Among the most common causes of brittle nails are frequent wetting and drying of the nails, and repeated exposure to harsh chemicals such as those found in solvents and nail polish removers. Certain medical conditions are also known to cause brittle nails. These include hypothyroidism, Raynaud's disease, Sjogren's syndrome and psoriasis.
Brittle nails are a common occurrence, affecting about 20 percent of people. More women develop brittle nails as compared to men. Brittle fingernails often result in splitting, a condition that is referred to as onychoschizia. Although brittle fingernails are considered a common cosmetic problem, it is a good idea for anyone who develops brittle nails to rule out any medical condition before trying out any simple remedies or treatments.
Wearing gloves when engaging in tasks that expose the nails to moisture or chemicals that can dry up the nails is one of the easier ways to prevent the nails from becoming brittle. Supplementation with biotin may also help increase the thickness of nails and improve their structure, according to a 1993 study published in Cutis.
Other natural treatments are also being considered for brittle nails. Some of these include silicon, particularly horsetail, which contains silicon, as well as supplementing with calcium, cysteine, zinc, vitamin A and iron.