What can I do about a cracked toenail?
By Dr. Anna H. Chacon, MD, Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology Aug 25, 2022 • 4 min
Brittle toenails occur due to a variety of causes, including the long-term use of nail polish or nail polish removers, thyroid diseases and other medical conditions, skin disorders like psoriasis, and the natural results of aging. Excessively dry toenails are at risk for peeling, splitting, cracking and crumbling. A broken, chipped or split toenail can be painful, especially if it catches on socks, sheets or other fabrics and pulls the nail away from the nail bed. Here’s what you may do about a cracked toenail.
How to fix cracked nails
If the crack is located in a position that makes it possible to remove the top portion of the nail at the crack without damaging the nail bed or worsening the crack, use sharp clippers to cut it off. Then, file the nail smooth so it doesn’t catch on anything.
Some people may choose to use nail care products such as nail repair kits for cracked nails. Be sure to read and follow the directions on the package label. If the area becomes red, swollen or painful, see your healthcare provider. This can be a sign of an infection.
How to fix splitting nails
Your toenails may split due to injury, excessive exposure to moisture, or frequent use of acetone-containing nail polish removers. They can split vertically with the grain or horizontally across the grain. Repair split toenails using the same methods for cracked nails.
What to do about broken toenails
If part of your toenail breaks off, leaving a large, jagged gap, clip away as much excess nail as you can to even out the break, then buff it to make the nail smooth. Repair and protect the nail using the same methods as for a cracked or split nail. Use this method to repair chipped nails, too.
How to prevent toenails from cracking and splitting
Toenail cracks due to dryness can be prevented by applying a moisturizer to nails several times a day. Also follow these steps:
- Keep your toenails clipped short and filed smooth
- Apply a hardening nail polish to your toenails
- Avoid using nail polish removers
- Keep your feet and toenails clean and dry
- Don’t pick at or tear your toenails
In some cases, a split or cracked nail may need medical attention. If the crack is deep and extends into the nail bed, a doctor may need to remove the nail. In severe cases, the nail bed may need stitches. If your cracks aren’t severe but they’re frequent, talk to your healthcare provider about options for treatment, which may include topical moisturizers or oral biotin supplements.
Published August 2022.