Why Are My Nails Brittle? 5 Things That Might Be Causing It

Here are a few tips on growing healthy and strong nails. Of course, the nail salon can be amazing for self-care, but we’re going to talk about everyday habits for maintaining your nails. We’ll also explain how nails grow. 

Nail filing improperly

Often, we file our nails to keep them healthy. But, doing so improperly could have the opposite effect. Filing your nails improperly can make your nails weaker and more jagged. It can also cause your nails to peel, crack, and break. For example, filing back and forth can damage the nail.

Also, nail files should be cleaned to prevent the spread of bacteria. 

How do you file your nails?

You can hold your fingers toward your face by making a half-fist. The underside of your wrist should be facing upwards, and the nails should be bent toward your face. You can go from the outside corners and file toward the center. When you achieve the length and shape you want on one side, you can do the same motion from the opposite corner.

Also, make sure to go slowly. If you file too fast, you’ll could file off too much. Filing too quickly can also cause abrasion and make it more difficult to get the nail shape you want. 


When you file the nail, you can also use cuticle nail oil afterward to support the nail and prevent damage. Natural oils act as a glue to hold the nail layers together. But, applying cuticle oils, which have vitamin E, can help. Most of the time, brittle nails are caused by dehydration of the nail plate. 

In a healthy, hydrated person, 18 percent of the nail plate is composed of water. When this moisture level drops, brittle nails can occur. Brittle nails often occur when the amount of water in the nails is reduced to less than 16%

To improve this, you can apply serums with hydrating ingredients such as hyaluronic acid or glycerin. These are humectants, meaning they can pull water into the nail bed. You can use a moisturizer or oil to lock in this moisture.

If there’s cold or dry weather, you’ll want to make sure you're moisturizing your nails and wearing gloves. Furthermore, you can apply lotion after washing your hands because some hands soap can be very drying.

Plus, when water comes into contact with the skin, it quickly evaporates and takes many of the skin's natural oils. These are called the skin’s natural moisturizing factors. The more frequently skin is washed this way, the drier it can get, especially if the water is heavily chlorinated or too warm. 

So, it's great to moisturize your hands regularly, especially after washing your hands. Make sure you're also staying hydrated. 

Cutting your cuticle

A cuticle is a thin layer of dead skin that grows around the edge of your fingernails and toenails. It provides a barrier to protect your nails from infection. Many people like to cut them because they think it looks better. But, in reality, doing so can damage the nail.


Photo cred: Healthline

Cuticles are a critical natural barrier close to the nail. The matrix is at the base of the fingernail, and it creates cells that become your nails. These cells will divide and become keratinocytes, which produce keratin. The surface of our nails or the “nail plate” is primarily made of keratin.

However, during the growth phase, nails are most susceptible to damage. And if the cuticle is damaged, the nail can be damaged as it grows.

Deficiency in plant-based foods 

Yes, we need protein for nail growth. However, tons of plant-based foods offer an abundance of protein such as legumes, seitan, nuts, and tofu. However, apart from protein, plants also have flavonoids. 

Flavonoids and other antioxidants

Flavonoids are powerful antioxidants, and they are found in virtually all plant foods. Several reports have shown that more plant-based dietary patterns provide a higher intake of antioxidants compared to diets rich in animal products.

Antioxidants protect our cells from damage and preserve their function. Antioxidants protect our DNA and improve our cells' ability to produce components like keratin and collagen, two essential components for hair, skin, and nails. 

The collagen within your body is very important for nail strength and growth.  Collagen contains the amino acid, arginine. Arginine promotes the conditions need for optimal nail growth. Collagen also supports hydration in the skin and its ability to retain moisture. So, when our skin is more hydrated, this is always good for nail strength and growth.

Vitamin C

And speaking of collagen, vitamin C is another antioxidant essential to the formation of collagen. However, it cannot be found in cooked, non-plant-based products. 


Moreover, folate or vitamin B9, is another important nutrient found in plant-based food. Folate contributes to red blood cell formation and the development of new cells. A deficiency in folate can cause your nails to be rigid and brittle.

So, make sure you stay hydrated, eat your plant-based foods, and do nail treatments gently. Make sure you also apply SPF to your hands to support and protect them.