I don’t know about you, but when I think of menopause, I’ve always thought about the usual symptoms we hear about. You know, hot flashes, night sweats, skipped periods, bladder leaks, slower metabolism, etc. I always thought these symptoms were the epitome of menopause, and there wasn’t much else to it. But, there are other symptoms the doctors (and those symptom pages) won’t tell you about. Apparently, your nail health may take a big hit when you enter this stage of your life.
Brittle Nails, Really?
Who would’ve thought brittle nails were a symptom of menopause? I sure didn’t! Fortunately, there’s no need to say goodbye to beautiful, strong, healthy nails once you enter menopause. There are a few tips and tricks to keeping your finger and toenails healthy. But to fix the problem, first we have to understand its root cause.
Menopause is a natural process and is ultimately inevitable. It’s a phase of aging where we are kissing periods (and cramps) goodbye and saying hello to having fun without the pregnancy scares. Typically, doctors say you’ve hit menopause when you’ve gone a year without your period, which usually occurs in women in their 40s or 50s. Currently, the average age is 51 in the United States.
Interesting, Yet Normal, Symptoms
If you’re going through menopause, you may go through a variety of symptoms. Most of the time, these symptoms are normal and expected. It’s all a part of the biological process as your body starts to enter a new phase in life. But some of the time your body may make you say, “hmm, is this normal?” And one of those things is changes in your nails.
Menopause Induced Nail Health Changes
If you’ve noticed that your finger and toenails are more brittle and dry than usual, you may start to wonder what’s going on. You probably think it’s some deficiency on your end and not at all related to this hormonal period of your life. After all, what do nails have to do with menopause?
The reason your nails are becoming dryer and more brittle is because of the one and only estrogen. During menopause, our estrogen levels take a dive since our ovaries are no longer releasing eggs to create babies. The hormone estrogen helps us regulate the body’s water decomposition. So when our estrogen levels fall as we go through menopause, the body becomes a little dehydrated. Nails and skin are alike in needing moisture, so when this hormonal dehydration comes about, your nail-beds are likely to take a hit. Nails with low water content are less flexible and more susceptible to splitting and breaking.
Treating Brittle Nails
Knowing the cause of sudden brittle or broken nails is well and good, but now what? I can give you a few tips and tricks for when your nails just aren’t happy and healthy. Some of the best tips to treat brittle nails during menopause include:
#1 Balancing Your Diet For Better Nail Health
Yes, I know this one comes up a lot, but a balanced diet can work wonders. Foods rich in vitamin C, calcium, and folic acid, nourish the body and nail-beds. Vitamin E, usually found in all your favorite veggies, also helps give nail appearance an instant boost. Plus, don’t forget to get plenty of fluids, mainly in the form of a refreshing glass (or two or three or eight) of water.
#2 Cut The Cigarette Breaks
If you’re a smoker, you may want to consider quitting. When you stop smoking, not only do you prevent a number of health concerns, you also help your nails! Cigarette smoking deprives the nails of oxygen, makes you susceptible to nail fungus, and wrinkles the skin around your nails.
#3 Protect Your Hands, Protect Your Nail Health
Wear gloves when cleaning and dealing with harsh chemicals, such as detergents and other household cleaning products. These chemicals are often harsh on the nails.
#4 Pamper Yourself (And Your Nails)
Nail polish actually adds a layer of protection, which is great, but please go easy on the nail polish remover. Also, be sure to file nails with an emery board instead of a metal nail file. The metal file is excellent for thicker nails, like gels and acrylics, but not so much for our delicate, natural fingernails.
Lastly, moisturizing your hands with your favorite lotion can work wonders after hand-washing, especially during dry winter months. Make sure to pay special attention to the nail-beds and cuticles.
#5 Cut The Stress To Better Your Nail Health
Feeling stressed? Consider doing a workout to get the blood pumping. Stress can lead to added dehydration. Therefore, consider going for a walk, trying out a new yoga routine, or any other way to break a sweat can do wonders for your entire body, including your nails!
Give Your Nails Extra Care During Menopause
Now that you know how nails can change during menopause, you can take precautions to help your nails stay healthy. We cannot do much about the changing estrogen levels that happen during menopause, but we can make some lifestyle adjustments to feel good inside and out. Menopause also gives you an excuse to pamper yourself by taking care of your hands and feet a little extra, and who could argue with that? Cheers to this new phase of life and keeping your body (and nails) happy and healthy.
By Jessica Thomas, MPH