Split Nail: Something to Treat or Let Heal Naturally?

Medically reviewed by Casey Gallagher, MD

Nail splitting can happen when someone has a nail injury or infection, is exposed to too much moisture, or for no known reason at all. Treatment is twofold and includes repairing the existing split and managing any underlying condition causing the nail to split.

This article will discuss split nail symptoms and their causes. It will also cover treatments based on specific causes.

<p>ljubaphoto / Getty Images</p>

ljubaphoto / Getty Images

Identifying Split Nail Symptoms

Split nails may appear with a vertical or horizontal split, or crack, in the nail. The split can be over the nail bed or along the tip of the nail.

Other symptoms that may accompany a split nail are nail thinning, brittleness, or softness.

These symptoms are more common in women than men and are more often seen in those 50 and older.

Nail Health Tips

Healthy nails are reflective of overall health and proper maintenance. Below are ways to keep healthy nails:

  • Trim nails straight across.

  • Keep nails dry and clean.

  • File snags with an emery board.

  • Do not bite nails.

  • Do not use nails as a tool to open things.

  • Do not attempt to dig out an ingrown nail, see a healthcare provider.

Split Nail: Leave It Alone or Start Treatment?

Wondering if a split nail should be treated or left alone? Generally, a split nail should be treated. However, the type of treatment will depend on its severity and the type of split.

A nail split that is past the nail bed can be trimmed off with nail clippers. A nail split that is covering the nail bed will need to be treated but in a different way.

Split Nail Treatment by Cause

A split nail can be anywhere from a bothersome annoyance to a painful condition.

Nails that split due to softness from too much moisture, chemical cleaners, detergents, or acetone can be treated with clear nail polish once a week. Using nail polish with nylon fiber can add extra strength.

Dry, brittle nails that split can be treated with a lotion with alpha-hydroxy acid or lanolin.

Nail splits can also be treated with a self-adhesive silk nail wrap. These nail wraps are applied to the affected nail, cut down to size, and connected using a gel nail resin to secure the nail split.

When nails are splitting due to an underlying condition it's important to identify the condition and treat it. Underlying conditions that can cause nail splitting include:

  • Nail fungus (onychomycosis): Treatment requires an antifungal medication.

  • Vitamin deficiency: People with biotin, calcium, or iron have an increased risk of nail splitting. Oral supplements can be used to prevent it from occurring.

  • Psoriasis: Psoriasis can affect nails in many different ways including splitting. Treatment can include a topical corticosteroid, calcipotriol, or tazarotene.

Keep nails trimmed and file any snags or unevenness. Make sure to avoid using metal tools to push back cuticles. If you are buffing your nails, buff in the direction the nail grows, and do not make a back-and-forth buffing movement.

Split Nail Not Getting Better

See a healthcare provider for split nails that do not respond to treatment.

Those with splitting in multiple nails or both finger and toe nails should suspect an underlying medical condition as the root cause. A healthcare provider can help determine the cause and provide a treatment plan to repair the nails and prevent further splitting.


A split nail can interfere with daily activities, causing pain and discomfort. Treatment options include covering the nail with a self-adhesive wrap or trimming away the split (if it isn't covering the nail bed). Anytime a nail splits and home treatment is not successful—or if an underlying medical condition is suspected—contact a healthcare provider.

Read the original article on Verywell Health.