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There are many potential causes of flaky nails, including one's environment, especially in areas that are very dry and hot. Frequent contact with water and certain chemicals may contribute as well. Likewise, a person may have flaky nails as a result of a health-related issue, such as a hormone imbalance or a nutrient deficiency. Additionally, nail problems are sometimes common within a family, and some people discover that they worsen as they get older.
A person's environment is sometimes responsible for a tendency toward nails that are flaky and weaker than normal. For instance, if a person lives in a climate known for its dry heat, this might contribute to the flaking of his nails. In some cases, however, the environment that is at fault is an indoor one. If a person's home or business is dry and hot, such as during the winter months when a heater is running, this may make him more prone to nails that flake off and break.
Water exposure can sometimes contribute to nail weakness as well. For example, if a person works in a pool setting and his hands are submerged for a significant period of time on a regular basis, this can sometimes contribute to flaky nails. Likewise, a person who washes his hands more than the average person may have the same issue. Often, using harsh soaps for hand washing serves to compound the problem.
Chemicals also are sometimes at fault when it comes to flaky nails. In addition to harsh soaps, a person may notice that his nails become weaker if he has frequent hand exposure to household and industrial chemicals. This problem may also develop more frequently in individuals who use nail polish removers.
Sometimes an underlying health problem is at fault when a person has flaky nails. For instance, this may become a problem for a person who is suffering from overall malnutrition or has certain types of nutrient deficiencies. For example, a lack of vitamins A and C or a deficiency in iron may contribute to nail problems. Insufficient calcium, biotin, or vitamin B or D can result in weakened nails as well. Hormonal imbalances, including those that involve the thyroid gland, can also play a role.
An individual's flaky nails can also result from hereditary factors and aging. If an individual's close family members have a tendency toward weak, flaky nails, this may make him more prone to them as well. Likewise, a person might notice that his nails become more brittle as he ages.