HomeHealth Topics A to ZDo You Have Brittle, Splitting Nails?
Health Topics

Do You Have Brittle, Splitting Nails?

By DuPage Medical Group Dermatology

Most of us have experienced a nail that has separated at the edge, or has had the top portion peel off, only to reveal a thin layer left underneath that almost always tears away within a matter of minutes to hours. Onychoschizia, or nail splitting, is a cosmetic problem defined by peeling, splitting, or separation of the layers of the nail horizontally at the free edge of the nail. This weakens the tip of the nail and makes the nail fragile and more likely to chip and tear as described above.

Onychoschizia is a diagnosis that may not sound very familiar; however, it is a harmless condition that affects about 20% of the population at some point during their lives, most commonly women and older adults. It usually affects our fingernails. Our fingernails perform many important functions for us in our day to day lives. They are the tools that help us to pick up small objects and manipulate other items. They also help to protect the ends of our fingers, assist with fine-touch sensation, and they can also enhance the aesthetic appearance of our hands.

Usually, this is an occasional problem, and more of a nuisance than anything else. This condition commonly affects house cleaners, nurses, hair stylists, and other occupations that require frequent hand washing. Some of the factors that can cause this to happen would be nail exposure to irritants such as detergents and excessive water exposure. Moisturizing regularly can help to prevent this from happening. Onychoschizia can also be caused by nail products such as hardening polish and polish removers as well as other exposure to various chemicals.

Most nail conditions take several months to resolve, usually with the growth that pushes the nail forward. Fortunately there is an over the counter supplement widely available to strengthen nails and make them less likely to split. You can take the B vitamin, Biotin, as directed daily. Most people notice improvement in the nail within 6 months of beginning treatment, and treatment should be ongoing to maintain the results as the nail continuously grows out.

Other ways to prevent this common condition are:

  • Reducing your exposure to wetting and drying of the nails as much as possible by wearing gloves when doing housework, food preparation, or washing dishes.
  • Apply a moisturizer such as Cetaphil or CeraVe cream to the hands and nails frequently throughout the day and before bed time.
  • Limit the use of topical nail hardeners.
  • Filing your nails regularly. It is best to file a nail from the outside edge in towards the center of the nail from each side. Avoid moving back and forth with the file as this can tear the nail.

With these helpful tips, you are on your way to healthier, stronger nails.


Topics and Subtopics: Skin Health

Learn more about:
Receive more health tips and DMG news right in your inbox!
Sign up for the Live Life Well newsletter