That peeling might be telling you it's time to eat better. Those horizontal ridges? Could be a stress SOS. There's a lot of health information right at your fingertips, so take a look!More
Just like skin, nails get drier with age. The result: brittle, peeling nails. (They can even split, and yes, it hurts.) This loss of moisture in the nail unit is called onychoschizia, and — according to a November 2013 study — affects 27 percent of women. Weather changes and washing your hands a lot or dunking them in harsh cleaners are also little moisture vampires, says Chris G. Adigun, MD, a dermatologist and nail specialist in Chapel Hill, NC. If your previously gorgeous nails suddenly look like so many layers of an onion, the peeling may be caused by a vitamin deficiency (zinc or iron), hypothyroidism, or medication. (The acne drug Accutane is a culprit.)
What you can do: Treat your nails with kid gloves. Steer clear of dehydrating alcohol-based hand sanitizers and harsh acetone polish removers — we like Nailtiques Non-Acetone Remover ($8, amazon). Wear gloves when you're doing the dishes, and rub on a hand cream with lanolin, lactic acid, or urea after washing your hands. Care for your cuticles, in particular: "From dry nail units, your cuticles can become ragged, small cracks can form in the skin surrounding the nail, and the hyponychium [the skin between the finger and nail plate] can become compromised," Dr. Adigun says. To rehydrate and strengthen, Adigun recommends Dermelect Rejuvenail Fortifying Nail & Cuticle Treatment ($13, amazon).
Dry, brittle nails can be a sign of biotin deficiency — try a supplement or add a bit more milk, eggs, and red meat to your diet. And pump up your body's stores of zinc and iron with shellfish, beef, nuts, and seeds, suggests Leslie Bonci, RD, the owner of Active Eating Advice in Pittsburgh. Still no luck? See your doctor to address any underlying health issues. If your skin and hair are also dry, especially, get your thyroid looked at, since that plus dry nails can signal a hormonal imbalance, Adigun says.
"Small, shallow 'waves' in the nail plate likely arise due to slight slowing in nail matrix activity during times of stress or illness," Adigun explains. But keep an eye out for them turning into Beau's lines, which are often brought on by serious stress, a high fever (from, say, a bad case of strep throat or the flu), or trauma to the nail, like your typical annoying finger smash. "Any one of these events can basically hit the 'pause' button on your nail's growth," says Marie Jhin, MD, a San Francisco-based dermatologist. "The little crease that you end up with marks the spot where nail cells stopped dividing temporarily."
What you can do: For the most part, it's a waiting game. It can take up to six months for Beau's lines to grow out, assuming you've gotten your stress or illness under control. (The stress thing is easier said than done, we know.) In the meantime, gently buff the surface around the grooves — try the Revlon Crazy Shine Nail Buffer ($5.59, amazon) to smooth out your nail's surface. Then apply a special base coat like Essie Ridge Filling Base Coat ($9, ulta) to fill them in. If they're extra deep and still visible, use a thicker nail polish over your base coat to glide right over dents. One to try: CND Shellac Brand 14+ Day Nail Color ($31.90, amazon — or visit cnd.com for salon locations), which comes in a variety of pretty shades.