Why Do My Nails Split?

Brittle, splitting nails, also known by the technical terms onychorrhexis or onychoschizia, can be annoying and unsightly. Most people battle with brittle nails in the winter, brought on by dry air and low humidity. That said, spending lots of time in the pool or the ocean during summer can do just as much damage. There are a few causes, which means there are also a few ways to deal with and treat brittle nails.


While not common, an iron deficiency can bring on split nails. Load up on iron-rich food like legumes, shellfish, beef, or spinach (this editor adds baby spinach to her morning smoothie – when it’s blended in, you don’t even taste it!). Vitamin C is also important, because it helps the body absorb iron (high five for oranges!). If you think you may have an iron deficiency, especially if you’re pregnant, definitely check in with a doctor.

Getting wet

If you’re the designated dishwasher in your house, it’s time to get some rubber gloves or pass the job onto someone else! Overexposure to water can cause the nail bed to weaken and split, so those extra long showers, or hours in the pool (which is full of chemicals), while enjoyable, aren’t doing you any favors. If your nails aren’t too bad, wrapping the tips on your manicure or pedicure (painting along the free edge of the nail) can help seal and protect against water damage.

You’re a biter

If you’re biting your nails, not only are weakening the nail bed, you are transferring bacteria to the nail. Ew. Same goes for chewing on or picking at your cuticles.

Dry air

If you’re running the air con or heating 24/7, the dry air could be sucking the moisture out of your nails and making them dry and flaky. Keeping up a regular routine of applying oil and moisturiser will keep them hydrated. It’s also worth asking your doctor about Omega 3, which is found in fish and flax, and helps keep cells lubricated and healthy.

Nail polish remover

Sad but true, if you’re regularly using cheap and nasty nail polish remover that contains acetone, it can break down the keratin in your nail plate. It generally won’t be the main cause of brittle nails, but it will certainly contribute if any of the above are also happening.

Elise Wright

Elise is a social media strategist from Sydney, now living in NYC, who has a long standing love affair with the beauty industry- especially the nail industry!

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