Split Nails Causes-Vertical, Horizontal, Repair, Treatment

Any deformity on your nails can almost in all cases make you lose some scores on how you look. Read on to find out the causes of splitting nails both at the nail bed, horizontally or vertically plus way to repair and treat.

What are split Nails and how do they look like?

Split nails, commonly referred to as onychoschizia, refers to a condition in which ridges develop across the nails; either horizontally, vertically or at the nail bed. Lamella dystrophy can occur on either toe or finger nails. Eventually, the nails become feeble and prone to infringement and chipping.

You can easily notice these fissures as they occur between the nail plate layers deforming the nails and sometimes thickening the nail plate. Often, it is accompanied by discoloration and unusual growth of the nails.

Nail splitting is commonly experienced in aged people as a result of slow growth of body cells and prolonged exposure to sun. However, it can also be diagnosed among the youths and women.

Split nails pictures causes, repair and treatment
Split nails Gallery

Causes-Horizontal, Vertical & at Nail Bed

Splitting of both your finger or toe nails is caused by surplus water on the nail surface. This results into a bulge that flattens on drying them in which on recurring may lead to nail cracking.

In most cases, this condition may be harmless; however you are advised to visit a health specialist as it can also be as a result of a serious underlying condition. General causes of loopy nails include the following;

Vitamin deficiency

Inadequate amounts of vitamin B complexes especially biotin and vitamin D lead to pigmentation and cracking of the nails plate. Additionally, insufficient amounts of vitamin A and D facilitate occurrence of soft nails a condition known as hapalonychia.

Ascorbic acid is another essential vitamin required by your body for medicinal purposes which include the healing of wounds, bone development and growth of healthy tissues. Moreover, it facilitates the growth of collagen which keeps the body cells stuck together. Its deficiency leads to the separation of the nail cells hence nail splitting.

In addition to vitamin deficiency, there are other nutritional requirements that when taken in small amounts will cause nail splitting. These include zinc and iron, a crucial component that helps in producing hemoglobin; the oxygen carrier.

Insufficient oxygen on the nail bed may lead to the cracking of your nails. When this occurs, the nails become weak and start flaking off the fingers and toes.

Moreover, inadequate proteins in your body lead to frail nails due to low amounts of keratin, an essential compound in the makeup of your nails. The quantity of protein to be consumed varies from one individual to the other depending on factors such as age, weight as well as activity level.  However, Lamella dystrophy due to protein deficiency is very rare unless the condition is very severe.


Hypothyroidism is a condition in which your thyroid glands produce insufficient thyroid hormones. Dr. Peter Osborne says that hypothyroidism is characterized by vertical white ridges on the nail beds, nail splitting and rough cuticles.

In this case, the hormones fail to efficiently reach the nail beds for the growth of the nail cells. Typically, this occurs mainly in females as compared to the males.

Further, studies have reported that there is a close relationship between strange appearance of the fingernails and a thyroid problem which include paronychia hypothyroidism. Thin and weak nails can also be as a result of the thyroid condition besides cracked nails.

Other causes

Lichen planus

This refers to a situation whereby your immune system attacks the skin cells or the mucous membrane, without any known reason. When this happens, you realize some small, red bumps with flat top which are sometimes accompanied by itching.[1]

When you are affected by this condition, splitting of nails on both the toe and finger nails may occur with different symptoms in different persons. These may include patch formation on the skin among others.

Causes of lichen planus are unknown. However, the American Academy of Dermatology suggests that it may be as a result of certain medication, compounds used in teeth filling or hepatitis B.


Fungal infections can also be accounted for cracked nails. They cause a change in color shape or the texture of the nails which on contact with some forces may flake off the nail beds. Nails with yellow fissures usually signify a fungal infection.

Besides yeast infections, persistent bacterial infections, viral warts and kidney diseases may also lead to cracked nails. You are advised to seek medication if you notice any colored faults on your nails despite them being painless to avoid worsening the situation especially in cases of infections.


Injuries on the toe or fingernails, as well as the skin cells around the nails may lead to onychoschizia. Friction especially between the nails and hard surface or shoes can also cause nail fissures.

Alternatively, when you are injured and experiencing internal bleeding you may as well develop cracks on your nails. In case of a wound, you are advised to be careful so as to prevent it from infections that may worsen the condition.

