What Causes Cracked Toenails

Cracked toenails, medically known as onychoschizia, are a common problem that can affect people of all ages. Several factors can contribute to toenail cracking, often involving a combination of external and internal influences.So what causes cracked toenails?

  1. Trauma and Injury: Physical trauma to the toenail, such as stubbing your toe, dropping something heavy on it, or repeated pressure from tight shoes, can cause the nail to crack.
  2. Fungal Infections: Onychomycosis, a fungal infection of the nail, is a common cause of cracked toenails. The fungus weakens the nail structure, leading to brittleness and cracking.
  3. Nutritional Deficiencies: A lack of essential nutrients, particularly biotin (vitamin B7), iron, and zinc, can result in weak and brittle nails.
  4. Moisture Exposure: Excessive exposure to water or harsh chemicals can dehydrate the nails, making them more susceptible to cracking. This is common among people who frequently wash dishes or clean without gloves.
  5. Aging: As we age, nails naturally lose moisture and elasticity, making them more prone to cracking.
  6. Underlying Health Conditions: Conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, and thyroid disorders can affect nail health and lead to cracking.
  7. Improper Nail Care: Using harsh nail products, over-filing, or cutting nails too short can damage the nail plate and cause cracking.

What Causes Cracked Toenails

Symptoms of Cracked Toenails

Cracked toenails can present with various symptoms, depending on the underlying cause. Common signs include:

  • Visible cracks or splits in the nail
  • Rough or jagged nail edges
  • Discoloration (yellow, brown, or white streaks)
  • Thickened nails
  • Brittleness or easy breakage
  • Pain or discomfort, especially if the crack extends into the nail bed
  • Possible infection, characterized by redness, swelling, and pus

Health Implications of Cracked Toenails

While cracked toenails might seem like a minor cosmetic issue, they can have more serious health implications if left untreated:

  1. Infection: Cracks in the nail can create an entry point for bacteria and fungi, leading to infections. In severe cases, this can result in cellulitis, an infection of the skin and soft tissues around the nail.
  2. Pain and Discomfort: Cracked nails can be painful, especially when pressure is applied, such as when wearing shoes or walking.
  3. Impaired Nail Function: Nails protect the tips of our toes and aid in balance and mobility. Severely cracked nails can compromise these functions.
  4. Chronic Conditions: Persistent cracked nails might indicate an underlying health issue that requires medical attention, such as nutritional deficiencies or systemic diseases.

Six Natural Remedies for Cracked Toenails

Addressing the root cause of cracked toenails often requires a holistic approach, including lifestyle changes and natural remedies. Here are six effective strategies:

Improve Nutritional Intake

Ensuring you get adequate nutrients is essential for nail health. Focus on a balanced diet rich in:


Found in eggs, nuts, seeds, and leafy green vegetables, biotin strengthens nails and promotes growth.


Include iron-rich foods like red meat, poultry, lentils, and spinach to prevent anemia-related nail problems.


Foods like pumpkin seeds, beans, and seafood provide zinc, which is vital for nail repair and growth.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids:

Fatty fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts support nail health by reducing inflammation and promoting hydration.

Maintain Proper Hydration

Dehydration can lead to dry, brittle nails. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep your nails and skin hydrated. Additionally, consider using a humidifier in dry environments to maintain moisture levels.

Protect Your Nails

Prevent further damage by taking protective measures:

Wear Proper Footwear:

Choose shoes that fit well and provide adequate room for your toes to prevent trauma and pressure.

Use Gloves:

When cleaning or washing dishes, wear gloves to protect your nails from harsh chemicals and excessive moisture.

Nail Care Routine:

Trim your nails regularly, but avoid cutting them too short. Use a nail file to smooth rough edges and prevent snagging.

Moisturize Regularly

Keeping your nails and cuticles moisturized can prevent cracking and splitting. Use natural oils such as:

Coconut Oil:

Rich in fatty acids, coconut oil nourishes and hydrates the nails. Massage a small amount into your nails and cuticles daily.

Olive Oil:

Contains vitamin E, which promotes nail strength and flexibility. Soak your nails in warm olive oil for 10-15 minutes once a week.

Shea Butter:

Apply shea butter to your nails and cuticles to lock in moisture and improve nail resilience.

Treat Fungal Infections Naturally

If a fungal infection is causing your cracked toenails, natural antifungal treatments can help:

Tea Tree Oil:

Known for its antifungal properties, tea tree oil can be applied directly to the affected nail. Dilute with a carrier oil (like coconut oil) to avoid skin irritation.

Apple Cider Vinegar:

Soak your nails in a mixture of equal parts apple cider vinegar and water for 15-20 minutes daily to combat fungal infections.

Avoid Harsh Chemicals

Exposure to harsh chemicals can weaken nails. Opt for natural, non-toxic nail products and avoid acetone-based nail polish removers. Look for products labeled as “nail strengthening” or “nourishing” that contain natural ingredients like keratin, biotin, and vitamin E.


Cracked toenails are a common issue that can arise from various causes, including trauma, fungal infections, nutritional deficiencies, and improper nail care. While they might seem like a minor inconvenience, cracked toenails can lead to pain, discomfort, and infections if not properly addressed.

By understanding the causes and symptoms of cracked toenails, you can take proactive steps to prevent and treat them. Natural remedies, such as improving nutritional intake, maintaining proper hydration, protecting your nails, moisturizing regularly, treating fungal infections, and avoiding harsh chemicals, can effectively promote nail health and prevent further damage.

Always consult with a healthcare professional if your symptoms persist or worsen, as underlying health conditions might require medical intervention.

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