Cracked Nails : Causes, Symptoms & Treatment


Who would not like to have beautiful looking hands manicured to perfection with shiny painted nails! Whether you are a house wife or a working woman, featuring gorgeous hand with beautiful pained nails always enhances your personality and appearance.

Explaining cracked nails

cracked-nailsIt is an unrealized fact that finger nails play the role of an exceptional indicator of the overall health. A large number of women experience the problem of cracked nails. In maximum cases, a change in the look of nails can act as the primary indicator of an undetected medical ailment like respiratory disorder, circulatory problem, thyroid disease, or iron deficiency (anemia). Moreover signs like fingernail ridges, variations in the nail contours, and discolorations can be significant indicators of illness.

Cracked nails indicate a problem faced by a large number of women around the world. Split and cracked nails indicate vitamin deficiency or a health problem very rarely. Have you ever noticed ridges in your nails? However, fingernail ridges are not essentially a matter of concern. It is important to draw a line of distinction between vertical and horizontal ridges occurring in nails. Vertical ridges in nails can be seen more commonly and do not indicate any serious ailment. These ridges usually get more prominent with growing age and usually do not signify bad health or any serious medical condition.

Conversely, horizontal ridges of nails signify the occurrence of a hidden ailment or health condition. However, this may not be the case always. Horizontal ridges in nails sprint lengthwise across the nail.

What Causes Cracked Nails

Usually, cracked nails are a result of excessive moisture contained in the nail plate. On being exposed to moisture, it swells and contracts on getting dried. The repetition of this process leads to cracked nails. Moreover, some of the most common causes of cracked and dry nails include physical strain to the nails, long-drawn-out exposure to water, using nail polish remover frequently, improper buffing or filing of the nails, unnecessary exposure of nails to chemicals, detergents, etc. Also, cold weather can lead to dryness of nails thus leading to splits and cracks.

Besides, there are also some other causes of cracked nails. These can be classified into different categories including:

Medical causes of cracked nails

There are numerous reasons why nails can crack and split. These reasons vary from exposure to harsh chemicals to infection in nails. One of the most common medical causes of cracked nails lies in fungal infection. Even though fungal infection is more frequently spotted in toenails, the finger nails are also at risk of being infected. Since the keratin protein forming the base of nail plate can be eaten up by the fungus, it can also lead to separation of nail plate from the nail bed if it is not treated in time. Another reason for cracked and split nails includes psoriasis. On being affected by psoriasis, the nail becomes more prone to get cracked, peel and split thus leading to crumbling and making it untreatable. It is essential to treat nail psoriasis from a dermatologist.

Non-medical causes of cracked nails

Generally, maximum non-medical causes of cracked nails are associated with over exposure of nail to harmful chemicals and water. This leads the nail to lose the moisture barrier and natural oils. Many times, low humidity levels in winters plays an imperative role in robbing the essential moisture from nails. Besides, growing age is also a factor responsible cracked and splitting nails. With growing age, specifically after menopause in women, low moisture level is produced thus causing finger nails to get dry and more prone to cracking and splitting.

The various causes, medical as well as non-medical, leading to cracking and splitting of nails can be further illustrated in detail as follows


Nail injuries can be a reason for their cracks, splits, and peeling. Nail biting can result in leaving them frayed and more prone to further damage. Moreover, using your finger nails as paraphernalia for prying and scraping also leads to nail injuries, and nails tend to crack and break easily during the casual activities in daily life. Keeping nails trimmed short and regular filing can prevent splitting and peeling from getting into worse condition.


Chemicals, like household cleaners and nail polish removers (specifically the ones containing acetone), can result in dryness of nails. Besides, colored nail polish and adhesives used in glue-on nails can all lead to nail damage leaving them cracked and split.


Maximum cases of cracked nails are a result of moisture. Repeatedly wetting and drying of nails thus making them weak and more prone to break easily. Excessive moisture can also result in weak nails, softening them and resulting in peeling.


Cracked nails can also be an outcome of hypothyroidism, a medical condition wherein the thyroid gland remains underactive and is unable to produce sufficient hormones required for growth and health of nails.

Iron deficiency (Anemia)

Anemia or iron deficiency may also be an underlying cause of cracked nails. Iron helps the body in producing hemoglobin, the oxygen carrying part of RBCs. A deficiency of iron can lead to cracked nails for the blood oxygen does not completely reach the nail bed.


Sticking on to a very low fat diet and a lack of Vitamin E can also be a reason for cracked nails. Moreover, insufficient calcium in diet also results in cracking nails.

Ignorance towards nail care

One of the most important pre-requisites for maintaining the health and beauty of nails is nail care. Any kind of ignorance towards nail care can lead to cracked nails, loss of moisture and thus brittleness and discoloration of nails.


Many body changes are brought about by menopause in a woman. One of these important changes includes dry and cracking nails. This is the reason that in many cases, menopause is taken as an important cause for occurrence of cracked nails.

