Diaries Magazine

Is There Any Hope For Weak, Peeling Fingernails?

Posted on the 01 July 2018 by Rachael Dunne @WhatRachDidNext

For as long as I can remember, I have longed for long, strong, beautiful nails. In fact, what I actually have is thin, weak nails that peel off in layers. This incredibly frustrating when I have an event coming up that I would like to look my best for. It’s not just about vanity though. It’s incredibly painful when the slightest thing catches one of my fingernails and it tears so easily. When I say the slightest thing, I mean like washing my hair, getting dressed or changing bedsheets are the worst things I can possibly do for my nails. I can’t exactly get out of doing any of these things now, can I?

Having done a little research, I’ve discovered that there are several factors that can cause weak, peeling nails. External factors can weaken fingernails and cause them to break or peel. If you have weak fingernails but your toenails are strong, this would indicate damage caused by an external factor. Unless of course, your toenails regularly spend any length of time submerged in water, in which case, it might be hard to tell.

External Factors That Can Damage Fingernails:

  • Using fingernails as tools
  • Washing dishes without gloves
  • Exposure to cleaning chemicals
  • Long soaks in the bath
  • Swimming
  • Wearing false nails
  • Gel manicures
  • Typing or other occupational hazards
  • Peeling or picking off nail polish
  • Fungal infections
False fingernails and junk food, as lovely as they may be, can contribute to weak, peeling fingernails

If you’re like me, and you have always had weak, pathetic nails which peel in layers and tear like soggy paper on your fingers and toes, it’s more likely to be due to an internal factor.

Internal Factors That Can Cause Weak Nails:

  • A vitamin or iron deficiency
  • Dehydration (coffee and alcohol contribute to this)
  • Anaemia
  • Thyroid problems
  • Skin disorders such as psoriasis
  • Serious illness (If your fingernails all of a sudden become weak, you should see a doctor)
  • Hormonal changes such as puberty or menopause

Over the past few years, there are a few medications I have taken which have made my nails beautifully healthy and strong. It’s only now that I’m completely med free that my nails have reverted back to being paper thin again. For this reason, I believe my problem is due to internal factors rather than external. The medications I have taken are not exactly things I can take for taking’s sake though. The first was a combo of Chinese herbs, IVF medication was the second one and lastly antidepressants. I don’t think I need to explain why I can’t take either of the last two unless absolutely necessary. The Chinese herbs, I was taking at the time to relieve my ridiculously painful period pains and in the hope that it may improve my chances of conception. I’ll come back to this last point later.

There are certain things I have been advised to try to improve the state of my fingernails:

  • Avoiding junk food and sticking to a healthy diet
  • Including more oily fish in my diet
  • Taking vitamin supplements that include Iron, Vitamins A, B, E and Biotin
  • Taking CoQ10 or Ubiquinol supplements
  • Eating two jelly cubes per day
  • Applying nail strengthener
  • Massaging cuticle oil into the cuticles morning and night
  • Using a good hand and nail formula moisturiser
Is There Any Hope For Weak, Peeling Fingernails?Rachael’s poor peeling fingernails!

Internal Cures for Weak Peeling Fingernails

My diet is generally quite healthy and I try to eat fish twice a week. It becomes evident by the state of my cuticles when I haven’t eaten enough fish as the skin peels like Cheesestrings. Upping my fish intake solves this problem very quickly, I must admit. It makes no difference, however, to the state of my nails. Whilst I did notice improvements to my overall health when taking vitamin, iron and other supplements, they did not make even the slightest bit of difference to the condition of my nails.

External Cures for Weak Peeling Fingernails

The nail strengthener I absolutely swear by is OPI Nail Envy formaldehyde free formula for sensitive and peeling nails. I have tried several nail strengtheners over the years. Whilst most have made a difference within a few days, after a few weeks of use, I noticed that my nails would revert back to their pathetic peeling state. I’m told this is due to the formaldehyde that they contain. OPI Nail Envy is the only nail strengthener that actually improves the strength of my nails instantly. I have also recently started using their Avoplex Cuticle Oil which also helps. I definitely notice a big difference too, if I don’t use a good quality hand cream after each time I wash my hands.

Emergency False Nails

Applying false nails is particularly damaging to your natural nails. I only ever resort to this in desperation when my own nails are so bad that they have torn below the skin. However, I have recently discovered Elegant Touch false fingernails which include something called Nail Saviour. Nail Saviour creates a barrier which protects your own fingernails from the harsh chemicals and glue. I was very sceptical of this at first but when I first tried them I was in so much pain after a particularly painful snag that I would have tried anything! What I do, is apply a few coats of OPI Nail Envy first, followed by a couple of coats of Nail Saviour and then apply the false fingernails as directed. If applied properly, I find they last about a week. This gives my nails a break from being battered by external factors and a chance to recover from extreme damage.

Is There Any Hope For Weak, Peeling Fingernails?

A closeup showing the full extent of my damaged fingernails

" data-orig-size="3080,2232" sizes="(max-width: 1080px) 100vw, 1080px" data-image-title="Peeling Fingernails" data-orig-file="https://i1.wp.com/www.whatrachdidnext.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/IMG_20180701_140617.jpg?fit=3080%2C2232" aperture="aperture" />Peeling fingernails. What do they mean?

