Everything from poor nutrition to general ageing can cause dry, fragile and brittle nails. But regardless of the cause or reason why your nails may become weak, it is important to take care of them. (1,2).
Why do brittle nails occur in menopause?
Although nails can become brittle for many reasons, menopause increases the likelihood of developing this problem. Among other things, menopause is characterised by a decrease in hormones such as oestrogen. One of the functions of this hormone is to regulate the distribution of water in the body to keep it hydrated. (3,4).
So when oestrogen levels drop, the body becomes dehydrated. This may cause dry skin and cause nails to become weak and more prone to breakage. Another effect of a drop in oestrogen is nipple soreness due to increased breast tenderness. (3,4).
Brittle nails can also be the result of over-washing and over-drying. As well as overexposure to detergents, cleaners and nail polish remover. (4).
Tips for treating brittle nails in menopause
Although it may seem unimportant, weak and brittle nails, as well as the appearance of expression lines, are perhaps one of the most common concerns for women during the menopause. So here are some tips on how to take care of them:
Wear gloves when cleaning
Use rubber gloves whenever you are doing household activities such as washing or cleaning. Also, when your hands are in contact with water frequently or if you use a lot of cleaning products. Gloves will help you avoid further damage (2,5).
Another key tip to avoid this problem is using appropriate skin care:
- Apply hand cream to your nails and fingertips to keep them moisturised. Look for moisturising lotions containing lanolin or alpha-hydroxy acid to help strengthen your nails. (2,5).
- Take time to moisturise your nails regularly, especially before bedtime and during the dry winter months. (3,4).
Keep your nails short and clean
Trim your nails regularly, especially those that are about to become loose or cracked. Cut where they are still attached, as this encourages normal nail growth. Don’t cut along the edges and try to cut straight across the top to avoid ingrown nails. (2).
In addition, use a soft brush to clean them. Do not clean under your nails with sharp objects. Also, avoid the temptation to bite or pick at your nails or the skin around them. Good practice is to use an emery board every day to prevent splitting. (2,4).
Eat healthily to prevent
If you want to avoid weak and brittle nails during menopause, eating a balanced diet can help. This means including fruit, vegetables, fibre, whole grains and plenty of protein. This will help increase the amount of keratin your body produces, which helps strengthen and build hair and nails. (1,5).
Also, foods rich in vitamins C and E (known as one of the hair vitamins), folic acid and calcium can help nourish and make your nails look better. (3).
Apply hardener to prevent brittle nails
Finally, you can choose to apply a nail hardener to help strengthen your nails. If you use nail polish remover, make sure it is acetone-free, as it can damage your nails. Preferably, get nail polishes that contain nylon fibers. These help to strengthen them and prevent chipping and splitting. (1,3,5).
Brittle nails in menopause can be a cause for concern. However, by practicing a few simple habits and following these tips, the health of your nails can improve.
- Shachdev P. What causes brittle nails and how to care for them [Internet]. WebMD; 2022 [cited 2023 Mar 2]. Available from: https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/ss/slideshow-what-causes-brittle-nails
- NHS. Nail problems [Internet]. 2021 [cited 2023 Mar 2]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/nail-problems/
- Rebecca S. 6 tips for restoring your brittle nails during menopause [Internet]. Menopause Now; 2020 [cited 2023 Mar 2]. Available from: https://www.menopausenow.com/brittle-nails/articles/6-tips-for-restoring-your-brittle-nails-during-menopause
- Frothingham S. Why you have brittle nails and what to do about it [Internet]. Healthline; 2019 [cited 2023 Mar 2]. Available from: https://www.healthline.com/health/brittle-nails
- Fletcher J. What to know about brittle nails [Internet]. Medical News Today; 2020 [cited 2023 Mar 2]. Available from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/brittle-nails