Keeping your nails healthy and strong is important as its main function is to protect the fingertips and toes from injuries. The condition of your nails, which are composed of layers of a protein called keratin, can indicate an illness that may require medical attention. Nail splitting is not a serious condition -- you can treat it and prevent it.
Nail Splitting Types
Nail splitting can refer to the vertical splitting of the edge of the nails, commonly referred to as brittle nails. Nail splitting can also refer to the actual vertical splitting on the nail bed from the edge to the cuticle, which is known as onychorrhexis. Both occur for different reasons and treatment can help to decrease the chances of nail splitting.
Brittle Nail Causes
Nails usually become brittle as you age. The natural oils and moisture that you produce hold the layers of your nail together. However, you don't produce as much oil and moisture as you get older, which causes your nails to become brittle and split. Furthermore, nail splitting is often caused due to repeated or prolonged contact with water and strong chemical solvents such as nail polish remover, soap and other household products.
Onychorrhexis not only causes the nail to split vertically, but it may also cause your nails to peel and have vertical ridges. This condition is also referred to as longitudinal ridging, and is often hereditary. Like brittle nails, onychorrhexis usually occurs when your nails are overexposed to strong chemical solvents.
Dr. Lawrence E. Gibson, a Mayo Clinic dermatologist, lists several things that you can do to prevent your nails from splitting. These include keeping your nails dry as often as possible by not taking long soaks in the bathtub and by wearing rubber gloves when washing dishes or when cleaning with harsh solvents. Keep your nails neatly trimmed with rounded tips. Use lotion on your hands after washing your hands and on your hands and feet after using nail polish remover. Furthermore, repair splits as quickly as possible with nail glue or clear polish so the splitting doesn't get worse.