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What Causes Fingernails To Split Down The Middle & The Fixes

If you are wondering what has caused your fingernails to split down the middle, but you are not quite sure what has caused this to happen then read on.

In this article, I’d like to outline to you the reasons in why this may have happened (so that you can prevent it from happening again in the future) and present to you how you can go about restoring your nails to their vibrant and strong natural health. I’d like to provide you with the effective and recommended strategies that are used by the most reputable dermatologists practicing in the field.

Here’s the short version of this article and quick answer to this question: Fingernails can split, both horizontally and vertically, for a number of different or accompanying reasons. These are the main and most common causes of nail splitting and brittle nails: lifestyle factors, cosmetic product usage, health implications, nutritional insufficiencies and trauma.  

Nail Splitting Variations

It is first crucial to identify the different forms of nail splitting:

Onychoschizia (Onychoschisis or Lamellar Dystrophy): Are the medical terms for Nails that split horizontally – i.e. they split down/up the nail (and through the middle). This is detectable when nails appear brittle and soft.

Whilst it is common that the splitting stops there, it is possible that you can also suffer from Vertical Splitting.

Onychorrhexis: Is the medical term given for Vertically and Longitudinal split nails.

The other term in which you should be aware of, and may be used and referenced to is:

Brittle Nail Syndrome: This is where Nails split both Horizontally and Vertically.

Now whilst there is different terminology that discusses the appearance of the splitting, the causes are the same. I would now like to outline the main causes and provide some further context as to each one.

What Causes Fingernails To Split Down The Middle

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, nail splitting can and does occur for a multitude of reasons.

For the majority of you reading, the cause of your split nails is mostly due to your lifestyle habits and cosmetic products that you use (both used directly on your nails and also for other areas of your body).

The lifestyles that we lead often require us to unintentionally neglect our nail health, or cause implications to their natural environment.

For example, a lot of nail products and cosmetics are often loaded with harsh chemicals which deplete the natural and essential oils that are nails produce to protect them. Frequently washing our hands and drying them also causes the nails to dry out and become brittle.

Thankfully, through a small number of lifestyle and product changes/swaps, we can restore our nails in a relatively small amount of time. For the most of you reading, its fully in your control.

Medical and Nutritional deficiencies whilst possible causes, are a lot more rare and only effect a small percentage of the population with this condition. However, to some of you reading, it is important to note that this may be the case. If you suspect this to be the cause, I would recommend that you visit your doctor first and foremost.

Let’s now take a look at the most common causes in further detail, before I provide the recommendations to restore nails back to their healthy state.


Trauma occurs when you accidentally hit or knock your nails, apply to much pressure to them, or pick them. It can cause cause your nails to become weak and split. This is because when they experience trauma, the nail bed actually damages and weakens. Your nails can split both horizontally and vertically depending on the nature of the trauma and the extent of the damage.

Regular Washing/Drying Hands

Did you know that your nail splitting may be the cause of simply too much washing and drying – particularly if you reach for the soap every time. Regular washing and drying actually causes your nails to dry out and loose their natural oils and moisture. If your job regularly requires you to work with water then this may be the culprit, or if you are guilty of regularly washing your hands for hygiene purposes.

Cosmetic Products

The majority of cosmetic products – both nail and other products (body washes, soaps, hair products, makeup) contain a number of chemicals and other ingredients which are known to irritate, dry out, and cause a weakening of your nails. Regarding the cosmetic products that you may be applying to your nails directly and ones to be particularly wary of are acetone-based nail polish removers, nail hardeners, and nail polishes (Read more: Best Nail Polish Removers for Weak Nails)

Cleaning/ Household Products

A lot of household cleaning products can also be to blame which contain a lot of chemicals and other harsh ingredients which do no good for our nails and in fact will weaken them over time.

Nutritional Deficiencies

If your diet is lacking in the right abundance of healthy foods, and is low in essential Vitamins and Minerals, then your body will not have the building blocks to help you grow long, strong and healthy nails. You need to be consuming ample Protein, alongside making sure that you get all of the B-Vitamins (including Folic Acid), Vitamin C, Vitamin A and Iron. A natural diet of whole-foods is a great place to start to ensure you get all of your nutritional requirements.

Health Problems

As I have mentioned and although being relatively uncommon, your dry and brittle nails could be due to a number of health conditions. Examples of these which are known to cause brittle nails are: fungal infections, an under-active Thyroid, Diabetes and more. (Read More: Best Over the Counter Fungal Treatments).

Nail Splitting Fixes & Recommendations

As a Nail Technician and Manicurist, I have seen some pretty severe cases of Nail Splitting in our Salon, and I have also been able to understand and identify the best fixes and steps that should be taken to help treat the underlying root cause of the issue. You don’t just want to ‘mask’ the split, you want to undertake the proactive steps to remove the cause, build the strength of your nails and also prevent it from happening once more in the future.

In my experience, and having researched and discussed the following with a range of Dermatologists (so that I could provide useful and actionable advice to my clients) these are the most effective and best fixes for splitting nails; these will help to address and protect you from the causes as listed above.

1. Apply Chemical-Free Nail Restoration Products

If your nails have split, then the best and most effective way to help restore them is to apply reputable, chemical-free nail restoration products to your nails. These products have been scientifically formulated to provide absolutely everything that your nails need to thrive once more.

