Onychoschizia or fingernail splitting is one of the most common issues brought to a dermatologist’s attention. The condition includes splitting, frail, soft or thin nails and nails with ridges. It tends to be more common in women than in men.
What causes fingernail splitting?
Repetitive and prolonged wetting and drying of the fingernails is the single most common cause of splitting and ridging of the nails.
Any kind of trauma or injury to the fingers can contribute to onychoschizia, as can nail polish remover.
Despite what many people believe, splitting of the nails is rarely caused by internal disease or vitamin deficiency.
What’s the best way to treat splitting fingernails?
The best treatment is to avoid repeated wetting and drying of the nails. Try to wear cotton lined rubber gloves when performing household chores that involve getting the hands wet.
It’s a good idea to rub lotions containing alpha-hydroxy acids such as Neostrata or lanolin containing lotions such as Elon into the nails both before and after getting the hands wet.
One of the best treatments is an emollient skin cream such as Cutemol which can be quite effective.
Watch people who have beautiful nails. Notice how they use their hands or finger pads to do simple chores rather than use their nails. Never dial a phone with the nail tips; use a pencil. Nails should never be used as tools. Get in the habit of using your fingers as if they have wet polish on them. If you can’t avoid trauma to the nail tips, keep the nails cut short.
Always wear gloves during cold weather and when you do chores which may traumatize the nail tips.
Never peel or scrape off nail polish.
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.
Never use metal instruments on the nail surface to push back the cuticle because this scrapes away the microscopic protective cells of the nail surface.
When (and 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.
Nail polish can protect the nail surface. The almost daily application of a “top coat” will keep the nail tips protected. Nail polishes with nylon fibers in them may add strength and protection to fragile nails. Use nail polish remover as infrequently as possible because it dries out the nails.
One study has shown that biotin (a vitamin) 2.5 mg a day taken by mouth is beneficial for onychoschizia. Do not do this if you are pregnant.
Some patients are convinced that one pack of Knox Gelatin mixed with orange juice and taken by mouth each day will restore nails to a youthful state. There is no scientific data that supports the use of unflavored gelatin to strengthen nails.
Taking colloidal minerals and a multivitamin each day has been shown to increase the speed of nail growth which in turn leads to healthier nails.