What Causes Finger Nails to Split Down the Middle & Ways to Repair it?

Split fingernails, also called as onychoschizia is a common phenomenon. They are not just unsightly, but also an alarming medical condition that needs immediate attention. Split fingernails down the middle can make it difficult to use your hands for routine tasks. Are you embarrassed with split nails? Read on to know its causes, the risks that are involved and how to repair this problem.

What is Nail Splitting?

Nail splitting or onychoschizia is a condition that is characterized by horizontal splits within the nail. It commonly occurs along with longitudinal splitting and is together referred as the “Brittle Nail Syndrome.”

What Causes Finger Nails to Split Down the Middle?

What Causes Finger Nails to Split Down the Middle?

Split nails down the middle are commonly found in the fingernails and very rarely occur in the toenails. It is commonly seen in women than in men and is often caused by a case of overexposure. The causes of nail splitting down the middle are as follows:

Lack of Moisture Can Cause Finger Nails to Split:

Dry nails and lack of moisture cause the nails to crack and split down the middle. Since nails are dead cells that are shed by the body, lack of moisture can cause them to become dry, cracked and split open.


If you do not have a balanced diet or if you are suffering from malnutrition, these symptoms show up in the nails. Nail splitting in the middle means the body is not getting adequate nutrition that it requires.


Reduced levels of the thyroid hormone can cause a medical condition called “Hypothyroidism”. Symptoms of hypothyroidism show up in the skin and nails.

Fungal Infection:

Growth of fungus in the nails can make nails weak and brittle. Fungal infections attack the most when the nails are warm and moist. Exposure to water frequently makes the nails more susceptible to fungal infection. Fungal infections cause nail infection and nail splitting down the middle.

Protein Deficiency:

Nail is largely made up of a protein named keratin. Splitting of nails down the middle is the first symptom of protein deficiency. It can also be due to improper digestion and retention of protein in the body. Nails require adequate protein to stay strong.

Vitamin C Deficiency:

Vitamin C plays a major role in healing wounds, building bones, and forming healthy tissues. It also helps in the production of collagen that keep cells stuck to one another. If you are suffering from a Vitamin C deficiency, there won’t be enough collagen to keep the nail cells stuck to each other. As a result, nails crack and split due to weakness.

Folic Acid Deficiency:

Folic Acid is a vitamin that plays a role in body repair mechanism. If your body does not contain enough folic acid, it won’t be able to synthesize proteins to produce healthy tissue. Hence, nails will be weak and brittle, even if they grow. This can lead to nail splits.


Psoriasis is a skin condition that affects the nails as well. This results in the cells having a reduced life cycle. The cells, as a result, grow rapidly and deposit on the skin. The skin becomes red, itchy, and forms scales. This can also cause the nails to become brittle and split in the middle.

Other causes of finger nails to split down the middle include:

  • Frequent drying and wetting of hands while doing household chores and other work.
  • Nail cosmetics such as nail polish, nail hardeners, nail polish removers and nail procedures such as shaping using alkalis or acids.
  • Medical conditions such as endocrine glands diseases, Sjogren and tuberculosis can cause brittle nails.
  • Oral medications that contain Vitamin A can cause nail splitting.
  • Trauma or injury can also lead to brittle nails and nail splitting.

Who is at Risk of Developing Nail Splitting?

  • Gender: Occurs more commonly in women than men
  • Age: Seen in older individuals more frequently
  • Exposure to Moisture: Those who expose their hands to moisture.

Ways to Repair Splitting of Finger Nails

A split nail can be inconvenient and painful. Also, there is always a danger to develop secondary infections. This is the main reason why treating split finger nails is so important. Some useful treatment techniques include:

  • Always keep nails short and trimmed to reduce the worsening of nail splitting.
  • Soak your nails in water for half an hour every day to increase hydration in your nails.
  • Apply petroleum jelly, cetaphil, or any other moisturizer on the cracks and splits of the nail.
  • Apply nail hardening agent like formaldehyde on the growing end of the nail.
  • You can also apply acrylate containing hardeners before your nail polish to keep nails strong.
  • Oral therapy such as biotin supplements can make the nails strong and healthy

Nail splitting down the middle is commonly a cosmetic problem. However, if the condition persists or worsens, seek medical attention and talk to your doctor.

Guidelines and Self-Care Techniques to Prevent Finger Nail Splitting Down the Middle

As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure, following are some simple self-care tips that can prevent nail splitting.

Moisturizing Finger Nails to Avoid Splitting:

In order for your nails to be healthy and strong, they require adequate moisture. Moisturizing your hands and nails every time you wash your hands is essential. Keep a moisturizing lotion next to your wash basin and massage them on your hands and nails every time you wash.

Adequate Nutrition:

Although, nails are a result of dead cells in the body, a proper diet that contains adequate nutrition helps keep the nails healthier and stronger from inside.

Practice Good Nail Care:

Practicing good nail care is the best way to have strong and healthy nails. Get a professional manicure done regularly; use a cuticle conditioner and a good nail filer. A good nail filer should be used for smoothening the edges and to avoid breakage of nails. Do not bite nails or pick at the cuticles.

Wear Rubber Gloves:

Prolonged contact with water can cause dehydration and lead to nail splitting. Ensure that you wear cotton lined rubber gloves to prevent overexposure to water.

Avoid Harsh Nail Products:

Nail products like nail polish, coatings and removers can make the nails weak and brittle. If using a nail polish or remover, use an acetone-free one. Also, consider applying a protective layer or a nail hardening agent can make the nails hard and strong. Be careful to choose the right product that is safe your skin and nails.

Ensure Good Hygiene:

Keep your nails clean and trimmed at all times. Regularly clean the inner surfaces with soap and sanitizer to avoid infections.


In most cases, good hygiene and simple treatment therapies help cure and prevent nail splitting down the middle. However, in spite of these efforts of treating and preventing your nails from splitting, if the condition does not improve, talk to you doctor immediately. Get a check-up done to ensure there is no serious complication.

Start giving your nails the extra care and attention they need.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:March 16, 2018

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