You have a range of options open to you, and depending on the extent of the damage or state of your nails, you may only need one (or all three of the following):

Cuticle Oils

A Reputable Cuticle Oil is one of most effective products that you apply to your nails – especially those that are frequently exposed to cold, sunlight, chlorine, or soaps and hand products. Applying cuticle oils to your nails daily (best applied before bed) has a host of benefits including: increasing circulation to your nails to promote growth, defending nails from trauma and chemicals, approving their appearance and restoring your nails by providing the oils they need to grow.

I wrote an article of the Best Cuticle Oils on the subject, but the best all natural, chemical free Cuticle Oil that I use and recommend is the Bee Naturals Enriched Vitamin Cuticle Oil. It contains an abundance of Vitamin E which has been discovered to be crucial for growth, whilst also being anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal.

Nail Growth Serums

Nail Growth Serums are similar to Cuticle Oils in the respect that they aim to improve the health of your nails by improving their environment. Nail growth serums differ because they contain a wider abundance of Vitamins and Minerals specifically associated with Nail Growth.

Like choosing an effective Cuticle Oil, you will want to find one without harsh and nasty chemicals and are specially formulated to provide long term nail health. Here’s some of the best Serums that are available.

Nail Repair Products

Finally, another excellent line of products that are open to you if you have weak, brittle and splitting nails are Nail Repair Products. Now these are probably more appropriate to you than the other two products above because they essentially combine the formulations of Cuticle Oils and Serums together. My personal favorite which I have used to great success is Trinds Natural Nail Repair but you can checkout my experiences here.

2. Choose Natural Versions of Products

Aswell as investing in products that will help to restore the damage now that you have peeling and splitting nails, you should also invest in products that will prevent the issue from occurring in the first place. The majority of Nail Polish Removers with Acetone, and other products contain harmful ingredients which will damage your nail plate, especially with excessive or regular usage. To help protect your nails without neglecting them and turning your back on beautiful nail designs, you should always inspect and review the ingredients that are included in your nail products before purchasing.

This is exactly what I do and recommend to my clients. Here’s a couple of articles I have written on the subject:

Best Nail Polish Remover For Weak Nails – What The Professionals Use…

Best Nail Hardener Without Formaldehyde

3. Improve Your Diet

This recommendation and fix assumes that you are not currently eating a healthy diet; but even if you believe you are, you still may be missing out on a host of essential Vitamins and Minerals that are critical for strong nails with do not peel, crack, or split.

Include healthy vegetables and fruits and proteins in your diet; all of which provide the building blocks that your body needs to rebuild tissue (including your nails).

One product that I swear by for improving my nail health, increasing the growth rate and strength is Collagen. Collagen provides the unique blend of Amino Acids that help to build your nails. Collagen has a lot of positive reviews and is one of the most popular dietary supplements in 2018 for promoting nail and hair growth.

I am always on the lookout to increase my natural nail length and strength so I just had to give this a try following such glowing reviews. I purchased the Collagen Peptides Supplement and since using this daily, after about 2 weeks I noticed that my nails had grown quite considerably, around 1.5x-2x faster! They also appeared to be a lot stronger.

4. Wear Gloves

Invest in a good pair of gloves and wear them before you undertake household chores, or for tasks that need frequent washing and drying of hands. This will help you to cut down the need to wash and dry your hands.

Regular Rubber gloves are actually very useful for protecting your hands and nails. I actually recommend that you use them anytime you clean, do your laundry, wash dishes or during other times that also expose your nails to water and chemicals (such as cleaning products).

5. Do Not Bite Your Nails

It might not sound it, or you may not feel this is a real issue, but biting your nails is inflicting direct trauma upon them. It actually causes cellular damage which can prevent them from growing strong and causing them to crack.

How to Fix Your Broken Nail

Here’s a great simple and easy trick and technique to treat your split nail right away.

Step 1: Preparing Your Nail

To prepare your nail you need to clean it and remove any nail polish. You are essentially returning your nail to its natural clean state. Apply a natural nail polish remover to a cotton ball and use this cotton ball to remove your nail polish and any other debris. Be sure that your nail is completely clean. If you leave the cotton ball on each nail for 15 seconds, this should suffice so that the polish can easily be swiped away.

Step 2:  Use a Teabag

Yes, a Teabag. Cut the top of the bag and throw away the tea leaves. Then, line up the tea bag to your nail and cut accordingly so that the tea bag matches the shape of your nail.

Step 3: Apply a Base coat

From here, you will then apply a thin layer of base coat to your nail.

With the base coat is still wet and hasn’t yet dried, apply the nail shaped teabag cutout directly ontop of your nail. Ensure that tea bag cutout covers over your nail split. Smoothen the tea bag  onto the nail and remove any air bubbles. Leave it 5 minutes whilst it dries.

Step 4: The Polish Layer.

Apply a thin layer of clear nail polish on top of the tea bag once it has dried. Again, wait for this coat to dry (around 5 minutes or so).

Step 5: File

Using a Nail File, remove any of the tea bag paper over your nail. This will ensure that the tea bag is only over the split part of the nail and nowhere else.

Finally, apply one more layer of clear nail polish and let it completely dry. Once this has dried off, you can then apply regular colored nail polish if required.

Step 6: Success

From here, nobody will ever be able to notice you broke your nail! Only until you remove your polish that is!

Final Words

Split nails can not only not look very nice, but they can also be quite painful. Hopefully through this article, you now understand the causes of nail splitting in the first place, and some of the recommended fixes to overcome them. Remember, prevention is always better than cure so be sure to look after your nails and stock up on reputable chemical free nail and cosmetic products.

If you liked this article, please drop a comment below. I’d love to hear your comments, thoughts and experiences.

1 thought on “What Causes Fingernails To Split Down The Middle & The Fixes”

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