Splitting Nails (Onychoschizia): Causes and Treatment Tips

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Splitting NailsDo you have soft, brittle, or split nails? Do you suffer from splitting nails? These conditions are attributed to a variety of causes, including dryness stemming from environmental factors or an existing health condition. Nail splitting is more common among women than men, and knowing why your nails split can help to determine treatment to prevent further damage. Let’s look at split nails causes to better protect our fingertips.

Our nails contain keratin, the same protein as in our hair strands. Cracked nails are medically referred to as onychoschizia, a disorder describing soft, brittle, thin, and splitting nails on fingers or toes, or the splitting of nail beds. Soft and brittle nails have too much moisture, while dry and brittle and dry nails do not have enough moisture. With nails brittle and peeling, it can signal an internal issue or external damage. We depend on our fingernails to assist in picking up objects and guard against injury of the tips of our fingers.

Common Nails Splitting Causes

Onychoschizia can be linked to the aging process as nails can become weak or thick. Any type of cracked nails, such as vertical split nails causes, can be present months after initial damage. This is primarily due to the nail taking six months to grow to its complete length. The most common cause is constant wetting and drying of nails, but there are other factors to consider before attempting any treatment.

1. Repetitive Washing

To avoid bacterial and viral infections, we are constantly washing and drying our hands, including our nail beds. This can cause the fingernails to become dry, leading to brittleness. During the dry, winter months and in regions with low humidity, our nails need extra care.

2. Nail Cosmetics

Products used on nails can also contribute to splitting nails vitamin deficiency, as many nail cosmetics contain ingredients that diminish levels. Nail polish removers, especially those that are acetone-based, can lead to the drying out of the nail bed by absorbing moisture. Ironically, the nail polish we use to make our nails stand out and look pretty, may also contribute to their damage. This can include some nail hardener products.

3. Injury

Trauma or a blunt force hit to the nail bed can cause the layers to peel. You can attribute any external cause to this issue if the nails of your toes remain intact and are not affected by any damage. Any similar signs on your toenails may be a sign of damage by a skin condition.

4. Health Issues

If you are lacking essential vitamins or minerals, or even have an underlying health condition, your nails may be at risk for splitting. Those with diabetes or thyroid disease are prone to having dry, brittle nail beds. A lack of iron is usually the main reason of this nail condition. You also may be lacking sufficient levels of folic acid, vitamin C, or essential proteins.

5. Chemical Exposure

By using household cleaning products, including dish and laundry detergent, we could be damaging our nail beds. Any exposure to toxic substances such as solvents, alkalis, acids, and salts can affect our fingernail health.

How to Prevent Nail Splitting (Onychoschizia)

Once you discover the reason behind your splitting nails, you will have a better idea of how to prevent further damage. By caring for our nail beds every day, we can avoid dry, brittle, and splitting nails. Try these six prevention tips.

1. Be gentle

When caring for your nails, use a gentle hand as you treat the tips with a very fine nail file. Use smooth, single strokes in a one-way motion, rounding the nail. Tend to any chipped or cracked nails as soon as possible. Buff any irregularities in the direction the nail grows.

2. Maintain length

Avoid splitting by keeping your nails cut to a suitable length for daily use. The best maintenance is having a professional manicure regularly to keep cuticles and nail beds in good shape.

3. Moisturize

Maintain essential moisture in your nails by using a gentle, moisturizing cleansing soap, and adding lotion or essential oil to hands and nails daily. Lotions should contain alpha-hydroxy acid. Wet nail beds and use essential oils such as shea butter, avocado, or jojoba oil. For best results, apply lotion or oil in the morning and evening.

4. Nail spa

Two or three times a week, take the time to treat your nails to a healing soak with sea salt and essential oils. Combine two tablespoons of fine grain sea salt with two drops of lemon, myrrh, frankincense, and wheat germ essential oils. Soak for 10 to 15 minutes and rinse with warm water before applying moisturizing lotion.

5. Use polish sparingly

The hardeners and colors in nail polish can cause nails to become brittle and dry. Use polishes containing nylon fibers and avoid those with harsh chemicals. To prevent damage, remove nail polish after five days and allow nails to go au naturel for three to four days between polishes.

6. Strengthen nails

You can grow and maintain strong, healthy nails by consuming foods rich in biotin. Enjoy cauliflower, soybeans, lentils, bananas, fish, egg yolks, whole grains, cereal, and milk products.

Home Remedies to Treat Splitting Nails (Onychoschizia)

If you have nail damage or nail bed issues, you can perform splitting nails treatment at home to prevent future damage.

  • Do daily maintenance of moisturizing and proper care for damaged and split nails
  • Avoid prolong exposure to water
  • Wear gloves when using chemical cleaners such as laundry and dish detergent
  • Use a gentle touch when washing hands
  • Increase iron levels by consuming lean meats, lentils, spinach, white beans, and fortified cereal products
  • Apply lotion to hands and nails after they are in contact with water

Dry split nails can be embarrassing and can cause damage to your fingertips if not treated. Common among 20% of the female population, splitting nails can be caused by improper nail care, environmental factors, and on rare occasions, an underlying health condition. You can treat split nail beds, prevent further damage, and avoid recurrences with daily care. Treat your nails as you do your skin and teeth with tender loving care and preventive measures to ensure strong, healthy nails.


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“Why Are My Nails Splitting?” MD-Health; http://www.md-health.com/Why-Are-My-Nails-Splitting.html, last accessed March 13, 2017.
Nall, R., “Peeling Nails,” Healthline, March 24, 2015; http://www.healthline.com/health/peeling-nails#Overview1, last accessed March 13, 2017.
“Onychoschizia – Symptoms and Treatment,” Health-Issues; http://www.health-issues.org/skin-disorders/onychoschizia.htm, last accessed March 13, 2017.