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Brittle Nails and Hair

Brittle nails and hair occurring together is often an indication of weak health condition. Read this article to find out what causes brittle hair and nails and the suitable solutions to these problems.
Brittle nails can be identified as flaky nails that peel off easily. On the other hand, brittleness of hair can be described as dry and coarse hair that falls off easily. An identifiable sign of brittle hair is split ends. Actually, brittle nails and hair is a condition that arises due to excessive dryness. The dryness make the hair and nail weak and gives them an unhealthy look.

Causes
There are many different causes of brittle hair and nails. Some of them are internal factors and others are external factors. Nutritional deficiency is one of the major factors responsible for brittleness of hair and nails. Lack of sufficient amount of omega-3 essential fatty acids and vitamins particularly vitamin B in diet can make the hair dry and fragile. Deficiency of two essential minerals zinc and iron in the body often make the nails dry and flaky.

When your nails and hair are exposed to lots of harsh chemicals, then they tend to become dry. Your hair is mostly exposed to chemicals due to various chemical treatments on hair like bleaching, dyeing and so on. Chlorine present in swimming pool water has a harsh effect on the hair. Exposure to heat in the form of blow drying or sunlight often causes dry brittle hair.

A common cause is use of wrong nail polish and nail polish remover or too much use soaps and detergents. Exposure of various industrial solvents and other strong chemicals can be responsible for splitting nails. This condition can be a symptom of a number of underlying medical problems. Thyroid problems, skin diseases, side effects of medicines are some of the causes that makes both the nails and hair dry and brittle. In some people, the problem could be hereditary.

Prevention
The problem of brittle hair can be fixed with the help of proper hair care. Some simple tips to prevent hair breakage are as follows:
  • You should select right kind of hair care products for your brittle hair. Those products which have biotin content are good for damaged hair. Biotin is nothing but a form of vitamin B that can effectively repair the damaged hair and provide strength to them. Thus it prevents hair loss. Use shampoo that are formulated specifically for dry hair condition and have natural oils in them. Stay away from all such products that have alcohol or lauryl sulfate (SLS) in them.
  • Hot oil treatment is one of the most effective remedies for weak hair. Heat coconut oil or olive oil and apply it all over the scalp and hair strands. The coat of oil strengthens the hair roots and helps the hair strands to retain moisture.
  • Shampoo your hair three times a week and not more than that. While washing your hair, rub your hair with a gentle hand. Shampooing should be followed by deep conditioning of the hair. Leave-in conditioners are more suitable for brittle hair.
  • Protect your hair from heat and pollutants. When you go out, cover up your head with hat to protect your hair from sunlight or harsh winds. After coming out of swimming pool, you must thoroughly wash your hair to get rid of chlorine and other harsh chemicals from your hair.
  • Avoid using hair styling tools as they worsen the condition of your hair. In case it is unavoidable, make sure that you keep set the heat at a low temperature. Similarly, chemicals are better avoided but if you have to, then keep a gap of at least 10 weeks in between two treatment sessions.
Treatment
Proper nail care is a must for restoration of the healthy nails. Here are a few simple ways:
  • Moisturize your nails several times a day. You can simply massage some petroleum jelly or vegetable oils on your nails. Or else, you can use a lotion for the same. However, use one such nail care lotions that does not contain any harsh chemicals.
  • Almond oil is an excellent remedy. Apply almond oil on nails 3-4 times in a week. Vitamin E present in this oil get absorbed readily into the nails and strengthens them.
  • Use a nail polish on your brittle nails that does not contain formaldehyde. This particular ingredient of nail paint makes the nail extremely dry. Fresh nail polish should be applied after one week. To remove the old nail polish, use a nail polish remover which does not have acetone in it.
  • When you have brittle nails, do not grow them long. Trim them regularly and keep them short and round in shape so that they do not get chipped around the edges.
  • Do not wash your hands too frequently as excessive water exposure makes your nails dry and fragile. While washing dishes or clothes, wear gloves to protect your nails from getting wet.
  • Protect the nails from cold and dry weather condition by wearing woolen gloves.
Most of the causes of weak nails and hair can be prevented with proper diet. Eat foods that are rich in B vitamins, important minerals like iron and zinc and omega-6 fatty acids. Regular intake of vitamin B7 or biotin supplements provide additional strength to hair and nails. However, talk to your doctor once before starting any such supplements.
By Bidisha Mukherjee
Published: 11/30/2010
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