How do you stop your nails from splitting?

Onychoschizia or splitting of the fingernails is a common problem seen by dermatologists. The term onychoschizia includes splitting, brittle, soft or thin nails. Onychoschizia is more common in women.

Only very rarely are internal disease or vitamin deficiencies the reason (iron deficiency is the most common). One tip is that if the fingernails split, but the toenails are strong, then an external factor is the cause. Basically brittle nails can be divided into dry and brittle (too little moisture) and soft and brittle (often too much moisture).

The usual cause is repeated wetting and drying of the fingernails. This makes them dry and brittle. This is often worse in low humidity and in the winter (dry heat). The best treatment is to apply lotions containing alpha-hydroxy acids or lanolin containing lotions such as “Elon” (by the “Dartmouth” company) to the nails after first soaking nails in water for 5 minutes.

Wearing gloves when performing household chores that involve getting the hands wet is very helpful in preventing brittle nails. Cotton lined rubber gloves can be purchased in stores.

If soft, consider that the nails may be getting too much moisture or being damaged by chemicals such as detergents, cleaning fluids and nail polish removers (the acetone containing removers are somewhat worse than acetone free). Some feel that once a week application of clear nail prep once a week may help. Nail polishes with nylon fibers in them may add strength.

Be gentle to you nails. Shape and file the nails with a very fine file and round the tips in a gentle curve. Daily filing of snags or irregularities helps to prevent further breakage or splitting. Avoid metal instruments on the nail surface to push back the cuticle. If the nails are “buffed” do this in the same direction as the nail grows and not in a “back and forth” motion because this can cause nail splitting.

Biotin (a vitamin) taken by mouth is beneficial in some people. Get the “Biotin ultra” 1 mg. size as it also comes as much smaller pills and take 2 or 3 a day. It takes at least 6 months, but does really help at least 1/3 of the time. Do not take this if you are pregnant. Calcium, colloidal minerals, and/or gelatin my help, but have not been shown to help as reliably as Biotin.

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The medical information provided in this site is for educational purposes only and is the property of the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice and shall not create a physician – patient relationship. If you have a specific question or concern about a skin lesion or disease, please consult a dermatologist. Any use, re-creation, dissemination, forwarding or copying of this information is strictly prohibited unless expressed written permission is given by the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology.

How to fix peeling nails

A mild iron deficiency is more likely than a severe underlying health condition to be the cause of peeling nails.

However, it is still useful for people to be aware of other conditions that may cause peeling nails. If they have any other relevant symptoms in addition to peeling nails, they will know to mention these to a doctor.

Below, we cover the additional symptoms of conditions that may cause peeling, brittle, or discolored nails.


Without treatment, a mild iron deficiency can become more serious and may lead to anemia. Anemia occurs when the body is low in healthy red blood cells and does not have enough hemoglobin available.

Hemoglobin is a substance in red blood cells that helps them to carry oxygen around the body.

In addition to peeling nails, the symptoms of a severe iron deficiency may include:

  • chest pain or a rapid heartbeat
  • feeling very weak or tired
  • shortness of breath
  • a headache
  • feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • having cold hands or feet
  • having a sore or inflamed tongue
  • pale skin
  • changes in appetite


Share on PinterestDrinking water regularly may help to prevent peeling nails.

People can become dehydrated if they do not drink enough water or non-caffeinated beverages.

Dehydration may cause a range of symptoms, as well as peeling nails. These can include:

  • dry mouth, eyes, and skin
  • increased thirst
  • infrequent urination
  • dark yellow urine
  • a headache
  • feeling dizzy
  • tiredness

Underactive thyroid

An underactive thyroid does not produce enough hormones. As well as brittle nails, an underactive thyroid may cause:

  • reduced sweating
  • dry skin
  • constipation
  • difficulty concentrating
  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • decreased appetite
  • weight gain
  • feeling cold
  • feeling tired

Lung disease

In some instances, nail abnormalities may be a sign of lung disease.

