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Cracked Nails, Dry Brittle, Split Nails Causes, Risks, Symptoms Best Treatment Remedies, Repairs and Cures

How often do your valued clients complain about cracks in nails at your beauty salon or office? Depending on the real cause, nail cracking or splitting can be described in slightly varying ways.

Dry Splitted Cracked Nails
Dry Splitted Cracked Nails
  • Nail splitting (onychoschizia) can occur at the edges of the nails when the layers of the nail plate virtually splits into two leaving some kind of thin space in between
  • Anyone can experience and get vertical or horizontal split nails
  • Cracking can affect the whole nail layer where a thin line forms along the vertical tiny ridges occurring on toenail or fingernail

Cracking or splitting of either toenails or fingernails can be embarrassing and a shameful thing. But why does it occur? Read on to learn more on remedy, treatments, cracked nail repair and what to do for splitting nails.

Causes of cracked nails including split toenails or fingernails

What causes cracked nails? We have an insightful points to help you learn more about nail cracking or splitting. While some causes directly lead to cracking nails a few of the factors can lead to split or cracked nails.


Split toenail due to trauma-causing injury
Split toenail due to trauma-causing injury

Trauma to nails can result from repeated injury to your hands or the fingers themselves. Some of the common ways of trauma from physical injury include:

  • A hard blow
  • Habitual nail biting
  • Picking at the nail with another nail or some cruel tools
  • Scratching using sharp tools
  • Getting used to opening lids using fingernails
  • Ground digging especially in kids or children

Nail trauma normally leads to painful experiences especially during handling or washing. Common signs include:

  • Throbbing pain
  • Cracking or splitting
  • In severe damage cases the nail can separate from its bed
  • Abnormal colour (dark) or hematoma
  • The toenails may sometimes become thickened

Exposure to harsh chemicals or nail care products

Bearing in mind the permeability or ability to quickly absorb, exposing your nails to chemicals or products with damaging potential can cause splitting.

These chemicals or products include household cleaners, nail polish including polish removers.

Lichen planus

Lichen Planus can also cause cracked nails
Lichen Planus can also cause cracked nails

Another cause of splitting nails (fingernail or toenail) is lichen planus. There is possibility of lichen planus to develop on one part of body or multiple areas including (in mouth or on arms or nails or genitals, etc.)

Symptoms may vary greatly according to the areas or part of body that is affected. If the skin is involved some of the signs or symptoms include:

  • Plaques or patches on skin
  • Redness irritation
  • Formation of bumps
  • Itching
  • Pain in the genitals
  • Tiny dots in mouth

Besides nail splitting, thinning of the nails can occur. If your fingernails or toenails are affected you are equally at risk to lose the nails too.

The cause of lichen planus is not clear. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, however, below are some reasons thought to bring about its occurrence.

  • Certain medications such as those prescribed for patients with High Blood Pressure (HBP)
  • Material used in teeth filling
  • Hepatitis C

Hypothyroidism and nail splitting

Hypothyroidism nail symptoms
Hypothyroidism nail symptoms

Studies have shown there being a close connection between manifestations in finger/nails symptomatic of a problem with thyroid function. One of these is paronychia-hypothyroidism. According to Dr. Peter Osborne, classic features drawn after a diagnosis include:

  • Vertical white ridges on the fingernails
  • Rough cuticles
  • Nail splitting

Besides splitting nails, hypothyroidism can lead to thinning brittle nails which is also a fairly considerable problem.

Vitamin deficiency

Although this is a rare ailment on nails, a severe vitamin deficiency is sometimes indicative of spilt or cracked nails.

Spots on nails or small well-demarcated lines in the fingernails is one of the possible sign of s vitamin deficiency.

NOTE: Vitamin deficiency can be a problem for toddlers, children and adults.

Weak nails or brittle nails

Brittle cracked toe nails
Brittle cracked toe nails

Having weakened nails can easily lead to them

On the other hand brittle nails can also be another risk factor to splitting. People whose nails are brittle often exhibit some of these signs.

