How to Keep My Fingernails From Flaking Off

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Skip the manicure and go natural for healthy, flake-free fingernails.
Skip the manicure and go natural for healthy, flake-free fingernails. (Image: Goodshoot/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

Your fingernail is composed of layers of keratin. For some people, the keratin is so thick and tightly packed that it is difficult to cut or file their nails. Other people have thin, brittle nails that break and peel. Fingernails that flake usually do so at the tips, forming bubbles where a layer of keratin scales has lifted free and peels backward. Flaking fingernails have both environmental and physical causes. You can keep your fingernails from flaking, but you may have to give up your nail polish to do it.

Things You'll Need

  • Multi-vitamin with biotin
  • Nail buffer
  • Nail clipper
  • Cuticle moisturizer

Check your toenails. If they are strong and do not flake, the problem with your fingernails is external. If you have the same problem with your toenails, make an appointment with your general physician or dermatologist. Flaking nails may indicate an iron or other vitamin deficiency.

Begin taking a multi-vitamin containing biotin, which helps strength nails and speed their growth. You can find a hair, skin and nails vitamin at most drug stores. If you have any questions regarding a particular brand, ask your physician or pharmacist.

Stop polishing your fingernails. Some people’s nails do not react well to nail polish remover, even the acetone-free variety, which can cause the upper layers of your fingernail to dry, separate and peel. It will take at least six months for the damaged nails to grow out.

Buff your nails once a week. Buffing removes a small layer of your nail keratin. Over several weeks, you will remove the damaged layer and reduce the appearance of flakes. Continue the habit even after flakes have disappeared to maintain a healthy shine.

Leave the flakes alone. It is tempting to peel back the exposed flakes at the tips of your nails. However, you will only weaken your nail, increasing the chances you will break or tear it beyond the nail bed. If the bubbled appearance of flakes bothers you, keep your nails trimmed short while the damaged nail grows out.

Moisturize your cuticles with a cuticle oil or cream. Moisturized nails are stronger and less prone to flaking and breakage.

Tips & Warnings

  • The fingernails and toenails do not always react the same way to nail polish remover. Toenails are thicker, and toenails are exposed to nail polish remover less often because a pedicure lasts longer than a manicure.
  • If you love your nail polish, consider fake nails. They require considerable maintenance, but you can change your nail polish without fear of flaking nails. Unfortunately, if you decide to go back to your natural nails, you will have to wait six months for the flaking nails to grow back out again.

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