Effective tips to prevent splitting of finger and toe nails

When nail health deteriorates, nail strength weakens which causes dryness, brittleness and nail splitting. This article explains the various causes responsible for nail splitting or onychoschizia. By following preventive measures, we can maintain nail health and stop them from splitting.

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Splitting of nails is a common problem. Nails display crack formation. Split nails are also known as onychoschizia. Nails can split vertically or horizontally. Sometimes they split near the tip area. In some cases, the split can separate the nail into two. Most of the times, nail splitting is an asymptomatic condition. It gets healed on its own. Only in certain cases, it can become painful and require surgical intervention and drugs to heal the discomfort. It is common for fingernails to break or split occasionally. It is because hands are frequently used to run various errands. In the process, nails may get injured or come in contact with so many objects that can cause wear and tear on them. Thus, if a finger or toenail is showing small or large split occasionally, it is not a matter of big concern. However, if it is recurringly displaying splitting, there is some underlying cause beneath it. Follow below-mentioned tips to maintain nail health and prevent nails from splitting.

Why should onychoschizia not be avoided?

Onychoschizia is a term used to describe dry, brittle nails which often split. It is a common problem faced by many. Thus, it is overlooked in the majority of cases. Nails dryness and brittleness is a common issue. It can be due to too much exposure to moisture, chemicals or due to underlying nutritional deficiencies and diseases. Nail dryness causes splitting of nails. If nails split frequently, it is better to not overlook the issue. Take proper care and follow preventive measures to stop them from splitting. Also, a split may get caught between the objects which may further cause chipping and deepen splitting. To prevent further worsening of the condition and turning it into symptomatic one, it is better to take measures to treat the condition and prevent it in future.

Causes of split nails

There are many causes and factors responsible for the splitting of nails. Some of them are explained below.

  • Nutritional deficiency-
    Diet low in biotin can cause splitting of nails. Biotin is essential in maintaining nail health. In its deficiency, nails weaken and become prone to breakage and splits. A diet which is low in vitamin A, C, iron and collagen can also cause nails to split.
  • Overexposure to moisture-
    Too much exposure to water and moisture which usually takes place during washing clothes and utensils can soften the skin surrounding the nails. It weakens nails and causes splitting. Swimmers are also at high risk of suffering from split nails. Keeping hands unprotected during extremely cold weather also causes splitting. Also, too regular application of nail paints can soften the nails. Consequently, nail health deteriorates. They become brittle which in turn result in splitting or breaking of nails.
  • Exposure to chemicals-
    When we do dishes, laundry or house cleaning, we use a variety of cleaning products. There are lots of chemicals in them which are mainly toxic. They are not good for hands and nail health. Some of them are salts, acids, alkalis and solvents. Thus, coming in repetitive contact with such harmful chemicals can decrease nail strength and cause them to split.
  • Nail trauma-
    Trauma can damage the nail bed or tip and result in nail splitting. When compared with toenails, fingernails are commonly affected by the injury. They may be caught under the doors. Depending on the intensity of trauma, small or large split develops. Sometimes, the trauma can be so severe that it can affect the nail bed. Those individuals who frequently wear fake nails are also at high risk.
  • Nail-biting and picking-
    Nail-biting is a common habit. Similarly, lots of people have the habit of nail picking. Nail-biting and picking can exert too much physical stress on nails. Consequently, they start splitting or breaking. It is because frequent nail-biting and picking can decrease the nail strength.
  • Nail infections-
    Hands are used frequently to carry out various tasks. Not maintaining proper hand and nail hygiene can cause various harmful germs to hide under nails. Thus, nail beds become prone to bacterial, fungal and yeast infections. Consequently, nail health gets deteriorated. It weakens them and causes breakage and splitting of nails.
  • Nail diseases-
    Nail health may also decline due to underlying diseases of skin and body. These diseases can affect nail, weaken it and causes it to split. Some of them are diseases of liver, kidney, thyroid and skin cancer. Nail psoriasis can also commonly weaken, thicken and cause splitting of nails.