  • Peeling nails (esp. at the nail tip edges
  • Nails snapping easily with little force exerted
  • Slow growth

Common causes include medical reasons, malnutrition, very dry thin nails, infections or conditions such as Sjögren syndrome.

Excessive moisture

Though the nails require a certain percentage of moisture content, wetting them frequently makes them become weaker thus prone to cracking especially if they are longer than normal. People with naturally thinner fingernails or toenails tend to suffer more since their nail condition allows them become soft.

Wetting through washing frequently is another reason why people end up with peeling nails.


Fungal (yeast) infections affecting either the fingernails or toenails would change their texture, colour or shape. If texture or shape is interfered with, split nails may occur with time if there is little done to cure such infections.

Other infections or illness causing nails problems include:

  • Severe bacterial infections
  • Viral warts
  • Heart valve
  • Kidney disease

Nail manicure

Although a nail manicure is viewed as a basic care routine, how you do it could result to cracking.

Nail psoriasis

Signs of nail psorisis
Signs of nail psorisis

As a risk factor for nail splitting, nail psoriasis can produce varied symptoms depending on severity the condition. For instance, if you have nail psoriasis your nail growth could be suppressed, change the texture, color, cause inflammation or sometimes result to the separation of the nail bed from the fingers.

Furthermore, nail psoriasis can easily lead to infections that would worsen the symptoms.

Dry cracked nails

Dryness in fingernail or toenails can lead to serious splitting especially if your fingernails are breaking often than not. Exposure to water, harsh chemicals and your regimen type can easily rob of that little moisture leading to cracked fingernails.

How to fix dry cracked fingernails

If there are signs of infection such as redness or streaks of red lines in the fingernails, seek the right treatment after seeing your dermatologist.

Other great treatment tips for cracked nails include:

  • Hydrate with natural oils. Some of the best products to do the job include Shea butter, Jojoba oil, avocado oil, etc.
  • Immediately after washing, ensure you clip your fingernails especially if they are tough but have brittleness
  • You can alternatively use a hand cream for dry skin
  • Use protective gloves while working or if you have to do a lot of handling
  • Preventive tips such as trimming does help a lot. Ensure you leave a curving shape
  • Limit use of nail polish remover if you want to stop your nails from cracking in the future

Split toenails causes

Most of the above factors we have looked at can cause splitting nails. However, just to remind of the common culprits; illness and fungal infections, severe Iron or Biotin deficiency, nail trauma, exposure to harsh environmental conditions are reportedly leading causes.

Treatment for cracked or split nails

Treatment on one hand may be provided as a professional service depending on what really causes nail splitting or cracking.

On the other hand there are a good number of things to do if there is something like a risk factor that leads to the problem. These include getting cure for each specific reason:

  • Seeing a nutritionist for a possible vitamin deficiency tests or diagnosis
  • Your nutritionist or health care provider will give you further details on what you can do with your diet in terms of foods you should target and consume in the right amounts
  • Sometimes vitamin supplements such as Gelatin capsules are a great deal
  • Avoiding the known triggers such as solvents or chemicals with potential damaging ingredients
  • Keeping the fingernails or toenails dry
  • Healthy eating is another general but tip for good looking fingernails or toenails
  • Addressing medical causes such as thyroid problems

Best treatment for split nails – nail repair

Do you want the best methods or treatments to get rid of the problems leading or causing nails splitting? First, acknowledge you have a nail problem then see a dermatologist or nutritionist to help you identify it.

Some of the best ways of treating split nails have a foundation built on nail repair which include the following.

1.      Nail strengthener

Correct nail strengthener can help stop nail cracking
Correct nail strengthener can help stop nail cracking

Nail strengthening like any other beauty practice is as good or more or less nurturing your skin. Something note-worthy in this method of treatment that makes it exceptional is keeping the qualities of nails as natural as possible.

