Split Nails (Onycholysis): How To Fix Split Nails And Why They Happen


Split nails, which are also known as Onycholysis, are one of the most common problems that everyone experiences once in their life. It is mainly described when the nails get separated from the nail bed, which may appear due to injury or nail biting.

In some cases, Onycholysis can be caused due to aging, keeping your nail in the water for a long time, or due to various diseases.Onycholysis can affect everybody, but adults, especially females, are mostly targeted.

Though it can heal itself when the nails grow, you still need to consult a doctor in a chronic situation. In this regard, we have provided detailed information about split nail problems from causes to prevention.

What Causes Splits In Fingernails? How Do You Treat A Split Nail?

Before understanding the causes of Onycholysis and its treatment, it is essential to identify its symptoms. Nails are made of several layers of keratin, which is basically a protein extracted from the skin modification.

This layer of protein helps to maximize the strength of the nail and stop peeling and chipping.When Onycholysis occurs, these keratin layers start to separate from each other, which may look like peeling or splitting.

This separation can be observed at the edge, but it can cause the entire nail to form. There can be various reasons for keratin separation, which have been discussed in the below section.

Causes Of Onycholysis

What Are The Factors That May Cause Split Nails

Onycholysis or nail split can be caused due to various reasons and can happen mostly in two ways. If splits occur horizontally, then it is a sign of protein damage, which is used to connect the keratin layers. Otherwise, you can observe a vertical split, which is caused due to damage in the nail matrix or a part of the finger that creates the nail.

Nail splitting is common and can be seen in every age group, which is healed itself. The problem occurs when an individual experiences nail split more often. If it is so, then the reasons can be something else, and you need to consult a doctor.

To understand more, here are some of the common factors that can be the potential causes of Onycholysis

  • Aging is one factor when an individual experiences slow growth of nails as he/she gets older.
  • The habit of nail picking or biting can cause stress to the nail layers and result in broken nails.
  • The long exposure of nails to water or moisture can result in weakened or brittle nails, which can break, bend, or split easily.
  • The use of cosmetic products like nail paints can weaken your nails in the long run.
  • In some cases, nail damage can be caused due to various medical conditions like thyroid, heart disease, anemia, and many more.
  • Some vitamin deficiencies may also cause Onycholysis, such as not getting enough iron, biotin, or calcium.

So, there are factors that can lead to nail splits or damage, which can be recovered with just a little change in lifestyle. These symptoms can be cured by just applying a bandage or glue on the nail, else you need to consult professionals.

How You Can Treat Split Nail Issues At Home?

Treating split nails is pretty simple, as you just need to trim your nails if your Onycholysis occurs horizontally. You need to trim the toe or fingernail to the edge and let it grow back naturally. 

If the nail split is bigger, consider applying the nail glue, bandage, or nail lacquer to hold the keratin layer together and let them grow properly. In between, it is recommended to remove the bandage and soak the affected area in saline water till it grows well, then trim it properly.

You can also apply gel and silicon wrap to hold the nail in place and let it grow. Once it is set, you can choose to trim the nail and apply polish to smoothen the tough area.

When You Need To Contact A Doctor For Onycholysis Treatment?

In some cases, the person infected by Onycholysis may require medical treatment if it becomes incurable by home remedies. People going through various health issues may have to look for professional help.

Additionally, a person dealing with psoriasis problems comes on the top, while other health problems like lichen planus, nail fungus, or tumors can be the culprits of nail splits.

The doctor may conduct antifungal or antibiotic treatment to avoid further damage to the nail. If the nail split is bigger, then the healthcare professional can stitch it or fix it with nail glue following the same antibiotic treatment.

Onycholysis Treatment

How You Can Lower The Risk Of Split Nails?

Though it is a common problem that can happen to many people, prevention can still be the best way to avoid Onycholysis. However, a person can prevent nail splits by just making small changes in their lifestyle. One can follow a healthy diet to provide the essential vitamins to the nails and let them grow in a healthy way. 

Besides following a healthy diet, you need to keep your nails dry and clean while avoiding exposure to moisture. It is also necessary to trim your nails properly with sharp clippers and round the tip properly. After cutting the nails, use nail oil or hand lotion to keep them moisturized, as dry nails can also cause nail splits.

Also Read:- How To Strengthen Fingernails After Menopause? Proven Tips

Bottom Line

Nail splits can be fixed simply using home remedies such as applying a nail glue or bandage. It is also recommended to dip the infected area in the slime water three to four times a day and let it flow properly. After trimming nails with a sharp nail clipper, smoothen their edges to promote healthy growth.

But, if the nails are severely split and cause constant pain, then it is recommended to consult a doctor. At the same time, prevention can be a far better option than treatment, which can be achieved while taking proper care of your fingernails and following a proper diet.


  1. Chessa MA, et al. (2019). Pathogenesis, clinical signs and treatment recommendations in brittle nails: A review.
  2. Structure of the nails. (2018).
  3. Brittle splitting nails. (n.d.).

Our recommendations are rooted in genuine belief in the benefits of the products bring to users. When you purchase through our links, we may earn a commission, supporting our testing and development without adding any cost for you. Learn more.

Dr. David G Kiely is a distinguished Medical Reviewer and former General Medicine Consultant with a wealth of experience in the field. Dr. Kiely's notable career as a General Medicine Consultant highlights his significant contributions to the medical field.

Learn More

Leave a Comment