The nails in some types of ectodermal dysplasia may be…

Fingernails in ectodermal dysplasias can be thin and have lines.
  • poorly developed,
  • small,
  • thick or thin,
  • brittle,
  • discolored,
  • cracked,
  • abnormally curved, or
  • ridged.

In addition, they may grow slowly or shed periodically and may develop light spots, lines, or patches.

The nails and surrounding cuticle area may become infected by fungus, yeast, or bacteria.  If this occurs, nails may become thick or discolored, and the area may develop a bad odor, or become swollen and tender.

nails (1)
Toenails can be thin and nearly absent in certain ectodermal dysplasias as seen here.

Treating Nails in Ectodermal Dysplasias

Like the hair, nails are made up of dead protein.  Medications will treat secondary infections but will not correct the inborn nail defects.

  • Lubricants such as petroleum jelly or lanolin can be massaged into the nails to reduce some of the dryness, brittleness, or cracking.
  • The nails should be kept short and trimmed smoothly.
  • Thick nails can be filed with the fine pumice used by beauticians for pedicures. Pumice can be purchased from most beauty supply companies.


  • Thick, crumbly nails may indicate an infection and should be examined by a physician. This is especially true if the skin around the nail is swollen, red, tender, or if it drains a yellow colored material.
Fingernails in some types of ectodermal dysplasias may be thick and crumbly.

Synthetic nails (sculptured nails) are available. Not everyone can use these products, because they may cause further damage to nails or allergic reactions.  If sculptured nails are considered, a technician experienced in the proper technique to apply them should be consulted.


This article is adapted from content in “A Family Guide to the Ectodermal Dysplasias” published by the National Foundation for Ectodermal Dysplasias.”

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9 comments on “Ectodermal Dysplasias: How Nails Can Be Affected”

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    […] Ectodermal Dysplasias: How Nails Can Be Affected […]

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    Transforming Me | National Foundation for Ectodermal Dysplasias on June 14, 2016

    […] Ectodermal Dysplasias: How Nails Can Be Affected […]

  3. 3
    Latassia Griffin on January 21, 2021

    I think I may have this. I was born with these very embarrassing toenails (big toes and pinky toes only).

    1. 4
      Kelley Atchison on January 25, 2021

      Hello, Latassia! We encourage you to speak with your doctor and potentially schedule an appointment with a geneticist to discuss a possible diagnosis.

  4. 5
    Co to znaczy nie mieć sutków (Athelia)? - Wypas on March 16, 2021

    […] cienkie, kruche, popękane lub w inny sposób osłabione paznokcie […]

    1. 6
      Kelley Atchison on March 16, 2021

      Please send your question to so that we can translate. Thank you!

  5. 7
    Is it normal for a girl to not have nipples? | The New Life In Christ on June 10, 2021

    […] thin, brittle, cracked, or otherwise weakened nails […]

    1. 8
      Kelley Atchison on June 16, 2021

      You can learn more on breast development and ectodermal dysplasia at Contact me with additional questions at

      Thank you,
      Kelley, NFED Director, Family and Community Programs

  6. 9
    Michael Corey on June 8, 2022

    The first picture is my nails when I was younger

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