Split Nails Causes, How to Fix a Split Nail with Home Remedies

Well-trimmed nails look good on you and show that you take good care of yourself, but split nails say otherwise not to mention that they might attract needless attention. Even then, split nails (onychoschizia) is a common problem, affecting as much as 20% of the people. If you are wondering what to do for split nails, then we have got your covered. This article will provide an insight into the problem and show you how to fix a split nail.

What Causes Split Nails?

Although this guide intended to show you how to fix a split nail at home, it is perhaps befitting to highlight some of the possible causes of cracked nails.  That way you will not only be better positioned to repair the problem but also prevent it from occurring again in the future once it has been fixed.

Otherwise known as or onychoschizia or lamellar dystrophy, the condition causes horizontal split in the nail bed. In addition to the horizontal splits, the nails may split or ridge vertically, that is lengthwise (down the middle), a condition known as onychorrhexis. When onychoschizia and onychorrhexis occur together, the condition is referred to as “brittle nail syndrome”, the Skin Sight says. According to The American Osteopathic College of Dermatology, split nails affect women more than men and tends to be more common among older people.

Common split nails causes include:

  • Repeated wetting and/or drying of the nails: This makes the fingernails dry and brittle and thus split. This is the reason why split nails tend to be common among hairdressers, cleaners, nurses, and other professionals who spend a lot of time working with water.
  • Exposure to harmful chemicals and cosmetic products: Exposure to chemicals such as detergents, solvents, cement, acids, alkalis, salt solutions etc. or nail polish removers (especially the removers with acetone) can also cause nail splitting. Some nail polish and hardeners may also cause split nails.
  • Trauma: Injury to the fingernails is also among the likely causes of split nails.
  • Overuse of nails g. from excessive texting and typing
  • Nail procedures: When performed inappropriately, nail procedures can as well cause nail splitting.
  • Use of acrylic nails: If acrylics don’t cause allergic reaction, don’t be surprised if they cause you split nails.
  • Medical conditions such as Sjögren syndrome, hypothyroidism, tuberculosis, psoriasis, and lichen planus can also cause split nails. The American Osteopathic College of Dermatology however says that internal diseases like tuberculosis are very rarely the underlying cause of nail splitting.
  • Iron deficiency and malnutrition may also be underlying causes for nail splitting
  • Oral medications made from vitamin A e.g. for treatment of acne, may also cause splitting of nails.
  • Menopause: According to EveryDayHealth, menopause may coincide with dry brittle nails due to lower estrogen levels.
  • Chemotherapy
  • Fungal infection: Yellowish split nails are usually indicative of fungal infection.

You will know the cause of nail splitting is external if only the fingernails are affected; the toes are not.

Split Nail Pictures

Pictures are worth more than a single word as some once said; they are worth a thousand of them. In the spirit of that saying, here are some pictures of split nails:

split brittle nails

split nail

How to Fix a Split Nail – Home Remedies to Fix Split Nails

Whether split horizontally only or vertically as well, split nails typically feel dry and brittle or soft and brittle depending on the underlying cause. Too much moisture on one hand, e.g. due to frequent wetting of the fingernails, causes soft, splitting nails. On the other hand, exposure to moisture stealing chemicals and environmental conditions causes your nails to get dry and split. How your fingernails look and feel will affect your decision how to repair them. Below is a guideline on how to fix a split nail at home.

Hydrate the Nails to Get Rid Of the Splitting

If your nail plate or bed feels dry and brittle, especially if your occupation involves working with harsh chemicals and detergents, hydrating the nails can help to get rid of the splitting. Simply soak your hands in water for 15 minutes once every day, preferably before bedtime. This will increase water content in your nails and thus fix the problem.

Apply Suitable Lotion to Fix the Split Nail

According to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology, applying a lotion product containing either lanolin e.g. Elon or Alpha-hydroxyl Acids (AHAs) e.g. Neostrata, is the best split nails treatment. To repair horizontal cracks and vertical ridges in the nails, simply soak your fingernails in water for 5 minutes, then dab the lotion on them. According to Skinsight, petroleum jelly and thick emollients the likes of Cetaphil can also boost nail hydration and thus fix nail splitting.

