Flaky, weak nails are caused by over-exposing the hands to water. Although many people believe that weak nails are due to a hormone or vitamin deficiency, this is not the case. When the hands are immersed in water, the nail cells swell. When the nails dry, the cells shrink. With repeated swelling and shrinking, the nail eventually splits.
The best way to keep your nails strong is to keep your hands out of water. It is therefore important to wear cotton gloves inside rubber or vinyl gloves for all wet work.
The cuticles should not be pushed back as this disturbs nail growth and can lead to infection. It is best to buff nails in the direction of nail growth, rather than against it. Buffing in the wrong direction tends to cause backward peeling of the nails’ top layers (like teasing your hair).
Nail polish protects the nails from water and prevents flaking. Applying nail polish or a top coat every day ‘glues’ the nail cells, preventing them from flaking off. Subsequent coats can be applied over the existing coat. Nail polish removers cause dryness of the nails, making them split more easily.
Nail hardeners are not beneficial and often cause allergic reactions. Moisturizing creams are of limited benefit because they do not penetrate the nails very well.