'Common' nail problems not so ordinary for patient

October 1, 2006

In general, women tend to do a lot more wet work; they are exposed to more detergents and things that are used in household cleaning products that cause the nails to become more brittle.

"I don't have any problems with nail parlors, but there have been some problems with artificial nails, acrylic nails and allergies to some of the products used in the glues and cements - but those aren't all that common. Most women can wear artificial nails without problems.

Nail problem nexus

The water content in the nail plate changes. In general, women tend to do a lot more wet work; they are exposed to more detergents and things that are used in household cleaning products that cause the nails to become more brittle. Dr. Odom says other contributing factors include nail cosmetics, such as enamels, and solvents including acetone and alcohol used to remove the enamels. All of those lead to drying, although some improvements have been made in polish removers. Many treatments involve care of the nails rather than medication.

The ailing nail

He described the symptoms and treatments for some of the more typical ailments - with the common term "brittle nails" referring to a number of conditions, such as:

Dr. Odom recommends discontinuing nail polish, avoiding emery boards in favor of the gentler ruby stone to avoid separating the nail layers, buffing the nails and applying emollients. He says 2.5 mg of biotin, a member of the B-complex family, taken daily may also benefit the nails.

Dr. Odom says avoiding exogenous agents such as detergent and nail polish remover in conjunction with biotin therapy can help.

"I know it's not easy to do, but if people who have to work with these agents are able to wear gloves, obviously they won't be exposed to all these chemicals.

"To increase the hydration, lubricate around the cuticles, the lateral nail folds and directly over the nail plate a couple times a day with an oil-based product. The greasier products will help reduce the evaporation.

"Ridges can be addressed by buffing, rather than using nail polish. That leaves the nails looking nice, although lacking color. Beyond that, artificial nails may be the only solution."

Other common complaints

Other conditions for which patients are turning to their dermatologist for advice include:

Dr. Odom says the patient should avoid trauma, keep the nail bed dry and clip nails, and doctors should treat the infections.

Nail plate staining often stems from nicotine, dyes and chemical compounds. To remove the stains, Dr. Odom recommends scraping the nail plate with a glass slide or scalpel.