The Top Causes of Weak and Brittle Nails

Weak and brittle nails can be a frustrating experience for many individuals. Nails are an essential part of the body that protect the fingertips and play a crucial role in our daily activities. However, when they become weak and brittle, they can cause discomfort and embarrassment.

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The causes of weak and brittle nails vary from individual to individual, but some common factors contribute to their development. One of the leading causes of weak and brittle nails is malnutrition. A lack of essential vitamins and minerals such as iron, calcium, biotin, zinc, and vitamin D can weaken the nails and leave them prone to breaking or splitting.

Additionally, using harsh chemicals such as nail polish removers or detergents can damage the nails’ structure, leading to brittleness. Other factors such as aging, hormonal imbalances, medical conditions like thyroid disorders or diabetes, or genetics may also contribute to weak and brittle nails.

Understanding these causes is crucial in preventing nail problems before they occur or treating them effectively when they do arise.


Malnutrition is one of the primary causes of weak and brittle nails. The deficiency of essential vitamins and minerals such as biotin, iron, zinc, and vitamin A can weaken the structure of nails, making them prone to breakage and splitting.

Inadequate protein intake can also lead to poor nail health since keratin, which is a vital component of nails, is primarily made up of protein. Moreover, certain medical conditions that affect nutrient absorption in the body can also cause malnutrition and result in weakened nails.

Therefore, it’s essential to maintain a well-balanced diet rich in essential nutrients to support healthy nail growth and prevent malnutrition-related nail problems.

Harsh Chemicals

Harsh chemicals are another culprit responsible for weak and brittle nails.

Exposure to chemicals like detergents, cleaning agents, solvents, and nail polish removers can strip the natural oils from the nails, leaving them dry and prone to breakage.

These chemicals can also cause discoloration and ridges on the nails.

Formaldehyde, a common ingredient in many nail polishes, is particularly damaging to the nails as it can make them brittle and lead to flaking.

Moreover, prolonged exposure to harsh chemicals can result in skin irritation around the nails.

It is crucial to wear gloves while handling these substances or use milder alternatives that do not contain harmful chemicals to prevent damaging the nails.


As we have discussed in the previous section, exposure to harsh chemicals can be a major cause of weak and brittle nails.

However, aging is another significant factor that contributes to this condition.

As we grow older, our bodies naturally produce fewer keratin proteins that are responsible for maintaining the strength and elasticity of our nails.

Additionally, decreased blood circulation to the extremities and exposure to environmental factors such as sun damage can also weaken nails over time.

Furthermore, certain medical conditions such as diabetes and thyroid disorders may impact nail health as well.

While aging is inevitable, taking preventative measures such as wearing gloves when working with chemicals and applying moisturizer to nails regularly can help slow down the weakening process.

Hormonal Imbalances

Hormonal imbalances can be a significant culprit of weak and brittle nails. The impact of hormones on nail health often goes unnoticed, but it can have a considerable effect that leaves nails dry and chipped.

Hormones are vital in regulating the body’s processes and functions, including the growth of healthy nails. An imbalance in hormones can cause changes to the nail bed, leading to weakened nails that easily break or split.

Hormonal changes during pregnancy, menopause, or puberty can all lead to weakened nails. Moreover, conditions such as thyroid disorders, adrenal gland problems, or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can also cause hormonal imbalances that affect nail health.

In conclusion, hormonal imbalances have a significant role in causing weak and brittle nails. The impact is often overlooked but must be considered when assessing overall nail health. It is crucial to identify any underlying hormonal issues that may be contributing to this problem so that appropriate measures can be taken to address them.

Medical Conditions And Genetics

Medical conditions and genetics can also play a significant role in causing weak and brittle nails. Certain health conditions such as anemia, thyroid disorders, and psoriasis can affect the health of nails. Anemia, characterized by low levels of iron in the blood, can result in brittle nails that break easily. Similarly, thyroid disorders such as hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism can cause nail brittleness due to hormonal imbalances. Psoriasis, a chronic skin condition that causes inflammation and scaling of the skin, can also affect nails and lead to brittleness. In addition to medical conditions, genetics can also influence nail health. Some individuals inherit weaker nail structures that are prone to breakage or splitting. It is important for individuals with weak and brittle nails to consult with a healthcare provider for proper diagnosis and treatment of any underlying medical conditions that may be contributing to this issue.

Medical ConditionNail Effects
AnemiaBrittle Nails
Thyroid DisordersNail Brittleness due to Hormonal Imbalances
PsoriasisNail Brittleness due to Inflammation and Scaling

Note: The table above shows some common medical conditions that can lead to weak and brittle nails.


Weak and brittle nails can be both unsightly and painful. They can break or chip easily, making daily activities difficult. While there are many possible causes of weak and brittle nails, five primary factors stand out: malnutrition, harsh chemicals, aging, hormonal imbalances, and medical conditions/genetics.

Malnutrition is a leading cause of weak and brittle nails. A lack of essential vitamins and minerals such as biotin, iron, zinc, calcium and vitamin D can lead to unhealthy nails.

Harsh chemicals such as acetone-based nail polish removers or cleaning agents can strip the natural oils from the nails causing them to become dry and brittle.

Aging also plays a role in nail health; as we age our bodies produce less collagen which is essential for strong nails.

Hormonal imbalances during pregnancy or menopause can cause changes in nail health as well. Certain medical conditions such as thyroid disorders or psoriasis may also affect nail strength. Genetics also play a role in determining nail health; some people are simply more prone to weak and brittle nails than others.

In conclusion, it is important to understand the underlying causes of weak and brittle nails in order to properly address the issue. Whether it is through improving nutrition, avoiding harsh chemicals or seeking medical treatment for an underlying condition, there are steps that can be taken to improve nail health.

According to a study conducted by The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 20% of Americans suffer from weak or brittle nails at any given time making this an issue that affects many individuals on a daily basis. By addressing these causes head-on, individuals can achieve stronger, healthier nails that not only look better but feel better too.