What It Is

example of a brittle nailOnychoschizia means brittle, splitting, soft or thin nails. It is a common problem that is often more prevalent in women and usually occurs with aging.


While nail abnormalities can rarely be linked to illness (iron deficiency and thyroid disease most commonly), most cases of brittle nails arise from causes such as overexposure to water , harsh soap and detergents as well as overuse of nail polish and manicures. Repeated wetting and drying makes nails expand and shrink, which leads to the brittle nails. Brittle nails can result from either being too dry or from overexposure to moisture. When nails become brittle due to too much moisture, nails can become soft and may peel. Repeated trauma to the nails can also cause splitting and softening.

Managing Brittle Nails
  • Avoid unnecessary exposure to water, wear rubber gloves when washing dishes and for general housecleaning
  • Give nails a break from manicures, nail polish and nail polish remover.
  • Moisturize hands regularly
  • Cut nails straight across or slightly rounded using sharp nail clippers or scissors
  • Filing can also help by smoothing out ragged nails to prevent further damage. Just be sure to use a non-metal file and buff nails in the direction of nail growth only to prevent further splitting
  • Avoid nail biting and trauma to nails (i.e. using nails to open packaging)
  • There is not sufficient evidence to recommend over the counter supplements such as Biotin for brittle nails. These supplements can also come with risks such as interfering with common blood tests.