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Helpful Supplements for Splitting and Brittle Nails

Published on 07/20/2022
NailsHair and NailsIntegrative ApproachNail CareNail HealthBeauty SmartsNail Beauty
Article: Helpful Supplements for Splitting and Brittle Nails

Idiopathic Brittle and Splitting Nails: Potential Role of Supplements

Nail brittleness is a common complaint that can present as soft, flaking, and crumbling nails, and can result in nail splitting.1 Splitting may be longitudinal (onychorrhexis) or it may be horizontal at the nail tip (onychoschizia). Brittle nails affect around 20% of the population, with women impacted twice as often as men.2 It is most common in individuals over 50 years of age and affects the fingernails more often than the toenails.3 Weaker intercellular keratinocyte bridges in women and a decrease in cholesterol sulfate in the nail with age explain these observations.3 Splitting nails are not only a cosmetic problem; they can cause pain and affect simple activities of daily life such as washing dishes or writing.2

Brittle splitting nails can be a result of underlying skin conditions such as psoriasis, onychomycosis, lichen planus, Darier’s disease, and eczema or may be due to a systemic condition such as thyroid disorder or anemia.3 In addition, brittle nails can be a marker for poor bone health. When nail brittleness is suspected to be due to an underlying condition, one must consult a medical professional as identification and treatment of the underlying disease is paramount. However, most patients with brittle nails do not have an underlying condition.1 Treatment of idiopathic brittle splitting nails, or Brittle Nail Syndrome, can prove difficult; however, oral supplements may be useful in improving nail strength.1,3


A lack of certain vitamins from daily food intake may lead to fragile and thin nails.1 Biotin, also known as vitamin B7 or vitamin H, stimulates nail cell (keratinocyte) renewal and improves nail strength, enhances nail growth, and reduces moisture loss through increased keratin synthesis and improved keratin structure.1,3 The absorption of biotin in the body may decrease with age, and biotin supplementation can help maintain nail health with aging.4

Biotin 2.5 mg daily was shown to enhance nail thickness in brittle nails by up to 25% and to decrease splitting.5 Other studies assessed different doses, and a dose of 5 mg - 10 mg daily for 3-6 months is generally recommended.3 High biotin intake, generally over 10 mg/day, may interfere with immunoassays and diagnostic laboratory tests and interact with other medications.6,7

Other Vitamins and Minerals

While vitamin D supplementation is thought to be important for nail health, further research is needed to assess its effectiveness in improving brittle nails.8 At present, no studies have evaluated vitamin D supplementation and nail brittleness. Deficiencies in vitamins A and D have been associated with hapalonychia (soft nails, also known as onychomalacia).9 Nail hyperpigmentation is associated with vitamin B12 deficiency. Koilonychia (abnormally thin nails, known as spoon nails) and hapalonychia are associated with vitamin C deficiency.9 Zinc deficiency can cause nail brittleness. In these patients, supplementation of 20-30 mg per day of zinc has been effective in improving brittleness.10

While sufficient levels of these vitamins and minerals facilitate nail health, supplementation does not lead to improvement in individuals who are not deficient.11

Horsetail Grass (Equisetum arvense)

Equisetum arvense, more commonly known as horsetail, is an herb native to the Northern Hemisphere.12 One review suggested that horsetail not only aids in improving splitting nails but also in removing white spotting on nails (an indication of calcium imbalance in the body).12 A common application of Equisetum arvense can be found in nail polish prepared with the herb. This enhanced nail polish strengthens the nail and can improve nail plate conditions.12

While clinical research on the effectiveness of horsetail grass on brittle nails is limited, there have been clinical studies that have looked at related treatments. One study found that oral supplementation with silicic acid was associated with significant improvement in nail conditions.13 This points to a possible correlation of horsetail improving nail health since horsetail grass contains a substantial silica content.12

Oral Collagen

Collagen is frequently used as a supplement to improve skin elasticity and hydration.10 Some supplements derive from eggshells that contain naturally occurring collagen and hyaluronic acid.10 Studies have shown marked satisfaction with nail health in those who took a daily dose of a collagen supplement for 50 days.14 Collagen supplements are also associated with reduction of skin elasticity associated with aging, improvement in skin appearance in those with cellulite, and reduction of wrinkles.14–16 However, there are few studies looking at the effects of collagen supplementation on nail health.

One study showed oral collagen 2.5 mg daily for 24 weeks led to an increase of 12% in nail growth rate, a decrease of 42% in frequency of broken nails, and a global clinical improvement in nail brittleness in 64% of participants.17 However, this was an uncontrolled open label trial, and there is limited evidence regarding the relationship between collagen supplements and nail health.

Table 1. Nail supplements and their effects
Supplement Effects


● Stimulates nail cell (keratinocyte) renewal and improves nail strength, nail growth

● Reduces moisture loss

● Increases keratin synthesis and improves structure

Vitamins C, D, Zinc

● General nail health

Silicic Acid (Component of Horsetail Grass)

● Improves nail strength

Oral Collagen

● Increases nail growth rate

● Decreases nail brittleness and decreases frequency of broken nails


Brittle and splitting nails may be idiopathic or secondary to a skin or systemic condition. Seeing a trained health professional can help diagnose and treat any underlying condition. When nail brittleness is idiopathic, oral supplements may help support nail health. Biotin, collagen, and silicic acid (a component of horsetail grass) have shown promising results; however, there is a lack of quality evidence beyond a few studies. Further research may help delineate the effectiveness of these and other supplements on brittle nails and improvement in nail strength.


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