According to the American Lung Association, the symptoms of lung disease may include:

  • a cough lasting a month or longer
  • shortness of breath
  • mucus production lasting a month or longer
  • wheezing
  • coughing up blood
  • unexplained chest pain

Kidney disease

According to a 2015 article, brown discoloration on the upper half of the nail may indicate kidney disease.

Other symptoms may include:

  • reduced appetite
  • weight loss
  • itchy skin
  • frequent need to urinate
  • water retention
  • trouble sleeping
  • shortness of breath
  • blood in urine
  • muscle cramps

Nails that break all the time can be seriously annoying; just when you’re considering a French manicure after finally managing to grow them – snap! – and they’re gone.

Many people believe that their nails are naturally weak, but actually, it’s normally exterior factors that make them break, rather than any innate fragility.


According to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology (AOCD), if your fingernails often split, but your toenails are strong, then it’s an external factor causing your problem, rather than an internal disease or vitamin deficiency.

So what’s the most common cause of splitting nails?

Well, the AOCD explains that ‘repeated wetting and drying of the fingernails’ can make them dry and brittle, meaning your nails are prone to breakage.


Of course for most of us, this means housework, particularly chores such as washing up and cleaning, where your nails are constantly exposed to water and various chemicals.

The AOCD recommends wearing cotton-lined gloves to perform household chores, and applying lotions containing alpha-hydroxy acids or lanolin to soothe the nails.

It also provides some tips on nail care, saying we should use a ‘very fine file’ to round the corners and remove any snags, which can lead to further breakage.


‘Avoid metal instruments on the nail surface to push back the cuticle’ says the AOCD. ‘If the nails are “buffed” do this in the same direction as the nail grows and not in a “back and forth” motion because this can cause nail splitting.’

Of course another option would be just to give up washing up and cleaning completely – if only, eh?!

(Images: Getty)

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How I Stopped My Nails From Splitting & Breaking All The Time

I recently took a look at my fragile nails and decided that they deserved as much attention as I give my hair. After six weeks of weekly treatments and some minor changes in my nail routine, I’m happy to say that, finally, my nails are experiencing the same level of happiness as my hair, thanks to these seven things I did to make my nails stronger and ridge-free.

I had given up on my nail beds and everything that came with them decades ago. It seemed my nails were destined for a life of pesky horizontal ridges that kept my nails permanently dipped in polish to protect the eyes of anyone staring directly into the horror. There are plenty of causes for nail-breakage: Hormones, poor care routines, missing nutrients in your diet, and stress can all lead to a case of the splits. Being a vegetarian, it didn’t surprise me that the resulting anemia could lead to weak nails because when I first stopped eating meat it affected me mentally and physically. My nails took an unhealthy plunge over 20 years ago and never fully recovered despite my otherwise clean bill of health. My nail beds have the familiar light pink color of healthy blood flow, so it was clear this wasn’t an underlying health issue: This was about straight-up poor nail maintenance.

My nails were dehydrated and I was the only one to blame, but I didn’t need to look beyond my splitting, dry nail beds to figure that out. The good news is I didn’t have to go too far outside my regular nail care routine to finally have smooth nail beds. Here are seven ways I mended my broken nail beds — who knows, they might come in handy for you too.

1. Shortened The Lifespan Of My Nail Polish

In a measly attempt to justify my own laziness, I convinced myself that I found chipped polish very attractive. Not only was that false (though, it has its time and place IMO), but it was also getting in the way of strong nail beds. Nails can become dry under long stretches of polish which weakens the nail and can lead to breakage. As dermatologist Dr. Debra Jaliman told, the longer you leave on your polish the more likely to experience discoloration. Judging from my newfound nail health, this seems true: Keeping my nails in old polish was certainly not improving their health.

2. Going Without Polish

Speaking of getting some breathing room from your polish, giving my nails a break from nail polish was one of the hardest yet most beneficial things I did for my beds. I knew removing old polish and immediately applying new polish kept my nails dry, uneven, and chipped, but I couldn’t help painting over my nails as fast as possible. Just like the hair on our heads, nails are made of keratin and they are technically dead, but, also just like the hair on our heads, they’re still prone to dryness. One nail guru, Kim D’Amato, told StyleCaster that wearing nail polish every day can weaken the nails. While nails don’t require oxygen to “breathe,” I certainly noticed that leaving my nails naked in between color changes paid off.

