broken nails

Nail problems are notoriously stubborn. It takes a long time for nails, especially toenails, to grow out. Consequently, a treatment that is working from the inside out, improving the nail plate and making nails healthier, can be slow to produce visible results. What can you do to fix your broken nails?

Gelatin for Broken Nails:

Q. My teenage daughter swam competitively for several years. This led to constant problems with broken nails–until she took gelatin capsules. The gelatin really made a difference and pretty much cured the problem.

A. Gelatin has had a reputation for building stronger nails for decades. What little research has been carried out, however, was done long ago. The best study we could find was published in the AMA Archives of Dermatology (Sept. 1957).

The researchers reported that

“Forty-three of fifty patients with brittle nails who ingested gelatin daily for three months showed improvement in their nail structure.”

Another Testimonial:

Another reader found it helpful to take gelatin for broken nails. Here is her testimonial:

Q. I have been struggling with brittle nails. When one cracked, I tried taking powdered gelatin. This worked for me.

A.Taking gelatin has been a home remedy for brittle nails for decades (at least since before 1957, when the dermatologists reviewed its use in the AMA Archives of Dermatology). In cases of brittleness not caused by psoriasis, thyroid imbalance or fungal infection, the clinicians running this test found that gelatin (one package daily) was helpful within three months.

A different reader also offered her experience:

“I am only 55 but have always had weak fingernails. Only gelatin tablets have helped strengthen them. but one has to take them every day. It does take at least a month to see results.”

BAC added her two cents:

“My nails are soft and prone to tearing, and as a child I bit them. I take a packet of gelatin every day first thing in my tea even though the flavor of the tea is ruined. The nails are now more manageable and can grow to a modest length. No longer an embarrassment, at least. Who knows?”

Penelope had another suggestion:

“The gelatin can be stirred into some sort of juice.

“For nails, I’ve had success with Biotin, a food supplement. Since taking that, for the first time in my life, my nails were more sturdy.”

Could Biotin Help Broken Nails?

A check of the medical literature shows a little bit more research on the benefits of biotin for nails than on gelatin. A review of clinical trials found that biotin supplements may improve firmness, hardness and thickness of brittle nails (Lipner & Scher, Journal of Dermatological Treatment, online Nov. 9, 2017). The quality of the clinical trials could be better, however. We hope that there will be future studies to determine the best dose and length of treatment.

Biotin is a B vitamin that is readily available as a dietary supplement. Some people might want to try combining gelatin and biotin treatments to see if they can overcome their problem with broken nails.

You will find a wealth of information about nail problems and how to solve them in our interview with Dr. Chris Adigun, a dermatologist practicing in Chapel Hill, NC.

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  1. ara
    Fayetteville, NC

    I, too, have had weak, thin and trouble with my nails my entire life. I began taking Biotin about a year and a half ago, and actually have to cut them frequently! My thumbnails are so strong that I call them “my scrapers”! It took a while, but it finally paid off. They even grow so fast that after a manicure I can see where they’ve grown away from the cuticle a week later! Guess I’ll have to use Biotin every day for the rest of my life?

  2. Steve C

    The skin at the edges of my fingernails used to crack a lot, especially in winter. My friend said to use Vaseline hand lotion with keratin. It didn’t help my cracked skin but it made my fingernails so tough I could barely trim them.

  3. Sarah

    A couple of years ago, my nails started coming in deformed. My nails had always been soft, but now they were full of bumps and breaking off over the nail bed. I started taking 5,000 mg Biotin and the problem is completely gone.

  4. Florence

    My nails actually peeled up the nail. Never any nail showing. When I started taking digestive enzymes the nails started growing. I played around with doses and worked my way up until my tummy got icky and then backed off to the last good dose. I take one Super Enzyme from NOW brand that has 200 mg. of betaine HCL and some enzymes. Then I take additional plain betain HCL. It has also helped my hair and I have to keep the nails cut back now that they grow so well.

  5. Michelle Dufay

    For a good 20 years I struggled with weak, peeling nails. A friend who is a pharmacist recommended 10,000 mcg of Biotin a day. It took many months, but I now have 10 medium length, fairly strong nails for the first time. I am very satisfied.

  6. Mary

    Many years ago, I use to drink Knox Gelation every day. It sure made my nails strong.

  7. Pat
    Dallas, TX

    People with beef allergies should avoid gelatin. Unless things have changed, my research 30 years ago said gelatin is made from beef marrow. Which explained my hives!

  8. Gerry

    I’ve had miserable soft nails all my life; the only time they ever grew was a few years ago when I was taking HGH; it’s now only available in a high priced form but at that time it was reasonably priced and also a successful weight loss help;now back to miserable soft nails. I’m going to try gelatin again.

  9. Debi

    I take collagen & biotin and it has helped my splitting, peeling nails tremendously! They used to be real soft too and now they’re hard! It took about a year, but I could tell a difference within a few weeks as my nails were growing in. I have pre diabetes and low thyroid plus pernicious anemia that I’m on meds for and they didn’t help!!!

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