Severe case of nail splitting

As described earlier, splitting of nails is common. They can be treated at home by following certain tips and measures. However, in some individuals, splitting of nails can turn into a serious condition. Such individuals should immediately consult the doctor and take proper treatment for it. If the nail is discoloured to purple or blue and if the nail bed is displaying white colour, consult the doctor immediately. If split nails have become symptomatic and so painful that it is difficult to carry out tasks with hands then wait no more and seek proper treatment. Apart from these symptoms, also look for other signs such as ingrown nails, distorted nails and the appearance of horizontal ridges on the surface. In certain cases, the nail may split so severely that it may extend into the nail bed. In such cases, surgical intervention is necessary. Nail is removed and the nail bed is stitched. Nail is reattached using stitches or glue.

How to maintain nail health and prevent splitting of nails

There are various ways through which splitting of nails can be prevented. Some of them are listed below.

  • Try to avoid causing injury to nails by working with extra caution. Wear protective gloves when dealing with harsh chemicals. Work with precaution when lifting a heavy object. When closing doors or windows, do not let fingers or nails get caught between them. Even while working outdoors and in gardens, wear gloves. Protect hands and nails from thorns, scissors, sharp objects and other equipment.
  • Stop biting nails. Also, do not pick nails or surrounding skin. Refraining from these habits can prevent splitting of nails to a large extent. Be careful with hangnails or ingrown nails. Do not pull them.
  • Maintain good nail hygiene and boost nail health. Always keep them free from germs and visual dirt. Wash hands and feet with gentle soaps or cleansers which are free from harsh chemicals. Regularly scrub nails from the top as well as under using a nail scrubber.
  • Do not keep nails too long as they will be subjected to constant wear and tear. It, in turn, will increase the risk of splitting. Regularly cut or trim them. Do not file them when they are dry. Also, whether it is trimming or filing, do it with a gentle hand. Nail tips should be rounded.
  • Get rid of nail irregularities as soon as they appear on the tips with the help of a nail file. Ignoring splits or cracks initially can lead to their further deepening. Large nail splits become problematic. Thus, get rid of all the irregularities as soon as they appear on nails.
  • Avoid overexposing hands or feet to water or moisture. Do not keep hands and legs in water for a longer time. Keep them dry. Wear gloves and protect nails and surrounding skin, especially when cleaning dishes, washing clothes and using harsh chemical agents.
  • Take good care of nails. Keep them covered with good moisturizing lotion. Also, apply it on cuticles. Apply petroleum jelly on nails before going to bed. Instead of purchasing moisturizers from the market, we can also apply coconut or olive oil on finger and toenails as these oils do have moisturizing property.
  • Occasionally pamper nails by going for manicure and pedicure treatments. In case, do not want to spend money, massage them at the home. Massaging fingers and nails increase the blood circulation and improve nail health which in turn prevents nail splitting. Soak fingers and toes in warm water mixed with essential oils and sea salts. Do this thrice a week for 15 minutes.
  • Use nail polish and nail paint remover only occasionally. Refrain from using these nail products too frequently. Do not exceed the use of nail polish remover for more than once a week. Make sure to purchase acetone-free nail polish removers or use nail wipes which are made up of natural oils. Never apply nail polish without a protective base coat underneath it. If the base coat is not applied, harsh chemicals in nail polish in long run may weaken nails.
  • Do not always wear fake nails. Though fake nails look attractive and trendy, there is always a risk of causing an injury to nails which can weaken and split them.
  • Increase biotin-rich foods in daily diets such as eggs, salmon, healthy nuts and avocado. Or else take biotin supplements with doctor's prescription to strengthen nails. Follow a diet rich in minerals and vitamins.
  • Apply nail hardening products to strengthen nails. These products form a protective layer on them and prevent them from splitting and breaking. However, do not overuse them. It is because excessive use may cause nail dryness dry which in turn can cause splitting of nails.

More articles: Nail health Onychoschizia


Author: Umesh Chandra Bhatt19 Jun 2020 Member Level: Silver   Points : 3

In conditions of gout and arthritis sometimes the nails start to break and sometimes even start to become powder like at the ends. Medical experts advise calcium or other supplements in such conditions. Some people get this condition only in the dry winter season especially when there is dust settled on feet for long times while walking. In any case if our nails start getting brittle then we must consult a qualified doctor and also take care in protecting them.

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