What Do Your Brittle Nails Say About Your Health?

One of the more common nail findings I see during routine examination of the skin is splitting of the nails, known as onychoschizia. The splitting occurs at the free edge of the nail, separating the nail edge into layers. Why would I as a dermatologist care about the appearance of nails? Nails are an extension of the skin. And just like our skin can give clues about our internal health, so too can the nails. For example, onychoschizia could be a sign of a vitamin deficiency or an internal disorder. Although these are uncommon causes for brittle nails, it's something that I as an board-certified dermatologist and internist don't like to miss.

I hope the following tips help provide more information about how dermatologists can help with more than just skin. Happy #DermTipTuesday!


Causes of Brittle Nails

External Causes

Clue: finger nails are brittle, but the toe nails are strong


  • Too much moisture

Common culprit(s): household chores, i.e. dish washing

Clue: nails are soft and brittle

Tip: wear cotton lined rubber gloves to minimize chemical and water exposures