Just as it is important to care for your skin properly, it is also important that you care for your fingernails. After all, if you do not properly care for your nails you can develop problems such as nail fungus, discoloration and nail brittleness (all of which are no laughing matter and can be quite embarrassing).

Over time, your fingernails can become damaged. Why? Well, for several reasons. First of all, time is not on your side when it comes to your nails. Just as the rest of your body ages, so do your nails. In fact, the main cause of brittle nails is aging followed by frequent hand washing and household products (such as cleaning aids). Long time exposure to nail cosmetics and skin care products can damage your nails as well. Just when you think you are properly caring for your nails, BAM, someone tells you otherwise! Sorry!

Believe it or not brittle nails come in two varieties: hard and soft. This was news to me for when I think of brittle, I think of hard and drynot soft! Who knew? Hard and brittle nails are caused by dehydration. In other words, there is not enough moisture in and around the nail, therefore, they become damaged. Soft and brittle nails happen when there is TOO MUCH moisture in around the bed of the nail. Though both hard and soft brittle nail conditions are annoying and more often than not, unattractive, the good news is BOTH conditions can be treated!

Just as there are medications for toenail fungus, such as Lamisil, there are a variety of medications and treatments for hard and soft brittle nail conditions. If you don't have the money to spend on a nail treatment, don't worry; all you have to do is go to your kitchen and pull out a bottle of vegetable oil or shortening. Right now you are probably thinking "Oil? I'm not baking a cake; I want to treat my brittle nails!" Bear with me my brittle-nailed friends, bear with me! Simply take the vegetable oil or shortening and rub it into your nails. Next, put on a pair of vinyl gloves (which you can purchase at most grocery stores) and then go to bed, or watch television, whatever pleases you. Be sure to leave the gloves on for at least four or five hours, the longer the better. By doing this you are allowing the oil to penetrate deep within your skin and around your nail beds. This is a GREAT way to keep your hands moisturized and brittle nails at bay.

It is also a good idea to keep a moisturizing hand cream available at all times. Hand cream traps moisture which is a good thing if you have hard, brittle nails. There are prescription hand creams available such as Obagi skin care products (be sure to talk to your doctor if you are interested) or, you can simply shop on-line for a quality skin and nail moisturizing cream. It is also important to note that if you have dry, hard, brittle nails, then you should avoid all products that contain alcohol. Alcohol will dry your hands out which is exactly what you DON'T want!

A lack of calcium and a poor diet are two more reasons as to why some people develop brittle nails. Supplements can improve nail quality tremendously! It is also important to eat a well balanced diet. In order to have healthy nails, you must eat foods from all four food groups (yes, that includes vegetables!).

As for washing dishes, hire a maid. Just kidding! If dish washing is part of your daily life, it is very important that you wear high-quality dish washing gloves in order to protect your hands and nails (they didn't come up with the saying "dish pan hands" for nothing)! If you are a frequent visitor to a nail salon, be sure that the nail technician only uses products that contain ACETATE! AVOID PRODUCTS THAT CONTAIN ACETONE! Got that?! Acetone, though stronger and faster, will most definitely suck the moisture right out of your nails and nail beds.

Finally, many people that develop brittle nails head straight to the local grocery or drug store in search of a nail strengthener. When you apply a nail strengthener all you are doing is applying a product that will thicken your nails not cure them of the problem! If you have been dealing with brittle nails for a long time and nothing seems to help, do not hesitate to make an appointment with your doctor. He or she should be able to assess your nail situation and provide you with good advice and or medication if necessary. Brittle, discolored and infected nails are very common conditions! Do not be embarrassed! You are NOT alone!