Repair the Split Nails with Nail Hardener or Nail Polish

According to the Mayo Clinic, applying a protective layer of a nail-hardening agent can help to strengthen the nails and curb the splitting. According to Skinsight, nail hardeners that contain formaldehyde are especially good for split nail repair. On the downside however, they can cause brittleness even as they harden the nail.

Skinsight therefore recommends applying such products to the growing end of the nail plate only. As for acrylic hardeners, they are good for fixing a split nail, but they can trigger allergic reactions in some people.

Nail hardeners aside, switching to a nail polish with nylon fibers may as well be effective in hardening the spit nails according to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. A clear nail prep, applied once each week may also help to repair and fix split nails.

Wear Gloves

If constantly engaging in activities that involve immersing your hands in water e.g. cooking, washing, etc. or chemicals, you may want to get yourself a good pair of water-proof rubber or plastic gloves, preferably those with a cotton lining. This will help to fix split nails by stopping exposure to water and chemicals.

Nail Glue for Split Nails

Some people use the nail glue available in drugstores to (or even super glue) to fix split nails. Although it does repair the splitting and make it less noticeable, nail glue doesn’t address the underlying problem – with the exception of cases caused by trauma n the fingernails – and is thus not a cure for the problem but a temporary solution. Here is how to fix a split nail with nail glue (or super glue):

  1. Wash your fingernails with soap and water
  2. Apply a drop of nail glue to the split nail and then spread it to cover the affected areas of the nail plate
  3. Allow the glue time to dry, then file the nail or buff it with a buffing stone to remove the excess glue
  4. Finish off by applying clear polish

Take Biotin Supplements

Although vitamin deficiency is rarely a cause of nail splitting, the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology says that some people may benefit from taking biotin (a B-complex vitamin) supplements orally. Dana Stern, MD, dermatologist and assistant clinical professor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City agrees saying that biotin is an amazing nail and hair strengthener. Strive for 2.5 mg of biotin but if you are pregnant you will want to avoid biotin.

Increase Your Intake of Iron

Iron deficiency can cause split nails. If you suspect it I to blame, increase your dietary intake of iron by incorporating foods that are rich in iron such as lean meats, spinach, white beans, lentils, and potatoes that have been baked with their skin on. Daily iron supplements may also be effective.

How to Prevent Split Nails

Below are some tips to help you prevent the recurrence of nail splitting once you have treated and fixed the problem using the home remedies listed above.

  • Avoid leaving polish on for too long. According to Dr. Ellen Marmur, associate clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai NYC, the ingredients in nail polishes strip the nail plate of its moisture and weaken it. Murmur thus recommends staying with nail polishes for no more than 5 days and taking a break between applications to prevent split nails.
  • Adopt good nail hygiene to cure and prevent nail splitting. Taking good care of your nails is the first step preventing split nails. Keep the nails short and round the tip gently (don’t overdo it though to avoid ingrown nails).
  • Rub some lotion into the nails and cuticle while moisturizing the rest of the body to prevent dryness and thus splitting of nails especially if you regularly work with harsh chemicals or detergents.
  • Avoid biting or cutting your fingernails with your mouth. Also don’t pick at your cuticles.
  • Switch to nail polish products with nylon fibers to strengthen the nails and prevent splitting if you tend to suffer from the condition.
  • Perform nail procedures the right way. In particular you will want to use a fine file for filling your nails and buff your nails in the front direction as opposed to back and forth to prevent split nails.
  • Wet your nails before filing them.
  • Invest in a pair of rubber gloves if you spend a lot of time in water or working with chemicals every day.

That is how to fix a split nail. If split nails keeps recurring, talk to your doctor.


American Osteopathic College of Dermatology: Brittle Splitting Nails

EveryDayHealth: Menopause Symptoms that May Surprise You

Mayo Clinic: Is it possible to prevent split fingernails?

Skinsight: Nail Splitting