Moreover, frail nails are more prone to splitting when subjected to little forces as compared to the strong ones. For this case, you will realize slow growth and peeling particularly at the tip edges.

Excessive moisture or dryness

Dehydration caused by lack of sufficient moisture may result to nail splitting. This is commonly experienced during winter seasons.

On the other hand, prolonged exposure to moisture will lead to swelling of the cells which on sudden contraction will cause nail splitting. In addition, if your nails are exposed to moisture then a sudden shift to too dry region you are likely to experience Lamella dystrophy.

Exposure to harsh chemicals

When exposed to chemicals, nails absorb some components that eventually lead to cracking. These may include salts, alkalis and solvents that are mostly used in the manufacture of household cleaning materials.

Additionally, some nail polish removers especially those that contain acetone as well as nail polish and hardeners may cause nail splitting. You are therefore advised to use products with low quantities of acids and alkalis.

Why nail splitting horizontally (across the middle)

Horizontal nail splitting refers to a condition whereby the cracks occur on the sides of your nails. These cracks are also known as Beau’s lines and they symbolize a serious underlying health condition.

Generally, horizontal nail ridges are as a sign of thyroid disease, diabetes, syphilis or mumps as well as chemotherapy. Sometimes, you may observe some discoloration, (mostly black, brown or red) on the ridges. In this case, you are urged to visit your health specialist as this could be a sign of melanoma.[2]

Vertical-what makes fingernails to split down the middle

Vertical nail splitting describes a situation in which the fissures formed longitudinally; from the tip down to the nail bed of your nail. This kind of nail split is usually difficult to secure as it damages the nail’s root.

Mostly, vertical ridges are as a result of aging therefore no need to worry if you notice them. They may also become thicker or thinner and begin to split.

Presence of vertical splits may be a sign of vitamin deficiency as well as minerals such as calcium. Trauma can also cause vertical nail splits.

Why split nail at bed?

Sometimes you may notice a nail crack at the nail bed, a condition known as onycholysis. This is occasionally accompanied by pain and lots of discomfort signifying allergic reactions commonly caused by hair dyes.

Onycholysis is usually related to iron deficiency and occurs mostly if you are a victim of haemochromatosis; an inherited condition. This occurs mainly on the ring finger but you can experience it in any of your other fingers.

Repair & Treatment

Split nails can sometimes be painful and eventually you become prone to infections and therefore, repairing and treating them are of importance. The fixing method depends on certain factors such as the cause and whether the ridges are vertical or horizontal in structure.

The following are some of the steps you can take to repair split nails;

Use of nail polish or hardener

Mayo clinic suggests that you apply a shielding coat of a nail hardening agent as it will help increase their strength as well as removing the split.

Application of formaldehyde or hardeners that are made up of formaldehyde makes the repair more effective and easier. However, use of these compounds may lead to brittle nails hence advised that you visit a specialist for guidance.  Formaldehyde compounds are recommended for application on the growing end of the plate.

Additionally, acrylic hardeners can help reduce and eventually fix the cracks. Although, you should be careful when using these compounds as they may cause allergic reactions with your body cells.

The American Osteopathic College of Dermatology says that besides hardeners, nail polish with nylon fibers can also help harden the ridges and cracks on your nails. You are also advised to use clear nail prep at least once per week for better results.

Moisturize the nails

Often, cracked nails are caused by dryness and this can be rectified by use of a moisturizing agent so as to keep them wet. When keratin, a protein that holds and strengthens the cells on the surface of the nails, comes in contact with water or moisture, breaks down preventing further nail splitting.

On moisturizing your nails, the moisturizing agent or lotion is rubbed on the hands and nails making them wet and difficult to crack. The choice of a moisturizing agent greatly depends on its components.

You are therefore urged to choose those that contain various compounds which include; occlusives such as mineral oils that decrease the rate of moisture loss from the nails, proteins like keratin which is a building block of the nails that holds together the cells hence strengthening them and humectants.

Change of nutritional diet

Split nails that are as a result of nutrients deficiency can be fixed by increasing the intake of the inadequate compound in your body. You are therefore urged to look out for the deficit nutrient so as to know which foods to take for an advanced nutritional value diet.

