A split nail is usually caused by physical stress, nutrient deficiency, or wear and tear. Split nails can be a problem, especially if you work with your hands.

Although split nails are completely normal and sometimes unavoidable, there are ways you can prevent split nails in the future.

Here we explain what might be the cause of your split nail, how to prevent them, and when to see a doctor.

Your fingernails and toenails are made out of layers of keratin which is also the protein that hair is made out of.

Your nail protects the nail bed. The nail growth comes from below the cuticle area.

Healthy nails appear smooth, with consistent coloring. If you’re concerned with any changes to your nails, consult a doctor.

A split nail is characterized by a crack forming in your nail. Nail splits can be horizontal, across the nail’s tip, or vertical, splitting the nail in two.

Common causes of split nails include:

Moisture

Moisture can cause nails to become weak and brittle. Long-term exposure can cause the skin around the nail to soften.

The nail itself becomes brittle making it easier to break, bend, or split. Overexposure to moisture can occur while doing dishes, washing hands, or repeated nail polish use.

Picking or biting

Many people have a habit of picking their fingernails and toenails. Picking or biting is usually a result of an anxiety issue.

Picking or biting your nails can cause stress to the nail and result in a self-inflicted split or broken nail.

Injury

An injury may be a probable cause for a split nail. Crushing your nail tip or bed can result in your nail growing with a ridge or split-like appearance.

Injury and weakening can also happen with fake nails.

Infections

Fungal, bacterial, or yeast infections in the nail bed can change the texture of the nails, resulting in weakened and split nails.

Psoriasis

Psoriasis can affect both the skin and the nails. Psoriasis can cause the nail to thicken, crumble, or split. Up to 78 percent of people with psoriasis are estimated to experience nail issues at some point.

Diseases

Certain diseases may cause nail health to decline which could contribute to nail splits.

Diseases that may contribute to split nails include:

While there’s not much that you can do to fix a split nail, there are ways you can prevent your nails from splitting in the first place.

Here are some tips for preventing split nails:

  • Keep your nails clean and healthy.
  • Refrain from keeping your hands or feet in water for long periods.
  • Use moisturizer on your nails and cuticles.
  • Use nail hardening products if necessary.
  • Don’t bite or pick around your nails.
  • Refrain from using nail polish remover.
  • Don’t rip or pull your hangnails.
  • Take supplements such as biotin with permission from a doctor.

If your nail split extends into your nail bed, you may need to visit a doctor. Your nail may have to be removed and your nail bed may need stitches.

If your nail can be reattached, a doctor will reattach it with glue or stitches.

If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, be sure to contact your doctor:

Most split nails will heal with time as your nails grow out. If you’re experiencing frequent splitting, avoid moisture on your nails and consider using a nail hardening solution.

If your split nails are causing you frequent discomfort, consult with your doctor about treatment options.