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Brittle Toenails

Brittle toenails represent a common problem in the general population. The medical term for this condition is onychorrhexis, defining the modifications that appear at the end of the toenails. Age is considered as one of the determining factors that lead to the appearance of brittle toenails, but it is not the only one incriminated. Sometimes, there may be another medical condition that causes the nails to become brittle. The important thing is that a diagnosis made and the proper treatment is administered. If there is an underlying condition and the right treatment is offered, then the condition of the toenails will improve as well.

Symptoms of Brittle Toenails

These are the most common symptoms/modifications when it comes to brittle toenails:

  • The strength of the toenails is reduced; they break more easily than it would be normal.
  • Toenails can also become dry and crumbly.
  • Because of the abnormal production of keratin, they might also be thicker than normal.
  • Can be accompanied by color changes – the nail bed can become opaque or yellow.
  • White spots can appear on the nail bed.
  • Ridges are formed on the nail bed, leading to the nail edge splitting in more than one place.

What Causes Brittle Toenails?

These are the most common causes that lead to the appearance of brittle toenails:

Fungal infection

If the toenails are infected with different fungi, then they present a high chance of becoming brittle. The infection can spread from one toenail to the other, the fungi growing and colonizing the entire area. This kind of infection is favored by excess humidity. The toenails will become discolored, they will modify their shape and they will thicken.

Lichen planus

Non-contagious skin rash that also affects the toenails, causing them to become brittle.

Hormonal dysfunctions

Hyper or hypothyroidism can affect the health of the toenails, leading to modifications.

Nail psoriasis

This is a specific form of psoriasis, affecting the toenails and fingernails. Being a chronic condition, in time, it causes nails to become brittle or crumbly.

Reactive arthritis

This is an auto-immune condition that leads to modifications in different parts of the body, causing toenails to become brittle.

Vitamin deficiency

The health of the toenails is influenced by the vitamin deficiency. If your body lacks iron (anemia)         or vitamins from the B complex, then toenails can become brittle.

Eating disorders (bulimia/anorexia)

Eating disorders are characterized by vitamin deficiency due to the improper intake of food; this in its own turn can lead to brittle toenails.

Nail polish

It is a well known fact that nail polish contains many chemicals. The frequent usage of nail polish can lead to brittle toenails, among other modifications.

Professional manicure

The substances used for the removal of the nail polish or the solvents applied to the cuticles can damage the toenails as well, leading to them becoming brittle.

Keeping your feet in water

If that happens on a frequent basis or for prolonged periods of time, then the toenails can suffer modifications.

Other conditions:

  • Raynaud’s phenomenon
  • Eczema
  • Nail dryness
  • Aging
  • Exposure to detergents/chemical substances.


These are the most common courses of treatment recommended for brittle nails:

Vitamin B complex supplements

  • Strengthen the toenails
  • Prevents them from becoming brittle
  • First improvements are noticeable within 4 to 6 months

Topical application of hydrosoluble nail lacquer

  • Brush-on application
  • First results are noticeable within 2-3 weeks
  • Protects the nails that are already brittle from further friction or tearing
  • Improves the health of the toenails, protecting them against excessive moisture

Other recommendations

Studies related to their efficiency have been inconclusive:

  • Silicon – reduces the roughness of the skin and reduces the modifications present on the toenails.
  • Horsetail herb – contains silica, having similar effects with the above mentioned silicon.
  • Calcium – it is a well known fact that calcium makes the toenails stronger, thus helping when they are brittle.
  • Iron – as brittle nails are considered a sign of anemia, by taking iron supplements both the anemia and the brittle toenails are going to improve.
  • Vitamin A – improves the health of the toenails, causing them to become less brittle.
  • Cysteine – this is an amino acid that can help the keratin in the toenails to become more stable, thus maintaining their health.
  • Zinc – if there is a zinc deficiency in the body, then the toenails can become brittle. Zinc supplements can solve such problems.

The treatment of underlying conditions (digestive disorders, hormonal problems) will also address the problem of brittle toenails.

Home remedies

These are the most common home remedies you can consider for brittle toenails:

Olive oil and lemon juice

  • Mix olive oil with freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Apply it to the toenails and maintain it until the next day
  • Recommended to be used at least twice a week, until the first results become noticeable

Tea tree oil and vitamin E

  • Home remedy recommended for brittle toenails caused by fungal infections

Sea salt

  • Mix sea salt with lemon juice or oil
  • The resulting mixture should be poured into warm water
  • Soak your feet in the water and keep them there for a quarter of an hour
  • Repeat at least twice a week

Vitamin E oil

Massage your toenails with vitamin E oil, then put on a pair of socks and leave the treatment to do its magic over night.

Beer, apple cider vinegar and olive oil

  • Mix the beer with apple cider vinegar and olive oil
  • Soak your toenails into the mixture for a quarter of an hour
  • Repeat twice a week

Lemon juice

  • Mix lemon juice with warm water
  • Soak your feet into the water and keep them there for a quarter of an hour
  • Repeat twice a week

Herbal mixture

  • Mix chamomile, peppermint and olive oil
  • Apply mixture to the toenails
  • Rinse off with warm water

Egg yolk and milk

  • Mix the eggs yolks with milk
  • Apply mixture to the toenails
  • Rinse off with warm water

Pictures of Brittle Toenails

Here are some of the photos, pictures of brittle toenails…

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brittle toenails pictures

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