Description, Causes and Risk Factors:

Onychoschizia, or splitting fingernails, is one of the single most common questions of a cosmetic nature to a dermatologist by both adult men and women. It is important to understand the mechanisms by which Onychoschizia occurs before one can conquer this frustrating and enduring problem. Well-designed studies have shown that repetitive and prolonged wetting and drying of the fingernails is the single most common cause of splitting and fissuring of the distal nail tips. There is no data to show that this phenomenon is caused by internal diseases.

Onychoschizia are common complaint in adult and elderly women and can also be observed in people with iron deficiency and thyroid disease. Elderly men are less apt to present with this problem. The increased incidence in women may be a result of their higher cosmetic awareness, there frequent use of nail products, menopausal status, or frequent exposure to harmful extrinsic factors.

The usual cause is repeated wetting and drying of the fingernails. This makes them dry and brittle. This is often worse in low humidity and in the winter (dry heat). The best treatment is to apply lotions containing alpha-hydroxy acids or lanolin-containing lotions to the nails after first soaking nails in water for 5 minutes.

Biotin (component of the vitamin B2 complex) taken by mouth is beneficial in some people. It takes at least 6 months, but does really help at least 1/3 of the time. Do not take this if you are pregnant. Calcium, colloidal minerals, and/or gelatin my help, but have not been shown to help as reliably as biotin.


The possible symptoms of Onychoschizia includes the following,

    Nail splitting involve the fingernails and the toenails.

  • The condition may emerge as a single horizontal split among layers of the nail plate at the growing end or as multiple splits and loosening of the growing edge of the nail plate.


Any abnormal changes to your nails should be medically investigated. Consult your Cosmetologist & dermatologist for treatment. If the cause of your nail problem is not immediately apparent, nail clippings and scrapings from beneath the nail may be taken for laboratory analysis.


Fingernail infections usually respond faster to treatment than toenail infections. Depending on the cause, treatment options may include:

    Antibiotics for bacterial infections.

  • Anti-fungal preparations, mainly oral tablets, for fungal infections in the nails.

  • Treatment for any contributing skin disease.

  • Advice on appropriate nail care.

Because the hands must often be in contact with water during the course of day-to-day living and chores, try to use cotton lined rubber gloves when doing household chores which require the hands to be in watered.

    In general, try to keep the hands out of water as much as possible. Use very little soap when the hands are irritated. After washing, dry the hands thoroughly and apply a bland cream or lotion. Massage the cream or lotion well into the cuticles and around the fingertips. Creams with alpha hydroxy acids help the nails to heal.

  • Always wear gloves during cold weather and when you do any chores which may traumatize the hands. If you wish to avoid trauma to the nail tips, use cotton gloves, silk gloves or "darkroom gloves" for chores like putting groceries away, sorting laundry, etc.

  • Use the finger pads rather than the finger tips or nails for simple chores. Nails should never be used as tools! Learn to sweep small objects, such as coins from a table, with the palmar surface of the fingers or hands rather than picking them up with your nails. Use a pen or pencil to dial phone numbers.

  • Shape and file the nails with a very fine nail file and round the tips into a gentle curve. Never file at the corners or create points. Daily filing away of snags or irregularities helps to prevent further breakage and/or splitting.

  • When or if the nails are "buffed," do this in the same direction as the nail grows and not in a back and forth motion. Limited but routine nail buffing can be likened to trimming the split ends of the hair, but overly vigorous buffing can thin the nail and plate.

  • Nail polishes, if used appropriately, can protect the nail surface. Use a proper base coat and top coat so that the manicure will last longer. The almost daily application of a top coat will keep the distal nail tips more completely protected.

  • Avoid using acrylic, paint on, porcelain, or glue-on nails, especially if your nails are thin and fragile. Painful reactions can occur and long term use on fragile or thin nails can result in permanent scarring of the nail bed.

  • There is no scientific data that supports the therapeutic use of unflavored gelatin to strengthen nails, but it is not known to be harmful.

  • There is one study which suggests that biotin can reverse and/or prevent Onychoschizia.

  • A multivitamin with biotin and folate may be helpful.

NOTE: The above information is educational purpose. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.

DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.


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