Split nails are common. They can affect both fingernails and toenails and are usually the result of physical trauma, such as an object crushing them. However, wear and tear, as well as nutrient deficiencies, are also potential causes.
In some cases, a person can take preventive measures to avoid splitting their nails. In other cases, splitting a nail may be unavoidable.
When a nail splits, a person may be able to use at-home methods to fix the issue. However, if the split is severe enough or affects the nail bed, a person may require medical treatment.
Keep reading for more information on possible causes, treatments, and prevention tips.
Most of the treatment options are home remedies. Home remedies usually involve fixing the nail in place and improving its appearance until the break grows out.
All home remedies are ways to hide or hold the nail together until the split disappears.
One potential home remedy involves reattaching the nail with glue.
For this method, try applying a very small amount of adhesive to the detached nail and then use gentle pressure to push the nail back together.
After the glue has set, if a person wishes to hide the break, they can paint their nail.
Use a tea bag
Another home remedy involves using a tea bag.
For this method to work, try cutting a nail sized portion of a tea bag from an ordinary bag of tea. Then, use a brush with adhesive to glue the tea bag in place.
Once the glue sets, a person can buff the nail and paint over it if they wish.
Try a gel and silk wrap
Another potential remedy is to try a gel and silk wrap to hold the nail in place.
Similar to the tea bag method, the gel and silk wrap method involves using a nail sized piece of silk wrap, placing it against the broken nail, and applying a gel coat to it.
Once set, a person can choose to buff the nail and apply polish.
Use a fake nail
A final potential home remedy involves using a fake nail. In this case, a person can either remove the piece that is splitting off or leave it in place.
A person can apply a fake nail to just the broken nail or to all of them.
In some cases, a person may require medical treatment.
For example, psoriasis can damage a person’s nail bed. Taking medication to control psoriasis can help prevent damage to the nails.
In other cases, a person may have an acute infection from fungi, yeast, or bacteria. These infections require antifungal or antibiotic treatments to help prevent further damage to the nails.
There are many common causes of nail splitting, the medical term for which is onychoschizia.
A split can occur across the nail, or it could split the nail vertically.
Some of the most common causes of nail splitting include:
Trauma or injury
Fingers and fingernails are easy to injure. People can catch them in doors, pinch them under a heavy object, or catch them on something and cause a rip.
Any number of traumatic events can cause a small or large split. If the injury is severe, it may also affect the nail bed.
Biting or picking
A common symptom of anxiety is picking or biting at the nails. When this occurs regularly, the nail’s strength decreases. This can lead to them splitting more easily.
In other cases, a person may split a nail while picking at it.
Excessive exposure to moisture
Being well hydrated is important to nail health, but submerging them in or constantly exposing them to water can weaken a person’s nails.
People may have excessive exposure to moisture when they:
- spend a long time in a pool
- do the dishes frequently
- submerge the hands in bathwater
Frequent use of nail polish can also weaken the nails, making them easier to split.
Psoriasis is a condition that affects the skin, causing outbreaks of red scaly areas and patches, or plaques.
According to a study in the Journal of Indian Dermatology, nail psoriasis affects 10–78% of people with the condition. Psoriasis may weaken nails and make them more prone to splitting.
Other underlying conditions
Though much less common, several potential underlying conditions can cause nails to split more easily.
Some potential conditions include:
- bacterial, fungal, or yeast infections
- thyroid disease
- kidney disease
- skin cancers
- liver disease
In cases of severe nail splits, a person may need to see their healthcare provider.
They may need to remove the nail completely. They may also need to stitch the nail bed. If possible, they may reattach the nail using either stitches or glue.
A person should contact their healthcare provider if they notice any of the following symptoms, as they may require additional medical treatment:
- nails that appear distorted
- a bluish or purplish color to the nail
- ingrown nails
- painful nails
- a white color appearing under nails
- horizontal ridges on the nails
It is not always possible to prevent split nails. However, a person can take certain precautions and make lifestyle changes to help prevent damage to their nails.
Some tips and tricks include:
- maintaining a healthful diet rich in vitamins and minerals, though split nails only very rarely occur due to poor nutrition
- taking biotin supplements, a B vitamin that promotes healthy nails, but only with a doctor’s consent
- moisturizing the nails and cuticles regularly
- avoiding excessive exposure to water
- wearing gloves when using cleaning chemicals or washing the dishes
- avoiding the use of harsh nail polish remover
- giving the nails a break from polishes and gels
- avoiding pulling at hangnails
- wearing adequate protection and using caution when working with the hands
Fixing a split nail often involves a home remedy that either mends it, such as with glue, or hides it, such as with a fake nail.
If a person’s nail is severely split, causes constant pain, or appears infected, a person should seek medical attention to fix the nail and address any potential underlying issues.
Preventing split nails usually involves a combination of lifestyle measures, such as wearing gloves while doing chores and not exposing the nails to harsh chemicals.