Signs & Symptoms of Cracked nails

The problem of cracked nails is diagnosed by a physician on the basis of some signs that consist of depressions across the nails, horizontal splitting of nails, fungal infection in the nails, and comprehension that the patient encompasses other ailments like liver disease. Usually, signs overlie with symptoms, but are objective instead of subjective observations exercised by the doctor. Some other signs of cracked nails include toenails with similar problems, whether it occurs on both sides of the body and whether the nails are showing lesser luster as compared to the past.

The symptoms of cracked nails are felt by the patient and are used as a basis for finding signs for diagnosis. Some of the most common symptoms for cracked nails include the amount of ridges or breakage in nails, the duration of time for which problem has existed, whether it is a recent injury or whether the thickness of nail has changed. Some other symptoms of cracked and dry nails include nail biting, discoloration of nails, and red lines across the beds. These symptoms are used for delineating the problem so as to develop a treatment approach.

Treatment for cracked nails

cracked nails treatmentCracked nails are not considered as a serious problem. Moreover, many people don’t even care to look for them, since it doesn’t affect their lifestyle even a bit. But, a little knowledge combined with a bit of extra efforts can be helpful in treating cracked nails and making them healthy and beautiful. However, if you care for your nails, you can adopt the following preventive and treatment measures for cracked and dry nails:

Moisturize your nails

Cracked nails can occur as a result of dryness. On being exposed to water, the keratin, performing the function of strengthening and holding together the topmost layer of nails, breaks down. Moreover, excessive abrasive chemicals contained by nail polish removers can also lead to dryness. This dryness can, however, be countered by moisturizing the nails.

It is quite simple to moisturize the nails. It takes just a few extra minutes to rub the moisturizer thoroughly around the nails every time you use a moisturizer or hand lotion. The hands and the nails should be moisturized every time you wash your hands, take a bath, do the dishes, or use a nail paint remover. However, if you forget to moisturize your cuticles and nails, you can do it prior to going to bed. Following this simple application will be quite helpful in healing damaged nails.

Well, while making a choice for the moisturizer, it is important to look for the below mentioned ingredients:

  • Occlusive, like lanolin, petroleum, and mineral oils which are efficient in slowing the rate of loss of moisture from the nails thus preventing dryness.
  • Proteins, like keratin and collagen, which are helpful in strengthening the cells of the nail plate thus, making it more defiant to cracking and splitting.
  • Humectants which entrap moisture of the nail shield thus preventing dryness and cracks. Some of the common humectants comprise lactic acid, urea, glycerin, alpha hydro-oxy-acids, propylene glycol, and phospholipids.

The nutritional approach

Lack of good nutrition is also one of the reasons for cracked, brittle and splitting nails. Having blood studies done is a good idea to ensure that a deficiency of minerals like zinc, iron, or calcium do not exist adding to the problem. It is important to take a vitamin and mineral rich diet so as to avoid cracking nails and making them healthy and beautiful. Moreover, incorporating fish oils and other sources of fatty acids in your diet can also prove helpful.

Avoid harsh chemicals

To maintain the health and beauty of your nails and prevent them from cracking, it is advised to avoid overuse of harsh chemicals like nail polish removers containing acetone, cleaning chemicals, or even while doing with dishes. This can be done by wearing gloves while doing so.

Avoid stress on nails

If you want to have beautiful and healthy nails, it is important to keep them away from any kind of physical trauma like nail biting or picking and prying things with nails.

Keep your nails dry

Prolonged or repeated contact with water can lead to cracked nails. It is recommended to wear cotton-lined gloves while washing dishes or cleaning and using harsh chemicals. Also, try to avoid long soaks in the tub.

Practice good hygiene for nails

It is essential to keep the nails trimmed neatly and give them a rounded shape with a gentle curve. Also, make sure to rub the hand lotion on to the cuticles and fingernails while applying it on your hands. Besides, avoid biting finger nails, pick, pry or poke things with your nails, and avoid picking at the cuticles as well.

Repair cracked finger nails immediately

It is important to repair tears or splits with the help of clear polish or nail glue to avoid the problem from getting worse.

Home remedies for cracked nails

Some easy home remedies that help in treating dry and cracked nails include:

  • Apply vegetable oil

One of the most effective natural remedies helpful in treating cracked nails includes applying vegetable oil. Just take a little vegetable oil on a cotton swab and wipe it on nails. This will ensure your nails to stay moisturized and thus healthy.

  • Apply clarified butter

Dry and cracked nails can also be treated by applying clarified butter (Ghee) thus making them soft and strong. Clarified butter (Ghee) is helpful in strengthening weak and brittle nails in addition to instigating their growth.

  • Add nutrients to your diet

The most important remedy to treat cracked nails is adding more nutritional value to your diet. Take in foods containing high amount of biotin. Some good examples include lentils, peanuts, mushrooms, egg yolks, bananas, sardines, cauliflower, and liver.

Besides the knowledge about the aforementioned tips and info related to cracked nails, you should consult a dermatologist if you are experiencing any of the signs and symptoms highlighting the problem to treat it well in time.


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