What to do if you get a split nail

How To Fix Split Nails - Sara Sampaio

And why COVID-19 is to blame for your brittle nails

Beauty Crew Contributing Editor / April 30 2020

You've decided to (ok, COVID-19 has forced you to) take a break from your gel nails. You're trying your best to embrace your natural nails but it's not going well. Your nails are a fragile mess and now you have a split down the middle. What gives? Well, the reason for your sudden split nails is very likely related to the coronavirus pandemic. 

What are split nails?

A split nail is when your nail breaks vertically, as opposed to a horizontal broken nail. It can happen to a fingernail or a toenail. “A split nail is a weak nail, however, it could be due to a genetic disposition; some of us are born with naturally weak nails thanks to heredity traits,” explains Sally Hansen Nail Expert, Alison Bowhill-Hayes. 

Why do I get split nails?

According to Bowhill-Hayes, the most common cause of split nails is overexposure to water. Professions like hairdressers, healthcare workers and cleaners whose hands are constantly exposed to water are most likely to suffer from split nails. However, during this COVID-19 pandemic where we’re washing our hands a lot more than we used to, we’re all now at risk of getting split nails. 

While less common, Bowhill-Hayes warns that splitting nails can also be due to something more serious. “Health concerns such as circulatory disease, arthritis, and diabetes will often result in poor blood flow to nails and they will often cause deep vertical ridges and lines, which will lead to a split at the free-edge or distal edge of the nail plate.” 

Other health conditions like psoriasis, thyroid disorders, autoimmune problems, and a vitamin deficiency could also be to blame for your weak nails. If your nails don’t grow very fast, you could be deficient in biotin, vitamin C, or zinc. Flaky or weak nails could be the result of not eating enough high-protein foods. Vertical ridges often signal that you need more magnesium or iron in your diet. Have a chat with your doctor if you think the reason for your split nails is more severe than simply exposing them to too much water.

Is a split nail the same as a broken nail? 

A split nail is different from a broken nail and peeling nails. Broken nails tend to be caused by general wear and tear and are not necessarily the result of your nails being in poor condition - although brittle nails are more prone to breaking

Peeling nails are a type of split that occurs horizontally most of the time,” says Bowhill-Hayes. “It actually looks like lots of layers, just the same as pastry in a croissant. This is a classic case of severe dehydration and dryness in the nail plate. Just as the skin shows patches and roughness when it is dehydrated, so does the nail plate by way of flaking or peeling off.” 

How to prevent split nails

The best treatment for split nails really is prevention. While there are some things we can’t (and shouldn’t) avoid, like washing our hands, there are some easy steps you can take to reduce your risk of split nails. 

#1 / Keep your nails short.

#2/ “Do a DIY manicure every week to maintain good nail health,” recommends Bowhill-Hayes. 

#3 / Use an acetone-free nail polish remover (acetone weakens the nail). Try Sienna Byron Bay Nail Polish Remover – Water Based with Soy.

#4 / “Apply a nail treatment as opposed to colour to rejuvenate,” says Bowhill-Hayes, who recommends Sally Hansen Miracle Cure. For more great nail treatments, these are the ones our members love.

#5 / When washing the dishes, cleaning the house, or doing activities that use your hands, try to wear gloves to protect the nails from chemicals, excessive water, and trauma.

#6 / After washing your hands, replenish moisture with a hand cream. Our Review Crew® like kōtia Revitalising Hand & Nail Cream.

How to fix a split nail

So, it’s too late and you’ve already got a split nail. Now what? It’s best to trim your nail to avoid the split getting worse. Bowhill-Hayes also advises treating your hands and nails to vitamin E for healthier nails. “Apply vitamin E oil to the nail plate and cuticles day and night. I love Sally Hansen Vitamin E Nail and Cuticle Oil as it absorbs well, gives immediate hydration, and promotes blood flow to improve circulation. It will mean being strict on your regimen with a commitment to treat the problem. The more severe the split, the longer the repair will take.”

If you want to try and salvage the nail without cutting it off, try this genius hack for fixing a broken nail using a tea bag!

Main image credit: @sarasampaio

Chelsea is BEAUTYcrew’s Contributing Editor. She has a sweet spot for anything that claims to make skin glow and won’t leave the house without a slick of mascara. Chelsea has 10 years of experience as a beauty editor and her words can be found on BEAUTYcrew, Women’s Health, Daily Addict, The Joye and Primped.