Q. My fingernails have always been weak. I took Knox Gelatine years ago, and most recently I have taken biotin and gelatin capsules. My nails improved a little, but then I used nail polish for a month to show them off.

The nails have started splitting and peeling again. I’d be grateful for any suggestions.

A. Nail polish or remover often contains solvents that can weaken nails. Sometimes avoiding polish is an important step to stronger nails.

Moisturizing nails with Epilyt or almond oil can be helpful. Many readers have reported that taking the dietary supplement MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) strengthens nails.

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  1. Marlene

    I appreciated the suggestions about weak nails.

  2. shona

    I have heard people saying to rub garlic on the nails. does it help? and will try using almond oil too.

  3. Jean O

    Almond oil can be purchased at most health food stores and online.

  4. Esther

    I have been buffing and have the stronger nails ever in my entire life and I am sixty.

  5. Ann

    Some upscale groceries carry Almond Oil in their beauty section. I have not purchased it recently, but believe you may find it in a Lowes Food store, Fresh Market, or a health food store. You will possibly see sesame and avocado oils along with other specialty oils. Good Luck!

  6. dcc

    Where do you get almond oil?

  7. Eileen C

    I recently started eating a diet of lots of raw spinach and cooked yams. After 3 months, my nails no longer split or break, after a life time of this problem. Try this.

  8. mcq

    For my weak, peeling fingernails, I use a potion that a manicurist recommended: Upon arising each morning drink 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar mixed with a glass of tomato or a V-8 type juice. Wait a while before breakfast.

  9. cpmt

    WHAT is Betaine HCL? can I get it over the counter?

  10. KER

    A simple tip for stronger nails – a nail buffer. I tried everything on the market for years until I read (in Good Housekeeping) to buff each nail for 30 seconds a day (only five minutes out of your day). I bought a chamois buffer with a plastic handle, started buffing, and now have really strong nails. It takes three months for nails to completely grow out so it takes that long to see results. After the first three months you can skip a day now and then, but only regular buffing keeps nails from splitting and catching on clothing. I got my last buffer at Sally’s Beauty Supply for about $6.

  11. cpmt

    I was told that weak nails is lack of minerals… Zinc, magnesium, selenium and other minerals. If you eat Brazil nuts one or two every day (keep them in a closed jar) you will see the difference. Mine improved a little bit. And, don’t eat more that two a day they are high in selenium and can be toxic if you eat too many.

  12. fbl

    Digestive enzymes helped me.
    I’d always had terrible nails that chipped and peeled. When I went to a new Dr he ran some tests and said that I wasn’t assimilating several minerals (which I was taking as supplements) and to add a digestive enzyme with Betaine HCL. He said to start low and increase gradually. When I got an acid stomach, back off to the last good dose.
    My nails grew and my hair stopped splitting! I did find that every few years I’d have to retest myself and have had to increase from time to time in the last 30 years.

  13. K.S.H.

    I am only 55 but have always had weak fingernails, and I don’t necessarily limit my salt intake. Only gelatin tablets have helped strengthen them but one has to take them every day and it does take about a month to see results. I have always wondered if it is a deficiency?

  14. BMT

    Since I began using Vitamin D3, a couple years ago, I noticed that my nails were getting much stronger. They are now quite hard and I very rarely get a broken nail. I take 5000 units a day of Vitamin D3 cholecalciferol.

  15. Fatima

    What is your diet like? Do you eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables? Do you drink plenty of water? Are you taking a good quality vitamin supplement each day? Really sit down and focus on what you put into your body – and what you don’t. That’s the best place to start!

  16. EJS

    I also have had continuing difficulty with cracking and splitting nails. I asked my dermatologist what to do and his recommendation was to keep them soft. They are an extension of your skin so rub “Aquaphor” into the nail bed frequently – several times a day – and this will help. It works for me.

  17. Phyllis V.

    For stronger nails and believe me I could relate to the lady with the problem. Do NOT polish nails and eat broccoli often, drink 1 glass of skim milk a day and at night before going to sleep message mineral oil or a good salve made for cuticles into each nail or both. You will notice great difference right away and use an emory or file to keep them smooth and they will be to “die for” before you know it. I saw a great improvement within a week. Happy Nails to YOU!!!!! (you know the song)

  18. Gin

    Years ago I worked as a bank teller in each cage was a dish with a sponge and liquid glycerin. We patted our finger tips in it before counting money (bills). I would then massage the remainder into my nails. I had beautiful nails. But to remind everyone it is not a quick fix as the nail bed absorbs the product and it takes a while for the damaged nails to grow off and form new ones.

  19. rjf

    My mother has had great success with petroleum jelly. She rubs it on after washing her hands and before bed. Her nails are very strong now, they used to bend over the end of her fingers. She’s 85!

  20. JD

    One of my nails is quite ridged and splits. I’ve noticed that it gets much worse during the winter.
    I don’t have a cure, but rather a treatment. It dawned on me that Superglue might help.
    I place a thin layer along the ridge to the tip of the nail. The superglue is durable, strong and has completely avoided the splitting.
    JD in Mesa, AZ

  21. badger

    Any kind of grease will strengthen nails. It doesn’t have to be almond oil or cocoa butter.
    Grease up your nails before bedtime and wear cotton gloves to keep the grease on your nails and off of the sheets.
    Be liberal with the grease and use it every night. Waterless hand cleaner (not the kind with pumice, though!) is cheap and works OK as well.

  22. Barbara D.

    As I aged, post menopause, my nails got heavily ridged, split and peeled. Recently I read that this could be caused by an iodine deficiency. I now paint my nails nightly with de-colorized iodine. I still have the ridges but my fingernails no longer split or peel. It took about two weeks for my nails to become stronger.
    For various reasons I had cut back on salt, most of which is iodized, and I wonder if that led to this effect on my fingernails.
    De-colorized iodine can be purchased at the pharmacy. If they don’t stock it they may be able to order it for you.

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