In case of iron deficit, you are recommended to eat foods rich in iron mineral such as spinach, lean meat, white beans or lentils. Use of iron supplements may also help in boosting the iron levels in the body.

Moreover, Dana Stern, a dermatologist and clinical professor at Mt. Sinai school of Medicine says that biotin intake help in growth and development of strong nails that will eventually help in reducing the cracking of nails.  Intake of vitamin B complex supplements will also help in treating Lamella dystrophy.

Use of prescribed drugs

On determining the cause of the split nails, you can seek medication for treatment of the underlying condition. The use of antibiotics will help in treating fungal, viral and bacterial infections. Treatment of other conditions such as thyroid and psoriasis may help you get rid of onychoschizia.

Besides treatment, there are some home remedies that you can use to fix the split nails and these are as discussed below;

Use of tea tree oil

Tea tree oil has characteristic antiseptic and antibiotic properties that help in getting rid of fungal and bacterial infections. It is very effective in form of clotrimazole, a fungal prescription for nail fungus.[3] Moreover, it advances the look of your nails as well as increasing their growth rates.

You are urged to follow the following steps for better results;

  1. Prepare the nails before application by scrapping off dead cells and filing the infected parts then cleaning them using warm water and soap to remove dust and dirt.
  2. Put the oil in a bowl then soak cotton ball in the bowl and leave it absorb the oil. Press it gently on the affected nails holding it firmly to ensure that the oil comes out.
  3. Scrub the affected region with a small brush for the oil to penetrate deep to the affected cells.
  4. Let the oil dry naturally. Alternatively, you can deep the affected region in a solution containing the oil and some water.
  5. Repeat the steps at least twice daily for better results.

You are also advised to use a mixture the tea tree oil with a few drops of lavender oil so as to achieve the desired results. Observing personal hygiene will fasten the healing process by preventing re-infection.

Use of coconut oil

Coconut oil, extracted from mature flesh of coconut, is rich in carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals which are essential for the nails. It also possesses great moisturizing and strengthening properties that make it an excellent remedy for split nails and cuticles.

Moreover, coconut oil has antifungal properties that help in getting rid of fungus infections.[4] It also contains lauric acid that destroys bacteria, fungus and viruses. It interferes with the fat membrane of these microorganisms hence killing them.

Its ability to break through the skin and nails makes it essential for dealing with split nails as it can be easily absorbed into the nail and destroy most microorganisms in the inner cells. You can use coconut oil by rubbing it on the nails after cleaning the hands and toes.

Besides these, you can use either olive or castor oil for treating split nails. Mixing these oils with lemon juice or honey gives better results on your nails.

How to stop/prevent

Use of gloves

You are advised to wear gloves when dealing with harsh chemicals or water. Using cotton lined rubber gloves keeps the nails dry hence prevent breaking.

Practice good nail care

Well-groomed nails are healthy and strong. This includes filing your nail and ensuring that they remain clean and short to prevent formation of colonies for breeding of bacteria and fungi.

You are encouraged to avoid biting your nails as well as picking the cuticles. This will help in preventing nail deformation that can eventually cause nail splitting.

Use nail friendly polish

When using nail polish, ensure that they are free of harsh chemicals as well as dehydrating agents. Nail polishes that contain acetone absorb moisture from the cells hence cracking of the nails.

You are therefore encouraged to use polishes that contain nylon fibers and formaldehyde. Use of nail polish for many days is highly discouraged.

According to Dr. Ellen Marmur, associate clinical professor at Mt Sinai, some of the nail polishes contain hydroscopic compounds that take out moisture from the nails leaving them dry.

He therefore advises removal of the nail polish after about 5 days then stay for a few days before reapplication.

Use of moisturizing agents

You are advised to use moisturizing agents such as petroleum jelly and coconut oil to keep your nail wet. This prevents hands and nails from drying out.

Use of lotions such as Vaseline and Nivea will help keep your nails in a moisturized condition. Make sure you apply some oil on your hands immediately after washing them.


[1] https://www.medicinenet.com/lichen_planus/article.htm

[2] https://www.healthline.com/health/ridges-in-fingernails#causes-and-symptoms

[3] https://www.goodhealthacademy.com/how-to/tea-tree-oil-for-nail-fungus/

[4] https://theheartysoul.com/coconut-oil-for-nails-and-hair/

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