Splitting toenails and fingernails ranks among the concerns most commonly presented to dermatologists with the big toe being a common trouble spot. It affects both genders but tends to be more commonly reported among women and the elderly. Now, how do you fix split toenails and keep them from splitting again? Read on find out this and much more.
What Causes Toenails to Split?
Nails can split either horizontally or vertically (along the middle, sometimes in half). The term “brittle nail syndrome” is usually used to collectively describe these two variations. Toenails can also split multiple times, leading to a triangular fragment at the edge of the nail plate. Understanding the general causes of toenail splitting will help you to not only treat but also prevent future splitting. Below are some of the most common causative factors:
- Recurrent cycles of wetting and drying of the toenails: This is the most common cause of nail splitting and can occur in people who spend a lot of time in water e.g. swimming.
- Trauma: Injury e.g. from running with shoes that don’t fit well, when a fellow when a fellow player tramples on your toes, or when a heavy object lands on your toes, can as well play a part in splitting of the toenails.
- Exposure to and use of harsh chemicals and cosmetics: Exposures to chemicals such as detergents, acids, alkalis, and solvents can also cause split toenails and so can prolonged us of nail polish removers (especially those with formaldehyde and/or acetone), nail hardeners, and nail polishes. If you got split toenail after pedicure, now you know the likely cause, don’t you?
- Medical conditions such as anemia, thyroid disease (hypothyroidism), tuberculosis, Sjögren syndrome, and anemia can also cause split toenail. According to eMedicineHealth, fungal infection of the nail bed can also cause splitting in addition to other symptoms such as yellow discoloration, thickening, and loss of the natural shape.
- Nutritional deficiency: Iron deficiency may manifest itself in brittle, splitting nails. Deficiency of biotin (a B-complex vitamins component) can also have similar effect on the nails.
- Skin diseases such as diseases such as Lichen planus, psoriasis may as well be to blame for split toenails.
- Medications: Some medications, e.g. vitamin A derivatives, may also cause toenail splitting as a side-effect.
- Aging: According to an article published in the National Center for Biotechnology information (NCBI), splitting of nails can also occur as a result of the nail plate turning more friable as we age.
Split Pinky Toenail
Pinky toenail splitting may be the result of a physical trait referred to as “accessory nail of the fifth toe”. This is characterized by a longitudinal split on the small toe (pinky toenail) making the affected foot to look as though it has a “sixth” toenail.
The split occurs along – and protrudes from – the outer edge of one or both pinky toenails. This trait is thought to have a genetic aspect, being particularly prevalent among the Han Chinese.
Although this Chinese trait is not regarded as serious, it can be safely cut off with a nail clipper. If you however want to do away with the problem for good, a procedure known as matricectomy (to remove the nail matrix) may serve the purpose. Also used to treat ingrown toenails, matricectomy can be done using lasers, chemicals or surgically.
Split Toenail Repair
Split toenails is as much a health concern as it is a cosmetic and psychological one, especially among women. What do I do now, you ask? Well, the best cure for toenail splitting is to avoid aggravating factors while throwing in a mix of tender love and care for your nails and various home remedies aimed at restoring the integrity of the affected toenail. An outline of how to repair and prevent split toenails is provided below:
Trim the Toenail Gently
For moderate splitting (shallow and shorter; maybe not extending beyond the “transparent” nail edge), your best bet is to trim the nail regularly until the splitting “grows out”, says Luka Sempka, a Podiatrist at Drummoyne, Australia.
Trimmed toenails are also less likely to tug on socks, bedding, and other materials. This can have a worsening effect on the splitting.
You can either trim the affected toenail with a clean nail clipper gently or a file it with a fine file.
For toenails that crack down the middle, never file or pick along the crack as this will only harm the toenails and worsen the problem.
Watch Your Diet
The importance of a well-balanced diet cannot be overemphasized but if your toenails are splitting, it becomes even more important to ensure that your diet is not only balanced but also rich in iron and biotin.
Taking biotin supplements can also help to treat and fix split toenails, says the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. These are widely available in drugstores (pharmacies) under brands such as Appearex, Biotin Ultra etc. studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of daily intake of 2.5 mg of biotin in strengthening the nails. You will however want to follow the instructions provided by your pharmacist or on the packaging.
Moisturize the Affected Toenail
Moisturizing the split toenails also forms an important part of the treatment regimen. Sempka suggests looking for a thick ointments with a urea base. Lotions and creams with Alpha-Hydroxyl Acids (AHAs) also do a great job. A good example is Neostrata. Regular petroleum jelly is also effective for nail hydration and so us Cetaphil cream, says the Skinsight website.
Moisturize your toenails throughout the day and before bedtime.
If you suspect fungal infection, usually accompanied by yellow or green (and sometimes dark) discoloration in the nail plate, try using a vinegar soak. Rich in acetic acid, vinegar soak helps to kill and inhibit growth of foot fungus.
- Mix 1 cup of white vinegar with 2 cups of warm water.
- Soak your feet in the solution for 25-30 minutes.
- Pat your feet dry.
- Use this home remedy twice or thrice every day until the problem gets fixed.
Glue It Together
Moderate vertical and horizontal splits in toenails can be fixed by applying super glue. Clean your toenails in warm, soapy water for 15 minutes, then trim them. Now pat the toenails dry with a clean towel or washcloth before applying superglue along the crack. If you want, buff the super glue a bit (gently) to level it.
Tea Bag Treatment
Some people will also swear to the effectiveness of the following toenail splitting repair method. This comes in handy if you don’t have a nail repair kit.
- Clean and dry your toenails.
- Apply clear polish, then cover it with a small piece of emptied tea bag (a cofffe filter will also do).
- Allow the polish time to dry and with it the tea bag (paper). This will help to keep the nail glued together.
- Buff the nail gently after it dries.
Some people use nail glue or superglue in the place of clear nail polish. If you do, apply the paper to the torn part of the nail first, then apply the glue across the entire nails surface.
Apply Antibacterial/Antiseptic Cream
Severe cases of toenail splitting e.g. due to trauma can be particularly painful not to mention that they can also be accompanied by bleeding, bruising, and sometimes infection.
In case of these symptoms, consider treating the affected toenails with an antibacterial cream such as Bacitracin, Neosporin etc. After cleaning and applying the cream of your choice, bandage the affected toenails to keep them clean and reduce the risk of infection and aggravation. If the toenail falls off, keep the area clean and protected with a bandage until it heals and a new nail grows out.
If the condition seem to get worse e.g. Starts to discharge pus or swells, consider seeing your doctor or a podiatrist.
Other Tips to Help Prevent and Repair Split Toenails
- Stop use of nail cosmetics for a while. You will also want to avoid fake acrylic or porcelain nails.
- Avoid strenuous physical activities e.g. running for a while as the toenails heal. This will help to avoid exerting pressure on the toenails.
- Apply manuka oil or tea tree oil on the affected area twice daily. These essential oils have antibacterial and antifungal properties which may be effective in treating split toenails.
- Avoid spending too much time in the swimming pool or other wet environments.
- Avoid using nail polish removers with acetone or formaldehyde. Instead look for natural alternatives such as Pure Body Naturals Pure Body Naturals Nail Polish Remover.
- Wear sporting shoes that fit well if you engage in sporting activities to avoid traumatic injury as it often cause or worsen split toenail.
- If you use nail hardeners, apply them to the tip of the toenail (i.e. the free, growing area) only.
Try using these split toenails removal options and see if they alleviate the symptoms. If they don’t help, or the symptoms seem to worsening, seek medical attention immediately.