3. Keeping My Nails Hydrated

One thing I never even thought about in the past was moisturizing my nails. Odd, when you consider how obsessed I am with keeping my hair and my skin quenched at all times. No matter how enriched my base coat claimed to be, nothing compared to applying a deeply, penetrating oil to prevent my nails from becoming dry and brittle. As CND’s ­resident chemist, Dr. Dave Valia, explained to NAILS magazine, oils rich in vitamin E can benefit your cuticles and prevent hangnails. I applied avocado oil, which contains vitamin E, to my nails a few times each week, whether my nails were polished or bare. I found keeping up with moisturizing my nails when painted actually decreased the appearance of dryness.

4. Making A Nail & Cuticle Oil

I had made my own blend of nail-strengthening oil to help me along my journey and it quickly became a staple in my nail routine. I used my blend weekly and eventually moved on to using Aura Cacia’s blend of essential oils to nurture my beds. I noticed improvement in the circulation of my nail beds immediately and slowly began to see my nails evening out on their own. I use essential oils in addition to fatty oils because they penetrate the nails, skin, and hair more quickly for a variety of reasons, including the viscosity of the oil. I now use my nail care blend weekly when I take off my nail polish for breathing.

5. Treating All My Nails From Cuticle To Tip

My main concern was alleviating the recurring ridges and chips along the tip of my nails, but I knew I had to treat my cuticles with a lot more respect to end the cycle of weak nails for good. Cuticles play an important role by protecting your nail from bacteria. I kept my cuticles moisturized with my nails and more importantly, I stopped pushing my cuticles back with sharp metal objects.

6. Wearing Gloves Indoors & Outdoors

My hands will become dry upon contact with cold temperatures, but I hadn’t considered the impact of the cold could be felt on my nail beds too. I started keeping my fingernails protected by wearing gloves outside and indoors when I’m washing dishes. Even gentle, non-toxic dish soap makes my hands dry so I know my nails are feeling the effects as well. According to sources at Livestrong, too much moisture from repeatedly wetting your hands can weaken the nails and cause peeling, something I’ve vowed to put behind me.

7. Keeping Myself Hydrated

Even though most of my newfound nail health can be attributed to my nail routine, I had to admit that I started keeping track of my water intake once I found dehydration can lead to weaker nails. According to sources at Huffington Post, drinking plenty of water can keep your nails and cuticles hydrated from within.

My nails started to show improvement after a few weeks of these minor changes in my nail routine, but after six weeks my nails started glowing again so there was no way I was going back to the weak nails of my past. Since I work with my hands often, this nail care routine went from experiment to way of life.

Images: Andrew Zaeh/Bustle; Kristin Collins Jackson (7)

Photo: Mike Kemp/Corbis

Like hair falling out or picking a scab and having it come off in your hand, seeing parts of our bodies fray can be upsetting. No one wants to think about how rapidly we are decaying and reminders like a new mole sprouting an impossibly thick hair, or nails that break nonstop are understandably upsetting. But how upset should we be? Are brittle nails just another sign that our bodies are going to shit, or do they signify something worse? I asked dermatologist Dr. Barry Goldman to find out. “We get that question a lot,” he said. “Probably because someone read a southern novel about arsenic poisoning.”

Arsenic?!? Not a great start in terms of convincing me I’m not dying, Dr. G!! After I explained that this was a terrifying prospect, Dr. Goldman assured me the vast majority of people have some kind of streaking or ridging on their nails, and said he’s only seen one case of arsenic poisoning in his 20 years as a practicing dermatologist. As for what might be causing your nails to be so weak? I have good news and bad news.

