Q. My fingernails began to break and peel, so I ordered a product to strengthen them. I discovered upon reading the ingredients that it contains formaldehyde. Can this possibly be safe to use?
A. Some people develop contact dermatitis (a type of allergic reaction) in response to formaldehyde. What’s more, formaldehyde “hardens” nails by drying them, which often makes them brittle.

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  1. Pat

    One thing I’ve noticed is that after I remove nail polish, for a few weeks my nails splinter, form ridges, etc. Nail Polish does not allow your nails to “breathe.” My trick to healthy nails was to stop using nail polish.

  2. cpmt

    FEW MONTHS ago I had problems with my nails. the Dr. told me I probably had a fungal infection. She prescribed a cream, It didn’t work. I tried vicks vaporub and began to take some vitamins and minerals (zinc and magnesium) and now my nails are ok.

  3. oldetimer

    I think it’s very important to remember that all treatment, whether for brittle nails or any other condition, is individualist. No matter the particular medical treatment; physician prescribed, over the counter, or home, and no matter how effective it is, or is alleged to be, everybody can potentially respond differently; what works for one person may not work for another. This is not a reflection of either the treatment or the individual, but a reflection of the specific, individual reaction to that medication. If one treatment doesn’t work, try another, but be sure to give each one a sufficient about of time.

  4. Sean

    vitamin E oil also an effective way of hardening nails.

  5. Nancy

    Curious about the taking of biotin for stronger nails. I have understood that only a healthy diet would cause my horses’ hoofs to be in the best shape. What is the thinking of the peoples pharmacy?

  6. nmf

    I have been struggling with a nail which grows in split for over a year now. Very annoying. I tried increasing Vitamin B, Calcium, gelatin with juice and even took a supplement for hair, nails, etc. to no avail. In fact, the last nail supplement made my nails more brittle. Will the biotin help this issue as well? I haven’t tried the moisture lotion recommended above because my hands are typically not dry. Help! Any other suggestion for this specific problem?

  7. jwa

    Try vitamin E oil. I have been using it for several months and am very pleased. I have always been plagued with dry cuticles. It helps that and seems to help my mails.

  8. Ruth

    I am 77 and had soft fingernails, which often broke and split. When the doctor checked my vitamin D level and found it to be 23, he prescribed 50,000 iu’s of vitamin D weekly. Soon my nails were much stronger – no more breaking or splitting and I actually have to cut them. After in 6 weeks my vit D level was 51, so I now take 2,000 iu’s daily (in 2 doses), and just hope its helping my bones also, as I do have osteopenia.

  9. oldetimer

    I have had thin, brittle and cracking nails for quite a while. I finally went to a dermatologist who diagnosed the problem as fungal infections and prescribed a topical treatment that had no effect. Finally, I decided to put a very small amount of superglue (I believe brand name is irrelevant) on my nail and since then I have had no problem. I have done this for only one month so I do not know what, if any, long-term effects might be.

  10. B. Wright

    I am 86 years old and watched my mother and grandmother struggle
    with thin nails all their older lives.
    Mine look like a young girl’s and I have more hair than many a youngster.
    My secret is simple: 1000 mg biotin a day. NOT less. 500 won’t do it.
    There ARE 1000 mg a day tablets. Take one a day, girls, and you too will
    have strong nails.
    Even men have a problem. I met one once in the vitamin department and
    told him my “secret”.

  11. CG

    One of the best things you can do to keep fingernails from drying and splitting is to use hand lotion on them regularly. It will help immediately, and as they grow out with that treatment, they will improve. It’s cheap, requires no special effort, and has no side effects!

  12. CJB

    After reading in your column about Elon I started using it faithfully for my drying, breaking peeling fingernails. I used it for years and now I only have to use it occasionally. This works far better than nail hardener or nail glue.

  13. MW

    As soon as my fingernails start getting a little longer, they turn under, like a bird’s claw. They didn’t used to do that. They also get rough and start to break sometimes. I’m wondering if it could be due to a lack of a vitamin or something in my body? Please comment.

  14. J.B.

    Dr. Gott recommends white iodine to strengthen nails, but I cannot locate it. Anybody?

  15. Sean

    Apply a nail hardener, but not one that contains toluene sulfonamide or formaldehyde. These can irritate the skin. Use nail glue or clear polish to fix splits to tears.

  16. Mick

    formaldehyde really? Get unsweetened unflavored gelatin, fruit juice mix in tall glass and drink. Only problem you’ll have to trim finger/toe nails more often.

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