What Causes Fingernails to Split and What Can Be Done About It?

Are you dealing with split fingernails? If so then it’s important to know some key information. That includes how to treat this condition and what causes fingernails to split. This can help to deal with it effectively.

Split fingernail

Do you have a split fingernail? It can be tough to deal with fingernail issues like discoloring, chips, and so on. However, a split fingernail is quite another story. In this situation, you’ll want to know issues like how to deal with the condition and what causes fingernails to split. These are both important. Knowing what causes split fingernails can provide useful information. You’ll know why you have the condition and also take steps to prevent it from happening again in the future. Yes, it’s true that stuff happens in life. However, split fingernails are really tough to deal with, so it’s a good idea to avoid them from the get-go when possible.

Fingernails/Toenails are made of keratin protein, which also is the protein that makes up the hair. It’s a super-strong protein that can withstand many everyday situations. Infections, injury, and moisture are some of the main causes of this event. The good news is you can take some basic steps to prevent this from happening in the first place. They include keeping your nails clean, not pulling on hangnails, and soaking your hands in water too much. There’s other stuff to do or not do.

What Are Fingernails Made of?

This is the top issue to take up before talking about the symptoms, causes, and treatments for split fingernails. Fingernails, toenails, and hairs are made up of a super-strong protein known as “keratin.” This also found in other body parts like skin and teeth. Some animal body parts like horns and hooves also contain the protein.

These proteins like others are made up of amino acids. The number of different types found in keratin affects how hard the protein is. This can provide body parts with a wide range of hardness ranging from soft skin to hard teeth. Fingernails are somewhere between the hardness of skin and hooves.

Fun Fact: It’s interesting that skin, hair, and nails are actually made of dead cells. They’re the result of the body shedding them when new cells get pushed up underneath them. In the case the dead cells are maintained in good condition they help to protect the soft tissue underneath them.

One of the main features of keratin related to the hardness of fingernails/toenails is it’s tough to dissolve the keratin protein. What’s the big deal? It involves a lot of complex chemistry but the bottom line is it results in strong stuff ranging from hair/skin to nails/teeth/hooves.

Living cells that make up a big percentage of hair, skin, and nails form keratin. If you want to impress your friends/family the term is “keratinocytes.” Here’s how it works. Cells push upwards slowly. Within time they die and make a protective layer.

We actually lose thousands of these cells daily. The process can speed up due to various health conditions. Sometimes damage to keratin layers can cause nails, hair, or skin to appear unhealthy/flaky.

One issue related to split fingernails is human hair/nails can get dry/brittle. That’s due to the dead keratin being pushed to their limits.

What Causes Fingernails to Split?


This can be a common cause of split nails. If the nail tip/bed gets crushed it can result in the nail growing with an appearance that it’s split or with a ridge.

It’s worth noting that this situation can happen with both real and fake fingernails. The key is to take steps to help reduce the risk of injury-caused split fingernails.


This is a condition that can affect both nails and skin. It can cause various situations like nails that are thick, split, or brittle. Anil problems affect nearly 80% of psoriasis patients. So if you have this condition, there’s a good chance your broken fingernails are linked to the condition.


We’re often told as kids not to bite our nails. Well, it turns out that picking/biting nails can cause various issues like split nails. People bite/pick nails as a nervous action.

The problem is it can put stress on nails and cause broken/split nails. Since the issue is the anxiety it’s important to deal with it in a more constructive way.


There are various diseases that are linked to nail health and could cause results like split fingernails. Some diseases include:

  • Kidney 
  • Liver 
  • Skin 
  • Thyroid 

Keep in mind that these are serious diseases that can cause several symptoms. The key is to treat/maintain them as well as possible so you can minimize symptoms like split nails.

In some cases like picking/injury, it’s obvious what’s causing the broken nails. However, in other situations like conditions/diseases, it’s less obvious.

That’s why it’s critical to contact your doctor if you start experiencing split nails and there’s no reasonable explanation. He/She can provide a check-up and order tests when necessary. It’s critical to know whether or not there are certain conditions/diseases that are causing the broken fingernails.

Top tips to prevent split fingernail

Top Tips to Prevent Split Fingernails

1. Add nail-hardening items

You can find these products at various stories like beauty supply and online retailers. Make sure to go with products with natural ingredients to help prevent possible side-effects due to strong chemicals. However, you should also note that strengthening nails is always best from the inside-out.

2. Avoid applying nail polish remover

This is a handy product that can effectively remove fingernail polish. The problem is it often contains strong chemicals that can cause a world of trouble in terms of nail health. There are other holistic (whole-body) substances you can use to remove nail polish.

3. Add moisturizer to nails/cuticles

This might be a surprising one. Moisturizers themselves are quite helpful for hydrating the skin and is especially useful due to aging skin, health conditions, sun exposure, etc. However, when you moisturize your skin make sure you also some to your nails and cuticles. This can help to prevent various issues.

4. Don’t bite, pick, or pull nails

Biting and picking are often signs of anxiety disorders. Meanwhile, if you have a hangnail make sure to use the proper tools like tweezers to remove them. You could make the situation worse by using your fingertips to remove them.

5. Avoid soaking hands/feet for long times

It turns out that moisture is one of the main causes of split fingernails. The long-term exposure to water can weaken the fingernails/toenails by breaking down the protein. This is something you’ll want to avoid so minimize how long your hands/feet stay submerged in H2O.

6. Keep nails clean/healthy

This is a step you should consider doing anyway. Make sure you frequently clean your nails using a brush. You should also make sure the nails are trimmed properly, cuticles tidied up, and so on. Even small issues like hangnails can be an issue so makes sure to deal with them after learning what causes fingernails to split.

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