The good news is you are not dying. The bad news is, we are all slowly dying in a lifelong process known as aging, and this is what is causing your nails to dry out. “From age we get dryness,” said Dr. Goldman, a very succinct, very wise man. Barring hypothyroidism or an iron deficiency, he suggested another common cause of dry nails is lifestyle choices, specifically anyone who is involved in what he referred to as “wet work.” Bartenders, waitresses, dishwashers, swimmers, and other people whose hands are submerged in water as part of their jobs should compare their fingernails to their toenails to see if all that water exposure is the culprit.

If you’re not employed in wet work and you’re still fairly young, consider your hand- and nail-maintenance habits: Are you picking off your shellac manicure? Leaving polish on for weeks without removing it properly? Failing to moisturize? A little cuticle oil goes a long way, as can a vitamin-B-rich supplement. Wearing gloves while you do the dishes is not only glamorous , but will also help keep your nails strong and healthy. Regular filing and at-home manicures can also stop breakage. And if all else fails, you can hand-model for SAW VIII SAW FURIOUS.

LIKELIHOOD OF YOU DYING: Extremely low, unless you’re in a Gothic novel.


Onychoschizia, commonly known as nail splitting but also known as onychoschisis or lamellar dystrophy, is a condition that causes horizontal splits within the nail plate. Nail splitting is often seen together with onychorrhexis – long-wise (longitudinal) splitting or ridging of the nail plate – and these 2 diseases together are called “brittle nail syndrome.”

  • Frequent wetting and drying of the hands is the most common cause of nail splitting, so this condition is, therefore, common among house cleaners, nurses, and hairdressers.
  • Nail splitting may also be caused by nail cosmetics (hardeners, polish, polish removers/solvents), nail procedures, and occupational exposure to various chemicals (alkalis, acids, cement, solvents, thioglycolates, salt, sugar solutions).
  • Injury (trauma) may also play a role in the development of brittle nails.
  • Brittle nails may occur due to medical problems, including gland (endocrine system) diseases, tuberculosis, Sjögren syndrome, and malnutrition.
  • People with other skin diseases, such as lichen planus and psoriasis, as well as people taking oral medications made from vitamin A, may also develop nail splitting.

Stop Breaking Nails

How to Stop Breaking Nails

I’m often asked,”How do you keep your nails so long?”

I have many strategies and techniques to strengthen my natural nails, which I will share at the bottom of this article.

Let me start off by saying that my nails are incredibly thin. I was not blessed with thick nails.

Sadly, this is not something that can be changed since the thickness of your nail plate is determined by the size of your nail matrix.

The nail matrix is where new nail cells are created right behind the cuticle line.

Tortoise or Hare?

But—the most important thing I do is—Slow Down.

There is no part of our body that is used more frequently during our life than our hands. We do everything with our hands.

Most of us wouldn’t make it through the day if we couldn’t pry, pick, or scratch with our nails. They take a lot of abuse, especially if we use them as tools.

Nails will only tolerate a certain amount of bending before they tear or snap.

A woman with long, natural nails moves through life very consciously. She pays attention to where her hands are moving at all times. I know it might sound like a lot of work, but it really isn’t.

I have found that being in a rush can be the most damaging times to my nails.


If I’m in a hurry and I am rushing to get everybody into the car, throwing jackets and bags, and slamming doors, I’m

not paying attention to what my hands are doing.

One misplaced finger on the car door handle will result in a broken nail. All because I wasn’t paying attention.And that’s when accidents happen.

Another example; a busy, preoccupied woman will talk to a friend and blindly dig through her purse trying to find something. She’s not paying attention, and that’s how a nail tears or breaks.

When I’m looking for something in my purse, I look inside, I carefully move things around until I find what I want.

Every move is conscious. Every move is deliberate.

Will the Guilty Task Please Stand Up?

If your nails are breaking a lot, try paying attention to how you use your hands all day long.

You might be surprised.

Are you actually using your nails to remove the frustrating, security plastic wrapping around the salad dressing bottle, or mascara tube?

Are you opening soda pop can lids with your nails?

Do you peel stubborn sales stickers off of packages meant as gifts?

