A woman's six-fingered hand sports pink fingernails and jeweled rings.

(Last updated April 2023.)

Growing up I’d watch movies set in the heyday of the manicure, the 1930s to the 1950s, and then I’d look down at my own bendy, shallow, round nails and I’d think, whyyyyy?

When I got my first full-time job I splurged on French-manicured, squoval artificial nails and enjoyed them thoroughly despite being laughed at by the guy giving me horseback riding lessons. Eventually the cost of filling them every three weeks got to be too much, so I abandoned the habit. I’d bet those nail salon chemicals are still in my system, plotting their oncological revenge.

Going gluten-free brought me no nail improvement. Over the years I did notice some of the classic nutritional correlations: vertical ridges when iron levels are low and hangnails when zinc is low. I can’t comment on the whole white-spots-is-a-zinc-deficiency thing, though. I just don’t remember.

Nutritional therapy experiments

As for strength and length, all the following helped a little, but nothing major:
sufficient protein intake
horsetail (silica)

My fingernails were actually pretty healthy, all things considered, until about I was about 43, when they started peeling from the top, shredding, and then ripping horizontally under the quick. Betaine hydrochloride took care of the first two and a ton of calcium the last.

Taunted with brief success

I once had a huge transformation but unfortunately it didn’t last. I was trying two things at the same time: Nailtiques “2 plus” nail strengthener polish from the drugstore, and methylfolate.


I was taking 8 mg of methylfolate — yes, that’s 10 800 mcg tablets. As in, a lot. When I first heard that some people might have more luck with this newish type of folate I tried it, and when 4 mg improved my concentration I just kept going. At 8 mg my concentration was amazingly better. Then I looked down at my nails and they were like another person’s. Unfortunately after several days my histamine rose to zombie levels, a tendency of folate I was hitherto unaware of, and that was the end of that. (Note 2/6/12: I’m not sure that last bit is right. In theory the methylfolate shouldn’t do that, so perhaps the zombieism was caused by something else — an induced deficiency of a folate cofactor, maybe. Not sure. Note 9/20/12: Best guess is that all that folate lowered my vitamin C levels, which for me raises histamine.)

Drugstore nail strengthener

I kept going with the Nailtiques. My nails didn’t look quite as good after the folate ended but it was still a lot better than the usual. Sadly, eventually my nails turned yellow enough to show through the pale polishes I wear. (The stupidity of stupid fingernails is only accentuated by dark polish.) It looked creepy so I quit. In theory a toluene/DBP/formaldehyde-free product would avoid this, but I’ve tried a lot of them and they didn’t do much. Nailtiques is definitely NOT carcinogen-free.

Vitamin D3

Another betrayer of my trust. Read my post on how large doses of vitamin D3 improved my nails for two weeks, and then, nothing.

It’s a nail BED problem

It has been pointed out to me that no matter how strong fingernails are, if they are too shallow and too wide they just won’t have the structural integrity to shoot out very far past the fingertip in Rihanna-like talons. So what I really have is a nail BED problem. Maybe there’s an unethical Brazilian plastic surgeon out there who can help me.

When this content was posted

The content on this page was first published in May 2011 and updated in February 2012, February 2013, and April 2023.

7 thoughts on “The heartbreak of stupid fingernails”

  1. Marjorie,
    Have you tried vitamin A (retinol)? I have taken most everything over the years, experienced some benefits, but it was the vitamin A that has made a big difference. Specifically, my nails improved dramatically … I never had lunula or smooth, curving, strong nails previously. Somehow the vitamin A improves my GI absorption. I saw research recently that found that vitamin A deficiency is associated with “shortened crypts” .. those are the indentations between the microvilli in the GI tract. That is what is seen with Celiac (both gluten and non-gluten types). Perhaps malabsorption of nutrients is actually vitamin A deficiency?
    There is a famous doc in my city (retired) who had dramatic cures with a combination of 100,000 IU vitamin A, 10,000 IU vitamin D, and 50 mg iodine daily. Hearing of his protocol encouraged me to try the high dose vitamin A … I already take the vitamin D and iodine. So far, so good. It’s been 3 months and I recently did a vitamin A blood test … serum levels are still below the reference range. There may be an ideal ratio of vitamin A to D .. 10 to 1 .. both vitamins apparently work better at this ratio.
    I found your site while searching for bromide detox information. This is a huge issue for me I believe. I was probably low iodine for years, plus swam in pools, etc. Thanks for posting your experiences … Susan

    • I was also a big swimmer as a child. If we only knew….. I will definitely look into the vitamin A thing. I would kill for nice nails. Thank you for your input!

  2. So after you discovered problems with high dose methylfolate did you try a lesser dose?

    I have nail issues too- peeling, weak, ridged, hangnails. …calcium and iron helped a lot but what really worked best for me is a teaspoon a day of glucomman in the morning with my vitamins- I was surprised with super hard nails that I am now able to grow out. I think the glucomman increased my absorption of nutrients or helped my gut flora flourish (was taking digestive advantage and kyodophilus at the same time as glucomman). if you try the glucomman drink lots of water

    After a month of methylfolate my nails are now curved whereas before they were unnaturally flat.

    • That’s the best way to describe my nails — flat instead of curving down the sides into the nail bed. As if the sides separate from the finger too soon and lift up. That’s exactly the effect the folate had with me, too. Lower doses of methylfolate didn’t have the same effect. I’ve taken it in various doses for years ……… I looked up glucommanan on iherb. Does it work taken away from meals? I worry that all that water near meals would ruin my already bad absorption (diluting stomach acid).

  3. Hi
    New to this.
    Just thought that I would touch base as I too have struggled with the terrible weak, bitten nails.
    I have tried many many things and found that in the last two months I have long strong nails and no desire to bite them. It came after I started using HCl acid tablets seriously with each meal. The lack of iodine can lead to hydrochloric acid deficiency and I believe that mine goes back a long way. Interestingly without hydrochloric acid you do not absorb many of the minerals. At the same time I started on a “Mineral Essentials” by Metagenics which contains extra minerals such as manganese and boron and it has been amazing.
    Not sure if yoou are still looking for answers as your last entry here was a year ago but thought that I would jump in and finally say something on someone’s blog.

    Hope you are finding the answers you seek in your h=journey to heath.

    • Thanks for the input! I definitely found that BHCl helped several years ago, but I don’t seem to need it anymore — a small dose starts my stomach burning. I should update this post to mention this later post on my experience with vitamin D3 and fingernails. It gave me the best nails I’ve ever had, but when I tried it again later in the year, I couldn’t duplicate the results. Your other comment has me wondering if maybe I wiped out my boron levels with all that vitamin D? I know the one needs the other.

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