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Will Gelatin Strengthen Your Broken Nails?

There is little scientific evidence, but some readers report that taking unflavored gelatin powder daily can make broken nails stronger and healthier. Others find benefit in biotin.

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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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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