Why do fingernails split? My name is Clare, my online business is lovely hands. I am a trained beauty therapist and nail technician with a few nail split issues to manage myself. As healthy natural nails are my passion I have worked hard to find workable treatments that help me improve the nail split issues I have so that they are barely there anymore. If one reappears I have all the know how and treatments to manage the split quickly and get my nails back to their best.
There are a few different ways that finger nails split and I will cover each in turn.
- Why do my nails split vertically?
- Why do my nails split horizontally?
- Why do my nails split in layers?
1. Why do my nails split vertically?
This photo is of a split on my right hand, ring finger. It’s a long standing frenemy of over 10 years, that I have to be aware of and work with to get the best from it. So why did my nail split down the middle? I think it was a heavy bout of DIY using a mechanical sander on ceiling beams in my bedroom. I will have banged the nail matrix (white half moon area at the top of the nail by the cuticle) against something and this caused the irreparable damage that then shows itself as a vertical nail split. It is possible to zoom in on the picture in the half moon area at the top of the nail and see a purple mark, sometimes I can see the whole length of the faint split on the pink nail bed area, before it appears most strongly on the white tip. The only time this becomes an issue is when the split is on the white free edge of the nail as its vulnerable here to catching and pulling apart.
The answer to ‘Why do my nails split vertically?‘ in my opinion is going to be that at some point in the past you too have banged the nail matrix on that finger and have damaged it, as I did. You might be able to point to that moment in time or not, it doesn’t matter, but I am sorry to say that is it and you will need to find ways to live with the new nail split frenemy in your life. My suggestions are in the article below after I have shared information on all the different types of nail split.
2. Why do my nails split horizontally?
I think horizontal nail splits occur for 2 reasons, either weakness and softness in the nail or brittleness in the nail. These conditions are very different from each other and can have something to do with the internal ageing process and / or our underlying health.
As individuals age our bodies systems slow down and do not repair themselves as fast as they did in our youth, this can have noticable effects our skin and nails. Our diet might have become restricted and need supplementing with specific nutrition that boosts growth and repair, more later, but nails can become soft and weak for this reason – lack of specific nutrition or the bodies high demand for that nutrition or its inability to metabolise certain nutrients.
Medication for health conditions also needs to be considered, I always hear about nail issues appearing from nowhere in people on Thyroxine, for an underactive thyroid for example. Soft and weak nails just about make it to the free edge (the white bit) but not much beyond.
The opposite to weak and soft nails are nails that are overly thick, strong and brittle. People might wish for this type of nail if their nails are soft and weak but I have to say that overly strong, brittle nails tear viciously and always on the join of the pink nail bed and the free edge (the white bit), leaving the person shocked, a throbbing fingertip and blood behind on occasion. Many people find, with age, that their toe nails get thicker and more brittle with age, some poeple are getting the same happening on their hands.
The answer to ‘Why do my nails split horizontally?’ in my opinion is going to be down to age, nutrition, medication and lack of oil (more later, either applied topically to the nails and / or ingested in the diet).
3. Why do my nails split in layers?
Nails splitting in layers, otherwise known as peeling or flaking nails. Typically nails start peeling on the white free edge, and as people like to pick, bite and generally fiddle with irritating things the smooth surface of the nail will get roughed up as the layers start to get torn off, even back onto the pink area of the nail over the nail bed. These nails will look like they belong to a nail biter.
Why do nails peel or flake? I think it happens as a result of a combination of the 2 points above;
- Physical damage but this time on a more minor but repetitive day to day level (washing up in hot water with no gloves on, opening flick up metal tin can lids or cardboard boxes with our nails, poor quality nail file)
- A lack of oil being retained in the nail itself due to the aging process and frequently washing hands (and not applying nail oil/ hand cream) which depletes what oil is present.
