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Dry hair, skin, and nails could point to underlying health problems

Toshiyuki IMAI

Dry skin, hair, and nails are common, but if it is not something you’re used to dealing with it could be leading to more serious problems. Dryness can be caused by any number of things including how you take care of yourself, the products you use, or your environment.

Joining us is Dr. Rosemarie Ingleton, who is an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital and a clinical instructor of dermatology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, to discuss what could be causing dryness.

Some people may be naturally dry but sudden dry hair, skin and nails could be pointing to something more than just general dryness. Nutrient deficiencies as well as an imbalance in hormones could be the reason that your hair, skin, and nails become suddenly dryer than normal.

“When you have dry skin, hair, and nails, often times it’s telling you there may be something off [or] you may be deficient in something in your diet. You may be having a problem with your thyroid gland which is the mothership,” says Ingleton. “You can be deficient in many vitamins that normally we eat in our diet but occasionally you don’t take enough or perhaps don’t absorb it as well as you should.”

While dryness can point to health issues, sometimes your environment also plays a role. Increased sun and wind exposure could be a reason why your skin is drying out more often. For hair and nails, things we do as part of our regular beauty routines could be reasons for brittleness. Some of these include:

  • Overuse of hair dyes and chemicals
  • Overuse of styling tools like blow driers and flat irons
  • The use of nail polish or fake nails
  • The use of chemical nail polish removers like acetone

If you change your routine, and still aren’t seeing a difference in the health of your hair, skin, and nails then seeing a physician might be your next step. Ingleton usually recommends her patients start a supplement regimen like biotin along with moisturizers to help combat the dryness.
“Absolutely they will help [vitamin supplements] and it may not be the only thing you need. If the supplement by itself doesn’t seem to correct the problem then you should see your physician and have a complete evaluation done to see it there perhaps is a medical issue underlying all of it that requires more than a vitamin supplement,” said Ingleton.