Nail Clinic: Cracking Up

Main image: 
Deck: 
Learn how you can keep splitting nails from giving you a splitting headache at the salon.

As we wrap up the cold-weather months, you may notice that your clients’ skin and nails are drier than usual, thanks to the lack of humidity in the air combined with moisture-sapping hot showers. Of course, splitting nails aren’t only seen in winter—they occur year-round. As people age and lose moisture in their skin and nails, splitting becomes a relatively common problem. You have probably noticed that this condition, with the ensuing chips and breakage, puts a real damper on your client’s beautiful manicure. However, you can take steps to help your client with her nail issues and restore moisture to her nails so that splitting becomes less frequent or severe, thereby ensuring that your client’s weekly appointments aren’t in vain.

What the Split?
The medical term for splitting nails is onychoschizia (pronounced ON-i-ko-SKIZ-ee-ah) and may also be called onychoschisis or lamellar dystrophy. “The phenomenon is more common in women,” says Robert Brodell, MD, professor of internal medicine, dermatology, at Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine in Rootstown, Ohio. “This is because women are more likely to have their hands in chemicals and/or water for longer periods [of time], which is a major cause of splitting nails.” Indeed, those with occupations that require contact with water or chemicals—such as doctors or nurses, housewives and hairstylists—tend to have splitting nails with greater frequency. This factor also explains why fingernails are more commonly affected than toenails, as toenails are not exposed to liquids as often.
Aging is also a major cause of splitting. Doug Schoon, chief scientific advisor for CND, explains how the nail begins to split on a cellular level: “Think of your nail matrix as a cornfield, with rows and rows of nail cells. If half of one of those rows gets wiped out, then the area that produces the nail is going to be much thinner. You end up getting a little divot or groove in your nail plate because that whole strip is growing out thinner."
Ridges in the nails are often a precursor to splitting, explains Schoon, and the length of the nail matrix determines the thickness of the nail (the longer the matrix, the thicker the nail plate). When the client experiences enough of this, cell production shutting down, splitting can occur. Meanwhile, nails that split suddenly are often influenced by trauma, such as hitting or bumping nails against a surface. In rare cases, splitting results from more serious health conditions, such as malnutrition, or doses of vitamin A, such as that found in the acne medication Accutane.