If you do any of these things, it’s time to become friends with paring knives, scissors, handles of forks or spoons, and some brand of sticker adhesive dissolving product. (Goo Gone™, Goof Off™, Un-Do™, etc.)

And if you are in the DIY frame of mind using 2 ingredients from your kitchen, I found a great tutorial at

What You Can Do

1. Know Your Proper Nail Length

If you are a mother of small children, or have a job that requires a lot of tough use with your hands, make peace with a shorter length that looks nice.

Now that my children are older and I spend most of my working time on the computer, I can maintain a longer length.

Keep your nails the same length. Short nails can be beautiful when maintained and polished well.

2. Reduce Water Absorption

Water is the most dangerous chemical affecting your nails.

I’m not kidding.

On average, we have about 100 layers of keratin that makes up our nail plate.

Our nails also have the capacity to absorb three times their weight in water.

Where does that water go? In between every single layer and it pushes them apart.

Our nails do have the capacity to dry out, but it doesn’t take too many exposures to water for those layers to start peeling away from each other.

Polish is an integral part of blocking water absorption.

3. Increase Nail Strength and Flexibility

Oil is the glue that holds our nail layers together. We wash our hands on average 20 times per day! This strips the oils from our nails and skin.

Regular use of a jojoba wax ester based nail oil will increase natural nail strength, while improving flexibility.

Strong nails bend when exposed to external forces.

If you use nail strengtheners or hardeners on already dry, brittle nails, your nails are going to be too hard and snap with any external pressure.

4. Keep Nails Polished

Polish is a resin that bonds to and protects your nails.

Even if you’re someone who doesn’t like to wear colored polish, it’s important to wear at least one layer of base coat to reduce water absorption.

Use my Fab Five Polish Wrap technique and never shower with naked nails.

5. Wear Gloves


“But I hate gloves! I won’t wear them.”

I hear this all the time. Especially right after I’m asked how to grow longer nails or get them to stop peeling.

I guarantee you, there isn’t one woman on the planet who loves to wear kitchen gloves, myself included.

Yep, they’re annoying.

You have to remember to put them on and you don’t get the same grip as with your fingers. You sweat in them causing them to be a pain to remove.

Gloves protect your skin and nails from the drying effects of water and soap. Gloves also help protect your nails from breaking.

I even use them when doing the laundry. I’ve broken too many nails transferring heavy, wet towels to the dryer.

Every decision we make has a natural consequence.

It simply won’t work to desire beautiful nails and refuse to wear gloves.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

The few seconds you gain by rushing around only shortens your temper, increases your blood pressure, and leads to annoying chips and painful breaks.

Long, beautiful natural nails don’t just happen.

Gorgeous nails require time, care, maintenance, and just a few extra, deliberate seconds through the day.

I know you can do it! … now … go buy some gloves … slowly.

What Do You Think?

Did this article change your thoughts in any way?


On first dates, job interviews, board presentations, and anytime you post a photo to Instagram, all eyes will eventually wander to your hands. And more specifically, to your nails. That’s partly why it’s so important to maintain your nail health and make sure you don’t experience breaking or peeling. Not only does that make you look sloppy and unkempt, but nail breakage can also be quite painful and even invite infection if nails break too low.

To keep nail breakage at bay, it turns out nail filing is part of the problem and the solution.

Filing can introduce problems if you don’t trim your nails first, according to Erica Marton, celebrity manicurist in Miami and New York City. “Taking down the length with a file can cause too much stress on the nail, which encourages breakage or splitting, especially if you have longer nails,” she says. Marton suggests trimming nails to the desired length and then filing them into proper shape. Filing can also weaken nails if you use a back-and-forth sawing motion. “Stick to one direction only in this three-step process: File side to center, where you go on the side of nail to the tip at a 45-degree angle, then the other side to the tip, and then finish at the top of the nail,” Marton explains. “But do not file too much of the sides, which could encourage tears,” she adds. “Use a light stroke and make sure you soften off the corners of nails.” And never file just after you’ve gotten out of a shower or bath. Wet nails break more easily.

