What Peeling Nails Mean and How To Prevent Them

NAILPRO spoke with internist Shirin Peters, M.D., about the factors that contribute to peeling nails and fingertips, tips for treating and preventing the condition and the products she recommends to her patients.

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Your client’s lifestyle impacts their nail health in a variety of ways. And as such, life during a pandemic (hi, constant handwashing and sanitizing) has not made maintaining a perfect mani any easier, thanks to an increase in peeling nails and fingertips.

NAILPRO spoke with internist Shirin Peters, M.D., about the factors that contribute to peeling nails and fingertips, tips for treating and preventing the condition and the products she recommends to her patients.

“Peeling and sloughing of fingernails occur because a nail is exposed to too little or too much moisture,” Peters explains. “Common activities that dry the nails include buffing your nails too much, spending time in hot or humid places or doing chores that involve soaking your nails in water, like washing dishes with no gloves on.”

Peters also suggests that exposing nails to certain chemicals, like those needed for adhesive for gel or acrylic nails, can result in peeling nails.

If a client comes to their appointment and complains about peeling nails or fingertips, tips for treatment and/or prevention include not buffing the nails, using hypoallergenic bath and laundry products that contain fewer harsh chemicals, wearing gloves when doing the dishes, drying your hands and nails well after washing them and regularly applying a hand cream that contains vitamin E to replenish any moisture lost.

According to Peters, clients wanting to improve the condition of their nails may want to avoid gel or acrylic nails.

Thyroid disease or vitamin deficiency can also cause peeling nails. If a client is taking the steps recommended above but still has peeling nails, suggest a visit to their primary care doctor or dermatologist for guidance.

“Any harsh chemical can be drying for the nail and can lead to peeling, so I recommend hypoallergenic products that are labeled as such and contain milder or natural chemical agents like Arm and Hammer Sensitive Skin and Free & Clear laundry detergent,” Peters suggests.    

Other product recommendations include Aveeno, Cetaphil and Dove for bath care, Seventh Generation for dish soap and Dove's hypoallergenic hand sanitizer that is gentle on the skin and nails.

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