Traditional Chinese Medicine And Fingernails

All of the above are just sticking plasters that only solve my weak fingernails problem temporarily. However, TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) doesn’t just focus on treating symptoms as western medicine does. What do I mean by that? Let me explain. When we visit our GP, we explain our symptoms, they write us a prescription for a treatment that will treat that particular ailment and usually, the problem goes away… For a while… But what if there is some underlying issue which has caused that problem? This is what TCM takes into account.

When you visit a TCM practitioner, they will listen to your problem, discuss your diet and lifestyle, take your pulse, examine you your eyes, hands and the surface of your tongue. All of this information allows your TCM practitioner to gain a clear picture of the state of your overall health. Once this is established, they will recommend changes to your diet and suggest treatments designed to bring back into balance whatever is currently out of kilter. These treatments may include massage, reflexology, acupressure, acupuncture, yoga, herbal supplements, or a combination of all of these things.

I’m a little bit conscious that I’ve gone off on a massive tangent here! I may write a separate post on TCM at some point in future to explain why I’m such a big believer in it. For now, I’ll explain as briefly as I can why I think the herbs that were initially prescribed to me for fertility may be beneficial for the health of my fingernails. The herbs I was prescribed were:

Xue Fu Zhu Yu Wan

Contains a combination of herbs which are believed to eliminate blood stasis and improve circulation of the blood and liver Qi. Qi (pronounced chi) = flow of energy. Blood stasis or poor circulation is said to be responsible for painful or irregular periods, heart disease, chest pains and is indicated by irritability, insomnia, heart palpitations and anxiety.

Jin Kui Shen Qi Pian

Another combination of Chinese herbs which are said to improve the balance of Yin and Yang where there is a deficiency of Yang. Right, I know that sounds a little airy-fairy but bear with me… Yin refers to the female where Yang refers to the male. If you think of Yin and Yang in terms of male and female hormones, they need to be balanced in order for us to function correctly. Yang energy (think Testosterone) is responsible for strength, motivation, stamina and physical energy. Whilst we don’t think of Testosterone as being a female hormone, women do need a certain amount in order to function. Yang declines with age. A Yang deficiency in women can manifest itself as slow metabolism, lower back problems, loss of libido and infertility. Jin Kui Shen Qi Pian improves the health of the kidneys which in turn raises testosterone levels. Maintaining the health of the kidneys is vital to aging well.


Chinese herbs are tailored to your specific needs so please don’t go blindly taking Chinese herbs without first seeking consultation with a qualified and registered TCM practitioner.

How On Earth Does Any Of This Relate To Fingernails?!

OK so back to the original point of strengthening my fingernails. In TCM, each of the fingernails indicates the health of certain organ channels. Organ channels include not just the internal organs themselves but the circulation of blood and energy which support that particular organ:

  • Thumbnail – Lung and large intestine
  • Index fingernail – Large intestine
  • Middle fingernail – Pericardium (the protective tissue around the heart which keeps it functioning correctly)
  • Ring fingernail – Sanjlao (metabolism, circulation and digestion)
  • Little fingernail – Heart
  • Big toenail – Spleen and liver
  • 2nd and 3rd toenails – Stomach
  • 4th toenail – Gallbladder
  • Little toenail – Urinary bladder

Good nail health is an indicator of efficient circulation of blood and energy in all of these channels. The fact that I also suffer from Reynaud’s is an indicator of extremely poor circulation. I also suffer from digestive problems despite sticking to a healthy diet. My strongest nails are my 2nd and 3rd toenails so I’d say this is pretty accurate as I have the constitution of an ox and very rarely suffer from stomach upsets.

Internal Improvements For Stronger Fingernails

As my middle fingernail, thumbnail and little toenails are the weakest of all my nails, these point to the areas of my health than I need to look after the most. But basically, the fact that all my nails are weak, indicates poor circulation throughout my entire body. This is something that even my GP would tell me will lead to problems with my digestion and heart issues if I don’t do something about it.

I am going to try revisiting my TCM herbs and I’ll report back in a few weeks and let you know if I notice a difference. If TCM is something that interests you, please make sure to seek the help of a TCM practitioner. What is beneficial to me, might be detrimental to your health. Please don’t go blindly taking Chinese herbal supplements without first seeking the advice of a professional!

If you’re still reading this, I’d just like to say thanks for taking the time to do so. I appreciate that it’s a massively long post which has covered a lot of ground. I do hope you have found it to be helpful. If there is anything you have tried which has improved the state of your fingernails, I would absolutely love to hear from you! Please get in touch and let me know.

Rach x

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Is There Any Hope For Weak, Peeling Fingernails?Is There Any Hope For Weak, Peeling Fingernails?Is There Any Hope For Weak, Peeling Fingernails?

Is There Any Hope For Weak, Peeling Fingernails?Is There Any Hope For Weak, Peeling Fingernails?Is There Any Hope For Weak, Peeling Fingernails?

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