomatoes, to prevent the peeling from worsening.  Use a moisturizing cream on your nails once a day.  If at all possible, do this before going to bed or after having been in contact for a long time with water (washing clothes by hand, washing a lot of dishes, bathing the kids or soaking in the tub).  You could also do this for individuals that chew or bite their nails, because they are constantly in contact with water (their saliva), which also removes the layers on their teeth.

In regards to aesthetics, some treatments or practices could damage nail health, like applying fake nails, for example, or filing too much, using poor quality polishes or those that use too much formaldehyde, repeatedly drying your nails when they’re moist, removing fingernail polish with aggressive chemicals (acetone is also bad for the skin if it comes into contact with it), or not waiting a day or two in between polishes so the nails can “breathe”.

Another cause is contact with chemical products, like disinfectants or cleaners, without using gloves.  You need to avoid this at all times, because detergents, soaps and other products create skin irritation and can cause nails to peel.


Thyroid diseases can also cause problems regarding nail strength.  If your condition is related to Thyroids, you need to consult an endocrinologist for a prescription that corresponds for treating this illness.

And lastly, this could also be due to stress or lack of sleep.  These two factors can be modified simply by leaving your work problems at your desk when you leave.  Find the positive side in arguments with your partner, think about how to solve any lack of money, etc.  To sleep better, there are good herbs that can be used in infusions which can relax the mind and body.

Recommendations for improving peeling nails

  • Don’t use poor quality polishes or those that are cheap because they could contain chemicals that are harmful to nails and that weaken them.
  • Use polishes that are specifically designed to prevent nails from peeling.  There are a lot of cosmetic brands that offer products to treat this problem, and they will probably list the word “therapeutic” on the label.
  • Apply nail strengthener three times a week.
  • Avoid cutting or pulling off the layers of your nails so as to not further damage what’s left of your nail.
  • Submerge your fingers in a bowl with water and Apple cider vinegar for 3 minutes, twice a week.
  • Use a special nail file and slowly rub over them, removing the flaky layers.  This will leave them smoother.  We do not recommend doing this very frequently because it will leave your nails very thin.
  • Moisten a cotton ball with olive oil and rub it over your nails.  This will moisturize them and seal the flakes.


How to make homemade nail strengtheners

If you suffer from weak nails that break every so often, a good strengthener is just what you need.  This will make them both strong and healthy at the same time.  You can find a wide variety of nail strengthening brands in the stores, but there are homemade recipes that are just as effective, cheaper and more natural.

  • Strengthening nail cream: use 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of pure Honey, a pinch of salt and 1 egg yolk.  Mix all ingredients together and apply to your nails.  Allow to act for 20 minutes and then rinse with warm water.  Repeat three times a week.


  • Extra-virgin olive oil: Submerge your nails in a bowl with this oil for several minutes before going to bed.  Or, moisten a cotton ball with it and massage your nails every nigh.  Mixing this oil with almond oil would make a perfect complement for creating stronger nails (two tablespoons of each oil).  Apply to your nails and cuticles and let set for 10 minutes.
  • “Recharging” strengthener: If you’ve already bought a strengthener at the pharmacy or beauty stores, add one clove of minced garlic to the bottle, 5 drops of lemon juice and 5 drops of white iodine.  Mix well and let set for 2 days.  Apply for the following two weeks.
  • Onion: cut an onion in half and place your nails inside for five minutes.  Allow to dry in open air.
Photos courtesy of Vincent Lock, Peter Stevens, Julian Partridge, viviandnguyen, sjephoto and soaringbird.