Splits are a common problem for people with brittle nails. They occur when the nail breaks down in the middle, leaving two sections of nail sticking out at either end in a “V” shape. When this happens, it’s important to understand that there are various treatments available to help heal and fix your splits. But which one will work in your case? We’ve prepared a guide with everything you need to know about split nails causes and treatment plans.
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Causes of Splits
As the name suggests, splits are nails cracked down the middle. They are often hard to repair because they run deep within the nail plate.
One of the more common causes of split nails is an issue called onychorrhexis. This is the brittleness of the nail plate that usually affects older women more than men. It can lead to more severe conditions such as onychoschizia, which distorts the shape and strength of the nails.
Weakening of the nails
Another possible cause of splits is weakening caused by trauma to the nail. This can happen suddenly when you hit your toe on something or can be a chronic issue due to either wearing tight shoes that push down on your nails or using your hands in harsh environments. Trauma can make the natural layers in the nail plate separate, allowing air and water to get underneath. It causes the nails to break off or split.
Dehydration can also lead to splits. When your body doesn’t have enough water, it starts pulling moisture from your tissues, including your nails. This makes them weak and more prone to breaking.
Frequent hair styling
If you frequently style your hair with hot tools such as a flat iron, curling iron, or blow dryer, splits can be an issue for you. The heat from these tools weakens the nail plate and makes it more likely to crack down the middle.
Nail polish is another cause of splits because it can trap water underneath the nail plate, making them more brittle and prone to breaking apart. This is especially true for acrylic nail polishes that are often thick and hard to remove.
Allergies can also cause splits, most commonly to nickel and formaldehyde. If you suspect that your nail issue is related to allergies, talk with your doctor about allergy testing and treatment options.
Lastly, nutritional deficiencies can also lead to splits, especially vitamin B12, iron, and zinc deficiencies. If you are not getting the nutrients your body needs, your nails will start to show it.
Signs You Need to See a Doctor Immediately
Changes in color
Darkening of the nail or a dark streak down the centre is a sign that you may have a fungal infection. Fungi thrive in the dark, moist area and can quickly spread to affect other nails as well. If you notice a color change, contact your dermatologist right away to get treatment before the fungus spreads.
Thickening of the nail
If your nails are becoming thicker and more difficult to cut, it could also signify a fungal infection. As the fungus grows, it will thicken the nail plate and make it harder to trim or file.
Yellowing of the nails
A yellowish hue to the nails can be a sign of a fungal infection, but it can also signal a more serious problem, such as liver disease. If you notice that your nails are starting to turn yellow, see your doctor right away for diagnosis and treatment.
Pitting or ridges on the nails
Ridges or pits on your nails can signal psoriasis. This is a skin condition that causes red scaly patches, and it can also affect your nails, making them appear pitted and uneven. Psoriasis is typically not painful, but if you have other symptoms such as fatigue or dryness in addition to splits, psoriasis is a likely diagnosis.
Brittle, soft or crumbly nails
If your nails are brittle and break easily, it could indicate a lack of essential nutrients. A vitamin B12, iron, or zinc deficiency can make your nails weak and prone to splitting. See your doctor to get tested for deficiencies and find out if you need to take supplements.
Swelling and redness around the nails
If you are experiencing swelling or redness around your nails, it could be a sign of infection. A bacterial infection will cause the area around the nail to become red, swollen, and tender to the touch. If you notice this, see your doctor.
Cracked or splits that cause pain and discomfort
Cracks and splits in the nail can lead to more serious fungal and bacterial infections. If you have pain associated with the split, it is also a cause for concern because these types of nails are particularly susceptible to infection.
Nails that have a curved shape or deformities along the nail plate
If you already have thin nails, a large curve in your nail can be a sign of a lung disease such as emphysema or chronic bronchitis. If you have any other unusual symptoms, in addition to splits, see your doctor for an evaluation.
The best treatment for split nails
If you are experiencing splits, the best treatment will depend on the underlying cause. For example, if your nails are brittle and break easily, you may need supplements to boost your nutrient levels. This section explores the most viable split nails treatment.
If you are deficient in certain vitamins or minerals, taking supplements can help to strengthen your nails and make them less prone to splitting. A multivitamin will usually provide all of the nutrients you need, but supplements may be necessary if you are specifically lacking in iron, zinc, or vitamin B12. Talk to your doctor about which supplements are best for you.
If you have a fungal infection, your doctor may prescribe a topical medication to treat the fungus. These medications usually come in an ointment or cream and must be applied directly to the nails. Treatment may take several weeks or months, but it is important to finish the entire course of medication to clear up the infection.
If you have a bacterial infection, your doctor may prescribe an oral antibiotic to clear up the infection. Treatment usually lasts for two to four weeks, depending on the severity of the infection.
In some cases, surgery may be necessary to correct the underlying problem causing the splits. For example, if you have a fungal infection spread to the nail bed, your doctor may need to remove part of or the entire infected nail. If you have a severe vitamin deficiency, you may need to undergo surgery to correct the deformities in your nails.
Top tips for preventing splitting your nails
Splits can be avoided. Here are the top tips for preventing splits.
Wear cotton gloves
When working with your hands, wear cotton gloves to protect your cuticles and nails. The cotton will absorb any moisture so that it does not damage the nail bed. The protective layer will also prevent cuts and cracks in the nail should you get “caught” on something while wearing the gloves. Cotton is an excellent material for avoiding splits and tears, so always keep a pair of cotton gloves handy.
Do not pick at your nails
If you have dry skin around your nails that is causing them to split or crack, do not pick at the skin because this will only exacerbate the problem and cause further damage to the nail bed. Instead, use a moisturizing cream or lotion to hydrate the skin. You may also need to adjust your diet and drink more water to ensure you get enough fluids.
Use cuticle cream or oil
If you have dry cuticles, using a cuticle cream or oil can help to keep your nails hydrated. For best results, apply the oil at night before you go to sleep so that it can soak into your cuticles overnight. If you are worried about greasy sheets or staining your pillowcase, then wear cotton gloves while applying the cream for extra protection.
Do not file your nails when they are wet
It is best to avoid filing your nails when they are wet because this can cause them to split and break. Try to wait until your nails have completely dried before you start filing. If you absolutely must file your nails when they are wet, use a very gentle touch and avoid applying too much pressure.
Use a nail strengthener
If your nails are weak and prone to splitting, using a nail strengthener can help fortify them and make them less likely to break. There are many different strengtheners on the market, so find one that works best for you. Some people prefer to use a basecoat before applying their nail polish, while others prefer to use a top coat to seal in the shine. The bottom line is that by using either of these products, you will lay down an extra layer of protection on your nails.
Apply hand cream or lotion during the day
When your hands feel dry and cracked, applying hand cream to the skin is a great way to hydrate your cuticles and nails. The moisturizers in the lotion or cream will help keep them healthy and help prevent splits. Try wearing cotton gloves after you have applied the cream for extra protection.
Massage your cuticles with oil
Massaging your cuticles with oil may help to soften them and make the nail bed more flexible. This can help prevent splits because it keeps the area around your nails hydrated, making it less likely to split or crack while growing out.
If you have trouble splitting nails, it is important to find out the underlying cause and then take steps to correct it. In most cases, this can be done by combining the tips we have provided in this article. By following these simple steps, you can help keep your nails healthy and strong, which will prevent them from splitting.