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Foot Health: Five tips to fix dry and brittle toenails, a common condition podiatrists see

This dry, brittle toenail was beginning to grow into surrounding flesh. The nail was then supported by a toothpick in this home remedy to prevent ingrown toenails. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

This dry, brittle toenail was beginning to grow into surrounding flesh. The nail was then supported by a toothpick in this home remedy to prevent ingrown toenails. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

By Dr. Sarah Voelkel
KyForward columnist

A podiatrist sees many different nail conditions on a daily basis and a common concern of patients are dry and brittle nails.
Nails are mainly composed of keratin, a protein made by the nail root. Several things can cause slower production or destroy keratin causing dry and brittle nails. 
• A common cause is aging.  As we get older our nails do become thicker, dryer and sometimes discoloration appears. 
• Other common causes are long-term use of nail polish, exposure to moist conditions, like swimming, and systemic conditions. 
Common systemic conditions that can cause dry brittle nails are anemia, hypothyroidism, iron deficiency, circulation problems, eczema and psoriasis.
When these systemic conditions are the cause, it is important to see your primary care physician to get them under control; otherwise, your symptoms will continue.

How do you fix this?

To help improve the condition of your nails, a vitamin product called Theranail is recommended.  This vitamin contains Biotin, which is a form of B-vitamin in our body important for protein formation and new cell growth, along with iron and zinc.
It is taken once a day and improvement in the nail appearance and strength can be seen in just a few months.
For more information about Theranail before asking your doctor to prescribe it, click here. Once on the website, click “solutions” and the drop down menu at the top under “products.” Choose Theranail – TF.
In addition to Theranail, Keryflex nail restoration can be used over your nail to restore the appearance of your natural nail while treating conditions such as dry, brittle nails and fungal nails.
Keryflex is a resin that creates a nonporous nail over your existing nail while allowing your natural nail to continue to grow. The best part is, it takes just a short time to apply in the podiatrist’s office.
For more information about Keryflex before applying in your podiatrist’s office, click here.

We most commonly see dry brittle nails in women. This is most likely due to their use of nail polish and acetone nail polish remover. 
Men’s increased risk is usually associated with occupational exposure to solvents and acids.
Try these tips for healthy toenails:
• Women should try to avoid nail polish and nail polish removers with formaldehyde, acetone and toluene as these are very drying to the nails.
• It’s good to avoid nail polish for a period of time to allow your nails to recover, but when you do resume nail polish use it is best to use products with natural ingredients such as Dr.’s Remedy nail polish. For information, click here.
• Don’t cut back your cuticles. Cuticles are important for nail health and provide a water proof barrier between your skin and your nail to prevent further drying out.  Excessive or aggressive cutting of the cuticles can also cause infections.
• Don’t be aggressive when cutting your nails.  Allow the nail to grow out past the skin and then cut the nail straight across allowing a small portion of the nail to remain out, do not cut close to the skin.
• It is ok to soak your feet in warm water, but only do this for about 10 minutes because the nails absorb the water, which can cause the nail to expand and contract leading to brittleness.  It is best to avoid excessive periods of time in water to help prevent this.
These simple steps can be done at home and save you a trip to the podiatrist’s office. However, if you already have brittle nails, Keryflex or Theranail are a low cost option to get you back on track and can be obtained from your doctor.


Dr. Sarah Voelkel is a foot and ankle surgeon at Lexington Podiatry and the Kentucky Heel Pain Center.

For more Foot Health columns, click here.

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  1. jon says:

    Whats the best cream to hydrate nails and can rubbing garlic help thanks

  2. A. B.Blyth says:

    For health and safety reasons I have to wear a steel cap shoes. My toe nail are brittle and break off, white lines on all nails, surroundings in peeling and painful creams don’t work.

  3. Sue Sparks says:

    I have brittle toenails their some thick but really not too thick I don’t use nail polish but every great once in a while. I thought just from not getting enough moisture. Also I wear socks to bed. I’ve done for long time could that be reason?

  4. Vee Harness says:

    What polish remover that is considered without the drying ingredients..

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