Use of nail strengthener is one of the super nail treatment for cracking or splitting nails. This method offers a perfect condition for those individuals with soft, fragile or rather weakened nails. The condition includes the physical protection and growth factor.

Before you go to request for a nail strengthener, build a good foundation regarding the quality, composition or formulation. Even though, here are tips to guide you on how to get the best out of nail strengthening.

  • Know in and out your type of fingernails or toenails. (Take your overall health into consideration or where possible, consult an expert before treatment)
  • Do you have a medical condition that may be leading to your nail problem to develop?
  • Some products used in treatment or nail manicure can potentially produce allergic reactions
  • Allergic reactions and medications can therefore favor or affect nail treatments negatively
  • Nail strengtheners should be used every day for best results to surface

CAUTION: If a nail strengthener formulation is inappropriate for your specific needs, you may end up with brittle nails.

2.      Keep your fingers off the culprits

If there is no perfect cure for split nails of yours yet the case are avoidable, in one way or the other that is simple and simply the best help for cracked nails.

3.      Avoid certain nail treatments

Nail hardening products with dehydrating ingredients can potentially worsen your nail condition given that its formulation cannot fit the specific qualities of your nails. This would eventually lead them to even splitting further.

Hardening products with Acrylate are often recommended for nail splitting. However, according to Skinsight Web site, acrylate can potentially cause allergic reaction in skin.

Cracked nail remedies or how to naturally repair split nails

Fingernail cracking can create a stumbling block to realizing your beauty in cosmetics. You have not lost all so don’t worry if you are still young. You can slowly but progressively reach the other end by repair and restring what your nails has seemingly lost.

Top remedy help for cracked nails include:

  1. Apple cider vinegar application especially when there are signs of fungal infection
  2. Tea tree oils especially when combined with Lavender oil or some herbal oils can help deal with inflammation due to bacterial entry
  3. Stop wearing flip-flops and prioritize first in hydration
  4. Stop nail biting
  5. Step up your efforts on personal hygiene
  6. Limit or give up yourself to home manicures

Unfortunately, you necessarily need to go back to the drawing board and this for sure requires patience since your nails take approximately 3 months to regrow from the cuticle to reach your fingertips.

Bad effects of nail cracking or splitting

Besides other abnormalities in nail formation, splitting or cracking can lead to the following.

1.      Infections

Certain infections of the fingernail or toenail can give an easy lee-way to an infection. One of the nail infections seen as a result of splitting is Paronychia nail infection.

2.      Loss of nails

Loss of the affected nails can be beyond repair or permanent loss depending on the causes of split nails such as nail bed injury that is not recoverable.

3.      Chronic illness

This is usually associated with nail psoriasis or paronychia nail infection.

Damaged nails after cracking? Here is what to consider

Slit toenails and fingernails can become damaged if you do nothing about it. One of the conditions that can worsen nail splitting is nail psoriasis, infection and continued exposure to chemicals.

  • Damaged nail repair on prescription treatments. This is normally costly but achievable if done timely before your nails are badly damaged
  • Damaged nails can sometimes be removed if they become less worthy of any cosmetic significance

Both nail cracking and splitting can be a challenge to not only to those investing in cosmetics but also clients themselves.

You may also like 
  1. Nail Strengtheners: What’s in the Bottle? http://www.nailsmag.com/article/40021/nail-strengtheners-whats-in-the-bottle
  2. Paronychia Nail Infection: http://www.aocd.org/?page=ParonychiaNailInfe
  3. Nail Trauma: https://www.drugs.com/health-guide/nail-trauma.html
  4. Nail abnormalities: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003247.htm
  5. Quick Tips: 5 Ways to Treat Cracked Nails: http://health.howstuffworks.com/skin-care/nail-care/tips/5-ways-to-treat-cracked-nails.htm
  6. Nail psoriasis: http://www.dermnetnz.org/topics/nail-psoriasis/. Accessed on 20th March 2016.
  7. Lichen planus: https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/rashes/lichen-planus

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