Put your best fingers forward by restoring nail strength.
According to research or other evidence, the following self-care steps may help you break free
from brittle nails:
- Try biotin
- Increase nail thickness and strength by taking 2.5 mg of this B
vitamin every day
- Get a checkup
- Visit a qualified healthcare provider to find out if your brittle
nails are caused by a treatable medical condition or a nutritional deficiency
These recommendations are not comprehensive and are not intended to replace
the advice of your doctor or pharmacist. Continue reading the full brittle nails article for
more in-depth, fully-referenced information on medicines, vitamins, herbs, and dietary and
lifestyle changes that may be helpful.
About brittle nails
Brittle nails can be weak, thin, nails that peel or break easily, and/or grow slowly.
The common condition of brittle nails is often not definitively linked with any known
cause. Nonetheless, natural medicine may be able to help strengthen brittle nails.
Most conditions that affect nails are unrelated to nutrition; they are caused by a lack of
oxygen associated with lung conditions, hemorrhage due to infection, or inflammation around
the nail due to infection. If there is any question about what the problem is, it is important
to get a diagnosis from a healthcare practitioner.
Product ratings for brittle
What are the symptoms?
People with brittle nails may have frequent or easy breaking, cracking, splitting, or
tearing of their nails.
Therapy involves the intake of adequate nutrition; especially protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B6, niacin,
calcium, and iron; the use of gloves when
washing dishes, and the avoidance of drying chemicals, such as nail polish remover. Treatment
of an underlying medical condition, such as thyroid deficiency or poor circulation, may be
Vitamins that may be helpful
Nutrition can affect the health of nails in a variety of ways. Iron deficiency may cause spoon-shaped
nails.1 For years, some doctors have believed zinc deficiency causes white spots to appear on nails.
In China, excessive selenium has been linked
to nails actually falling out.2
Biotin, a B vitamin, is known to strengthen
hooves in animals. As a result, Swiss researchers investigated the use of biotin in
strengthening brittle fingernails in humans, despite the fact that it remains unclear exactly
how biotin affects nail structure. An uncontrolled trial of 2.5 mg biotin per day found
improved firmness and hardness in almost all cases after an average treatment time of 5.5
months.3 In a controlled trial using 2.5 mg of biotin per day, women with brittle
nails, who had their nail thickness measured before and at six to fifteen months after, found
their nail thickness increased by 25%. As a result, splitting of nails was reduced. In an
uncontrolled study of people who had been taking biotin for brittle nails in America, 63%
showed improvement from taking biotin.4 Although the amount of research on the
subject is quite limited and positive effects do not appear in all people, those people having
brittle nails may want to consider a trial period of at least several months, using 2.5 mg per
day of biotin.
Gelatin has been marketed as a remedy for brittle nails since the turn of the twentieth
century and has been mentioned in medical journals at least since the 1950s.5
6 7 Gelatin is a slaughterhouse byproduct, made from the hooves and other
inedible connective tissue of cows. While some people claim success using gelatin to
strengthen brittle nails, others claim that the remedy is ineffective,8
9 and that the real cause of brittle nails is lack of moisture, not protein
One doctor has observed that supplementation with glucosamine sulfate (amount not specified) can
increase the growth rate and strength of fingernails and toenails;10 however, no
controlled trials have been done.
Are there any side effects or interactions?
Refer to the individual supplement for information about any side effects or interactions.
Herbs that may be helpful
Anecdotal reports suggest that horsetail
may be of some use in the treatment of brittle nails.11 This may be due to the high
content of silicic acid and silicates in horsetail, which provide approximately 2 to 3%
Are there any side effects or interactions?
Refer to the individual herb for information about any side effects or interactions.
1. Bates B. A guide to physical examination, 2d ed.
Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1979, 51.
2. Yang G, Wang S, Zhou R, Sun S. Endemic selenium intoxication of humans
in China. Am J Clin Nutr 1983;37:872–81.
3. Floersheim GL. Treatment of brittle fingernails with biotin. Z
Hautkr 1989;64:41–8 [in German].
4. Hochman LG, Scher RK, Meyerson MS. Brittle nails: response to daily
biotin supplementation. Cutis 1993;51:303–5.
5. Halliday C. A new treatment for brittle nails. Canad Nurse
6. Rosenberg S, Oster KA, Kallos A, Burroughs W. Further studies in the
use of gelatin in the treatment of brittle nails. AMA Arch Derm
7. Derzavis JL, Mulinos MG. The brittle nail. Its treatment and
prevention with gelatin. Med Ann DC 1961;30:133–7.
8. Mirkin G. Gelatin doesn’t cure brittle nails. Health Topics
from The Dr. Gabe Mirkin Show and DrMirkin.com.
http://www.drmirkin.com/nutrition/8472.html [accessed 3/20/01].
9. The Editors of Prevention Magazine Health Books, ed. The
Doctor’s Book of Home Remedies for Women. New York: Bantam Books, 1998.
10. Swinburne LM. Glucosamine sulphate and osteoarthritis.
Lancet 2001;357:1617 [Letter].
11. Hamon NW, Awang DVC. Horsetail. Canadian Pharm J