Brittle Fingernails

perfect nailsHormonal fluctuations in the perimenopausal years can lead to brittle fingernails (Onychorrhexis).

You are most probably aware of the common menopause symptoms – hot flushes and night sweats, irregular periods, and mood swings – but might not be aware that your fingernails can also be affected.

Menopause brings about many changes to your skin, hair and nails, whilst these may not affect your health they may affect your self esteem.

Brittle nails are characterised by easy breakage, lengthwise splits, nails that peel across from corner to corner or nails that easily become cracked or chipped.


Symptoms of Brittle Fingernails

• Changes in nail colour
• Sunken Appearance
• Ridges on nails
• Feeling of dryness
• Splitting nails
• Nails curled over fingertip
• Frequent nail breaks
• White spots on nails
• Peeling nails
• Dry cuticles and hangnails

Nails and Hormones

Nails are formed of a hard substance called keratin, which is produced by specialised cells at the root of the nail bed.

When you are in good health and your hormones are well balanced, your nails provide a solid protective layer for the sensitive nail bed. Hormonal fluctuations at menopause can weaken the keratin layer, resulting in nails that tear easily.

The health of the keratin layer is linked to the level of hormones in the body, especially estrogen. One of the functions of estrogen is to regulate water retention. When your body contains higher levels of estrogen your overall body water levels will be higher too. When your estrogen levels decline, this can lead to dehydration which displays itself in dry, split brittle fingernails.

Your overall health, energy levels and your appearance depend largely on your nutritional intake. What you eat affects your skin, hair and nails.

  • A deficiency in B-complex vitamins, especially biotin, will produce ridges along the nail bed.
  • A diet lacking in calcium contributes to dry brittle fingernails.
  • A lack of protein also contributes to brittle nails.
  • A lack of folic acid and vitamin C can lead to hangnails.
  • Insufficient dietary essential oils, like Omega 3 cause cracking

Taking a high quality supplement may be beneficial

Nail Health Nourishing Diet

  • Yoghurt contains calcium, zinc and iron which will all help to maintain nail health. Yoghurt can also help to promote a strong digestive tract and immune system
  • Biotin – found in cauliflower, peanuts and legumes.
  • Calcium rich foods – all dairy foods, yoghurt, dark green leafy vegetables, almonds, beans, sardines.
  • Protein – meat, poultry, seafood, beans and peas, eggs, nuts and seeds and processed soy products.
  • Folic Acid – can be found in orange juice, beans, whole grains and green vegetables.
  • Vitamin C – can be found in citrus fruits, red peppers, broccoli, dark greens, kiwis and strawberries.
  • Essential fatty acids – found in fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, trout and herring. Nuts, seeds, tofu and flax seeds.

Fingernail Health

  • Stay away from nail polish removers that contain acetone as this dries the nails out. Use polish remover only once a month and touch up in between. Allow your nails to breathe by going without nail polish from time to time.
  • Don’t have your cuticles removed at a salon as this can make your vulnerable to infection – or take your own tools. Trimming your cuticles regularly will help to keep your nails healthy and strong.
  • Wear gloves when washing dishes or cleaning. Detergents, cleaning products and hot water are not good for healthy nails.
  • Use hand lotion after washing hands and showering. Moisturise your hands in the evening and then wear cotton gloves at night to keep the moisture in.
  • Keep your nails short to prevent them from breaking.
  • You can soak your fingernails in warm olive oil once a day.
  • Increase your water intake to stay hydrated.

Conditions/Diseases Associated with Changes in Nails

• Anemia
• Eczema
• Infections
• Hypothyroidism
• Vitamin or mineral deficiencies
• Poor circulation
• Psoriasis
• Liver Disease
Here you will find more information on conditions/diseases related to brittle fingernails and other abnormalities

Hutchinson, Susan M.D.  (Nov 2007) The Stages of a Woman’s Life: Menstruation, Pregnancy, Nursing, Perimenopause, Menopause.
Brittle Nails and the Menopause. Retrieved in July 2014. Retrieved from
Brittle Nails and Menopause (March 2009) Retrieved from

Page Last Updated on August 17, 2017