Filing the right way will smooth the edge of finger nails, which are laminated layers of protein called keratin, according to Marton. These best practices can actually make nails healthier:

Use the right file. For natural nails, Marton says it’s best to use a higher grit number to prevent tearing. She usually opts for a 180 grit, but says if you’re new to filing, try a 240 grit. “I like Tweezerman Neon Spot FileMate, plus it comes with a nice carrying case,” Marton says. “For weaker nails I recommend Diamancel—it’s a great file for weak nails that won’t cause breakage and is not too harsh. Plus it’s durable and washable,” she notes. If your sister, roommate, or pal asks to borrow yours for a hangnail? Try your best to politely decline, since it’s not sanitary, Marton adds. (If you have a hangnail, here’s why you should never pick it.)

Stick to short. Though long talons are good for back scratching, tapping your nails impatiently in a meeting, and sporting super-fun designs, they aren’t the strongest. As Marton says, “any length past your fingertip can add too much stress to the nail bed, which leads to breaking.” As for the shape, Marton suggests keeping them square or round.

Whatever you do, always keep your nails clean and dry to prevent bacteria from growing under your nail bed. And try to avoid nibbling your nails—here’s why biting your nails is so bad! Use these other pro tips to grow your shiniest, healthiest nails ever.

How to Prevent Your Nails from Breaking in the Cold

With the return of the cold season, everything changes. Our clothes, skincare routine, diet, even our sleep habits (Daylight Saving Time- we’re looking at you). We make sure to adjust our routines to all these changes, but it seems we always miss one. We all experienced this at least once. You get a gorgeous manicure, feel pretty and satisfied, and the next day- your nail breaks.

We wondered why this seems to be a bigger issue during the winter so we took our time and compiled a list of a few simple steps you can do to take your nail game to the next level!

Never keep your nails naked

One of the main reasons our nails chip and break is that we keep them naked. Nail polish isn’t there only to make your nails pretty, but it also serves as a layer that protects them from environmental pollutants and temperature changes. As much as it may seem like a counterproductive thing to do, you may want to add that extra layer of nail polish.

Avoid water

As mentioned in our yesterday’s blog post (which you can read here), long baths or hot water may not be your friend during the winter. Our nails are made out of keratin, a protein that builds hair, nails and protects your epithelial cells from damage and stress. When soaked for a long time (10 minutes or more), your nails accumulate water, together with keratin. This makes them brittle and more prone to breakage, especially in cold weather. One easy step you can take to prevent this from happening is to ensure you cut down the time you spend in your shower- your skin will also thank you.


When anyone mentions winter and cold, we all remember the same thing- it’s important to moisturize. But, did you ever think your nails need it too? Or your cuticles, to be precise.

On the market today, you can find more and more hand creams that are made specifically for adding moisture to your nails and making them healthier. Cuticle oils are on every corner and for a good reason! As the skin surrounding our nails is the only “live” part of it, we need to make sure it’s protected. During the colder months, a foolproof moisture strategy is to use hand lotion several times a day, especially after washing hands or getting them wet. In the afternoon, apply cuticle oil, and use thick hand cream at night. It will seal in the moisture and you’ll see the difference instantly!

Wear gloves

Wearing gloves makes your nail care much easier! They protect your hands and nails from temperature changes, moisture, and other harmful influences! Although we do war them in the cold, we sometimes forget to wear them at home. Dish soap or detergents can damage weeks of extensive nail care in just a few minutes! Make sure to place your gloves near the sink so it serves as a reminder! Don’t forget to wash them often as it’s important in preventing bacteria overgrowth!

Take care from the inside

As much as we try to follow all these steps, sometimes it’s not enough. Genetics and lifestyle choices can significantly impact our nutritional balance and, as a consequence, our nails.

Eating healthy and incorporating more fruits and vegetables is beneficial not only for our nails but for our overall health and immunity. If you don’t have access to fresh fruit and veggies, try supplementing with a good multivitamin or collagen to reap all the benefits they bring.

Have you already tried these tips? Do you have your own that work? Make sure to let us know in the comments below and help us have the best nails this winter!