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What Are You Lacking if You Have Hangnails? Vitamin Deficiency

Hangnails can result from a protein deficiency, as well as a lack of essential vitamins including folic acid, vitamin B, vitamin C, and keratin.

A poor diet is one of the hidden causes of hangnails. Brittle nails and hangnails could indicate a protein deficiency.

A few studies have found that a lack of the following essential proteins and vitamins can result in hangnails:

  • Folic acid
  • Vitamin B
  • Vitamin C
  • Keratin


  • Keratinocytes are the cells that produce keratin, a structural protein that makes up and gives structure to the skin, hair, and nails.
  • If a person does not consume enough protein, their skin and nails can become dry, brittle, and prone to hangnails.
  • Consider taking keratin supplements in addition to eating a healthy diet to prevent hangnails.


Certain vitamins are recommended for healthy skin and nails. Getting enough vitamins B and C can help strengthen and thicken nails, as well as prevent hangnails.

Rather than taking supplements, try to get the following vitamins from a regular diet.

  • Foods high in vitamin C include:
    • Kiwi
    • Broccoli
    • Bell peppers
    • Tomatoes
  • Foods high in vitamin B include:
    • Shellfish
    • Fish
    • Liver
    • Milk
  • Iron or folic acid: Iron deficiency can cause itchy, dry skin, as well as brittle nails. Iron can be found in a variety of foods, including:
    • Whole grains
    • Lean meat
    • Fish
    • Eggs
    • Liver

Dairy products, seafood, soy, and celery are high in nutrients, such as iron, potassium, vitamin B, omega-3 fatty acids, and calcium. These nutrients, as well as proper care, are required for healthy nail growth and nourishment.

A healthy diet can keep the nails healthy and prevent the formation of hangnails.

What exactly are hangnails?

A hangnail, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, is a torn piece of skin at the edge of the nail. However, the term “hangnail” is misleading because it is the skin that tears, not the nail itself.

Hangnails are quite common and usually painful.

5 symptoms of hangnails

Hangnails cause a great deal of pain and irritation. They can be found at the base of the nail and along the sides. When a hangnail swells, it puts pressure on the nerve endings beneath it, causing additional pain.

The signs and symptoms of a hangnail are:

  • Small pieces of skin are formed alongside the nails
  • Redness of the nail bed
  • Swelling
  • Pain and tenderness
  • If a hangnail becomes infected, there would be a warm pus-filled abscess in the nail
  • Hangnails are painful because:

    • They occur in an area with many sensitive blood vessels and nerve endings, and as a result, they rip some of them along, causing the painful condition.
    • They inflame the skin, which the inflammation causes swelling that exerts pressure on the nerve endings, resulting in pain.

    6 causes of hangnails

    A hangnail is one of the most common issues that can affect people of any age or gender. 

    Hangnails can be caused by any of the following factors:

  • Dry skin that flakes and peels easily, particularly in the winter
  • Habitual nail-biting
  • Excessive use of harsh chemicals found in detergents, dishwashers, nail paint removers, hand sanitizers, and other products
  • Excessive cuticle cutting and not using caution when clipping the nails with a clipper
  • Injury or trauma
  • Swimming pool chlorine can also dry out the skin and hasten the formation of hangnails
  • 6 ways to prevent hangnails

  • Proper nail cleaning and trimming
  • Use a cuticle moisturizer to keep the cuticles and nails healthy and strong
  • The exfoliating lotion is used to treat partially rough or dry skin
  • Wearing rubber gloves when doing dishes, cleaning, gardening, or working with harsh chemicals
  • Avoid soaking the cuticles and nails in water for an extended period
  • Avoid biting the cuticles and fingernails

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    How can I treat hangnails?

    If a person has a hangnail, they should not bite, pick, or pull on it.

    Take care of the bothersome hangnail the right way by using one of the following treatment options:

    • Use surgical glue
      • Consider keeping surgical glue on hand in the case of persistent hangnails.
      • According to the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, using surgical glue to treat hangnails is an effective treatment because it allows a person to go about their day without discomfort.
      • A person should wash their hands, dab some glue on the hangnail and wait for it to dry.
      • Long after the hangnail has healed, the glue will eventually fall off on its own.
    • Soak and snip
      • If surgical glue is not available, soak the finger in warm water to treat a hangnail.
      • After softening the cuticle, carefully snip off the offending piece of skin with cuticle scissors.
      • After removing the hangnail, pat the skin dry and apply a nourishing moisturizer. Wear gloves to keep moisture in and protect sensitive skin.

    Having a professional perform regular manicures will ensure that nails are properly cut, and the cuticles are properly cared for.

    If a person chooses to do their nails at home, they must ensure to cut straight across the nail and use a nail filer to round the edges.

    One should not ignore problems with their nails or skin. If the hangnail is painful and doesn’t seem to improve after a few days, see a dermatologist right away.

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    Medically Reviewed on 12/30/2021


    Image Source: iStock Images

    El Camino Health. What Your Nails Could Be Telling You.

    WebMD. How to Treat a Hangnail.

    American Academy of Dermatology. What Kids Should Know About Hangnails.

    American Society for Surgery of the Hand. How To Get Rid of a Hangnail.

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