Split Nails: Causes & Remedies

image001 Fingernails are made of a protein called keratin, which is porous, making the nails very vulnerable to conditions like dehydration, wear and tear or trauma. The structure of the nail includes the nail groove, the lunula, the nail plate and the eponychium. If any of these areas of the nail are damaged it can lead to the nail splitting. Splitting nails or onychoschizia can be caused by several conditions. If these conditions are not treated, the nail can continue to split, increasing your risk for additional damages or complications.

Causes of Split Nails

Causes of Split Nails


Incorrect Cut or File

If you file the nails improperly can cause damage to the nail. Cut and file the nails after they have been softened by lukewarm water or oil to reduce the friction these actions can cause. This will reduce the risk that the nail bed will become dry or the nails will split.


If you are not consuming enough water you can become dehydrated. This can cause the nails to dry out, increasing the risk of chip or split nails. The skin around the nails may also become discolored before the nail starts to show damage, indicating that the body is becoming dehydrated.

Excessive Wet

On the other side, if your fingernails are constantly soaked in moisture like chemicals or water, they may become pliable and weak. Constantly getting the nails wet and then dry can damage the keratin layers, causing them to crack and break.

Overuse of Nail Chemicals

Items like nail polish, nail-hardening enhancers or polish remover can cause the nails to become dehydrated. These items can absorb the oils between the layers of the nail, causing the tissue to peel and dry up, leading to cracking.

Alcohol or Smoking

Drinking alcohol or smoking can cause the nails to become damaged or more prone to chipping. These habits dehydrate the body and deprive them of the necessary oxygen that can help the body produce healthy tissue.

Nutritional Deficiency

If you do not get enough calcium in your diet you can be at risk for splintering, brittle fingernails. Those that do not get enough protein, vitamins and minerals in their diet may also find that their nails are discolored and dull. This is a common warning sign that people are dieting too severely or restricting their food intake.


If your nails become infected by bacteria or fungus they can shrink, break or swell. Make a point of keeping your nails clean so dirt does not build up on this surface. Also avoid biting the nails as these actions can damage the cuticles, providing a prime environment for an infection.

Health Conditions

Issues like malnutrition, anemia, tuberculosis or hypothyroidism can cause the nails to become brittle or crack. If nails have been constantly chipping or forming cracks this can be a sign that this condition is actually a symptom of a much more serious medical condition. Have your doctor check your nails and other symptoms to determine if you need additional treatment.

Remedies for Split Nails

image0021. Apply Basic Treatment

Gently file away rough edges or snags as soon as they occur to prevent the nail from becoming caught on something and tearing. If you notice that your nail has started to split, apply a coat of clear polish or nail glue to prevent the split nails from getting worse.

2. Increase Nutrition Intake

Make a point of getting a variety of vitamins, minerals and gelatin in your diet to ensure that you have the proper nutrients to build quality nail tissue.Taking biotin 1-2 times a day for six months can help you develop healthier nail tissue. However it is not safe for pregnant women to use this supplement.

image0033. Moisturize Nails

Use products like aloe, jojoba or lanolin to moisturize the nails. Petroleum jelly can also be used to moisturize and strengthen the nails. Soak the nails in water for 10 minutes each day before applying your moisturizer to keep them hydrated. Massage the moisturizer into the nails in small, circular motions for the best effects. Look for moisturizers that contain ingredients like keratin or collagen, lanolin, mineral oil, petrolatum or humectants for the best effects.

4. Adopt Good Habit

Do not allow dirt to build up on or under the nails. Also avoid biting the nails or tearing the cuticles. These actions increase your risk of developing an infection that can damage your nails.Follow the natural shape of the nail when trimming. This will help prevent edges from becoming chipped. Gently file the nails to a short length to protect them from damage. Shape the nail in a curve to add to their protection.

image0045. Protect Hands and Nails

Always wear gloves when your nails will be submerged in harsh chemicals for any length of time. Try to bathe or work in water that is lukewarm rather than very hot. Hot water can strip the moisture from the nails, increasing the risk that they will become damaged. Avoid using nail products that contain acetone as these can be damaging to the nails. Do not use metal tools to file the nails or push back the cuticles. This will deplete the protective cells on the nail’s surface.

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