The answer to ‘Why do my nails split in layers?’ in the main will come down to a lack of oil in the nail which will bind the nail layers together and not using your finger nails as general tools around the kitchen. I absolutely will not wash up with out gloves, I use a knife to slide under the metal can tabs, and a knife or scissors for cardboard. ‘Your nails are jewels not tools’ said my nail technician tutor and if you adopt this mantra you may see some swift results.
Clare@lovelyhands.co.uk ‘s solutions to these nail issues.
I have personally experienced nail splits and peeling and I have been very creative with my ideas to try to resolve these issues. I have had clients with the horizontal split issues and I have worked through their options with them gaining valuable insights and resuilts for them. The ladies with thick, brittle nails are the hardest to get to do anything in my experience, they seem very proud of their tough nails and the tearing that happens on occasion.
Nailtiques used to offer Protein Formulas which helped a great many people’s nails, but the brand, from the official source, has been unavailable for over 2 years. This is why I have been working on other suggestions for people as I know there is true demand out there. Click here for why nailtiques will not be back. Register for my mailing list for the new nailtiques protein formula substitute brand here, email@example.com
28th January 2022 – Exciting update, I will have the new Protein Formulas for Nails range mid next week! You can pre order and pay on my website now, follow this link. Click here for new Protein Formula for Nails.
- Everyone should be using a nail oil or moisturiser specific to nails a couple of times a day minimum, it will get absorbed even through layers of acrylic, gel or normal nail polish. As we age we need to supplement the nails own ability to produce oil by rubbing some in on a regualr basis. The massage action will stimulate nail growth. Nail oil, balm or creme will benefit all nail types by adding flexibility and resilience to the nail, as well as a healthy sheen. Oil adds strength to soft weak nails, it adds the lacking moisture and condition to the dry, hard, brittle nails. If you have nail splits its the No. 1 thing you can do to keep the split down the middle of the nail from splitting at the free edge. Click here for nail oils, balms and cremes.
- Wear gloves for washing up / cleaning and find tools to help you open tins, boxes etc… Click here for these gloves.
3. Consider taking a nail specific nutritional supplement, I sell Nature’s Aid Hair, Skin & Nails formula which contains the key ingredients Biotin, Silica and Zinc. It takes your nails 3-6 months to grow down from nail matrix to tip so you will need to commit to taking the tablets daily. I have heard good things about the benefits of Vitamin D supplements on the nails, and I try to remember to take it daily, pick some up at a pharmacy or supermarket. Click here for the nail supplement.
5. Apply a nail treatment product suited to your nail type, I currently have Orly and Jessica products, and from January 2022 I will have the new Protein Formula for Nails range which aims to plug the massive pent up demand left by nailtiques. Register for my mailing list here, firstname.lastname@example.org
6. Applying Micropore or silk to a nail treatment product whilst it is still wet will cover a vertical split and give the nail some strength and protection to grow out. To help support a torn nail I have used silk and / or micropore tape. I get the silk or micropore cut to size beforehand, I apply 1 coat of Orly, or Jessica, whilst it is drying apply the sticky side of the silk or tape and slide into place. Let it dry and paint another coat of Orly or Jessica over the top to seal it. It is pretty much invisible after it has product covering it. If you can get the Orly or Jessica product into the split then do, either by gently lifting the split, or by making it a bit wider with thin cotton or floss. Be very careful and gentle with your nail.
7. Keep the nail under a few layers of acrylic or gel applied and removed by a professional. This will not fix the split but it will offer the damaged nail a protective cover and allow it to appear the same length as the rest of your nails
8. If you look at the photo’s of my nails on this blog you will see that I don’t file up the sides of the nail, I keep the nail fully intact, I believe overly filing creates more work in the long run and keeping your nails as close to how they naturally grow makes for an easy life and low maintenance. With regards to a vertical split down the middle of the nail, if the nail is fully supported on both sides it maintains the pressure across the nail, keeping it constant and potentially pushing the nail together supporting the split. Click here for nail file and cuticle pusher £1.50.
I hope you have found this useful, I look forward to helping you with your shopping experience.