Menopause leads to many changes throughout the body. Although a natural and unavoidable process, the ways in which menopausal symptoms affect all body systems can be frustrating. Although it is impossible to avoid menopause entirely, there are ways to reduce the impact of some symptoms, including fragile and brittle nails.
The skin and related structures comprise 16% of the human body mass.
Estrogen contributes to skin and nail health.
Reduced estrogen levels may contribute to dehydration.
Diet and nail care may help protect dry and brittle nails.
What causes fragile, brittle nails during menopause?
Studies suggest estrogen plays a significant role in keeping skin, including your nails, looking youthful and vibrant. Estrogen levels affect the production of epidermal keratinocytes, a major cell type found in the outer layer of your skin. Keratinocytes make keratin, the protein that is a crucial component of your hair, skin, and your nails.
When you enter menopause, your estrogen levels begin to decline. This has an impact on keratin and other cells and proteins that contribute to skin and hair production. As noted above, nails are made from layers of keratin. With declining estrogen production, the number of epidermal keratinocytes in your body also decreases. This can lead to dry, brittle nails and other skin conditions related to dryness, dullness, and flaky, patchy skin.
Reduced estrogen levels also affect the skin's ability to retain water, which can lead to dehydration. You may notice that your skin feels more sensitive or is more prone to irritation and itchiness. Some women may also experience rashes during menopause related to drier skin. Weak and brittle nails also occur due to reduced moisture. Because of menopausal dehydration, your nails that were formerly strong and quick to grow now break and tear more easily.
How to take care of your nails during menopause:
Changes to the quality and texture of your nails are an unexpected side effect of menopause. Although you may not be able to prevent the changes in your body that may cause brittle nails, there are several options for taking care of your nails during the transitional phases of your life.
Hydration affects the health of all parts of your body. Perhaps you have experienced dehydration signs and symptoms, such as:
- Increased thirst
- Dry mouth
- Dark-colored urine
- Dry skin
- Infrequent urination (fewer than three or four times daily)
- Dry mouth, lips, and eyes
Daily, strive to drink between half an ounce and an ounce of water for each pound you weigh. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, then strive for 75 to 150 ounces of water daily. Milk also offers a variety of nutrients and hydration properties.
Examples of fruits and vegetables that boost hydration include:
You may need more hydration if you live in a warm climate or spend time in the sun.
Regularly applying a high-quality moisturizer can help keep your hands soft and avoid dryness. Research ingredients and select a moisturizer free from harsh chemicals that can worsen dryness or cause irritation.
Eat a healthy diet
A healthy diet is essential to your body for many reasons, and certain foods contain vital nutrients that help with nail growth. For example:
- Seafood. These contain zinc, vital to nail growth.
- Eggs. These contain proteins that can improve nail strength.
- Fresh fruits. These are rich in vitamin C, which can prevent brittle nails.
- Peanuts. These contain biotin, which can increase the firmness of your nails.
- Calcium and vitamin D. These are also important for supporting and improving nail health.
Protect your nails from damage
Nails that are weak and brittle may break or split more easily than healthy, premenopausal nails. To support nail health during and after menopause:
- Cover. Wear gloves when doing household chores, especially when washing dishes or using chemical products.
- Trim. Keep your nails short to avoid bending or catching on clothing.
- Avoid. Choose acetone-free products.
- Polish. Use hardening nail polish to protect your nails.
- Manicure. Consider a professional gel or dip manicure (not artificial nails).
- Avoid. Don't bite your nails or cuticles.
- Prioritize. Make nail hygiene important.
Visit your healthcare provider
While maintaining a proper diet, moisturizing, and caring for your
nails, visiting your healthcare provider is also essential. Your healthcare provider will help rule out any potential
underlying causes for weak and brittle nails.
In addition to hormonal imbalance, certain medical conditions may lead to your symptoms. Generally, these include nutrition-related conditions, such as anemia, and other medical concerns, including poor circulation and diseases of the liver.
When should I be concerned?
Not all changes that occur to the nail are related to menopause. Certain signs and symptoms may require medical intervention to treat and heal. If you notice any of the following menopausal nail changes, you should contact your primary care provider or dermatologist:
- Thinning or thickening of the nail.
- Swelling or pain around the nails and cuticles.
- Changes to the color of the nail, including dark streaks under the nail or discoloration of the nail itself.
- Changes to the nail shape, such as curling or growing in a spoon shape.
- Nail separating from nail bed or surrounding skin.
- Bleeding under or around the nails.
- Nail spotting or pitting.
- Deep grooves that run along the width (horizontally) of the nail.
Many women experience brittle nails for a variety of reasons. However, during times of significant hormone imbalance, such as menopause, dry and brittle nails can become more frequent and severe. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to protect your nails throughout menopause (including pre-menopause, menopause, and post-menopause).
- National Center for Biotechnology Information. Structure of Nails.
- National Center for Biotechnology Information. UV Radiation and the Skin.
- National Center for Biotechnology Information. Effect of estrogens on skin aging and the potential role of SERMs.
- National Center for Biotechnology Information. Cornification of nail keratinocytes requires autophagy for bulk degradation of intracellular proteins while sparing components of the cytoskeleton.
- National Center for Biotechnology Information. Sex Hormone Effects on Body Fluid Regulation.
- National Center for Biotechnology Information. Caffeine ingestion and fluid balance: A review.
- National Center for Biotechnology Information. Vitamins and minerals: their role in nail health and disease.
- Mayo Clinic. Fingernails: Possible problems.
- American Academy of Dermatology Association. 12 Nail Changes a Dermatologist Should Examine.