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The nail of one of my favorite fingers keeps splitting, and catching on things. So far it has not torn the quick, but my luck will not hold forever.

  • What can I do to protect it from catching and tearing?
  • How can I keep the split from propagating?
  • How can I make future splits less likely?

Ordinary bandages are less than satisfactory; they don't stay in place well, and the adhesive fails in less than a day (unless I refrain from washing that hand!).

I thought of buying press-on nails. Never having been one to decorate my fingers, I am ignorant in these matters.

Another possibility is a rubber thimble, which I imagine I could find in an office supply shop, but I don't know whether it would work well at all.

Mom suggested clear nail polish could help prevent future splits; do you have experience with this?

  • Please clarify: you mean a nail that is partially torn from the side, not fingernails that are spilt horizontally with separating layers? – Stephie May 9 at 6:56
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    I mean a longitudinal crack which, if it propagated, would bisect the nail along the midline, parallel to the axis of the finger. – Anton Sherwood May 9 at 7:01
  • Ouch. I see what you mean. – Stephie May 9 at 7:02
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I keep my nails an average length - maybe three millimeters past the end of the nail bed. If I've damaged one for some reason (most recent recollection is that I caught one on a cheese grater and ripped a bit of the nail bed) I usually find it quite effective to:

  • clean well the underside of the equivalent nail on the other hand,
  • carefully trim all 3mm off in one cut using a pair of scissors (my nails are too arched to allow clippers to do it but you might be able to use clippers). Remove the sharp points at either end by cutting a minimal amount of the point off
  • trim the damaged nail back as much as possible so a minimal amount of nail is projecting. If your nails are particularly ridged on top, carefully smooth the ridges off at the end with a nail file
  • use superglue/krazyglue/whatever your country calls cyanoacrylate (a thin strong smelling liquid that comes in tiny tubes and "bonds skin and eyes in seconds") to glue the good nail cutting to the top (not the end) of the damaged nail, bridging over the split
  • after the glue sets, use a nail file to reduce the height slightly and smooth the edges so it doesn't catch. Using clear nail polish will also help in this regard

Use a minimal amount of glue; the way cyanoacrylate works is you put a tiny amount on and let it creep into cracks and gaps itself

The reinforcement is most likely to break away from the ends, so aim to avoid them snagging on anything. Consider wearing a sticking plaster to remind yourself to be careful with that finger. If sticking plasters are a bit cumbersome, the fabric sticky tape used to hold bandages in place can work well- brand name in many countries is 3M Mepore or Micropore

If the top layers of your nail are flaking away and breaking off the nail edge, it may be enough to put a tiny amount of glue on, wait for it to dry and then file the edge so it is rounded on top to reduce snagging. Don't use your nails to pick at things like stickers, battery covers, lids or other things where you're pushing the nail into a crack and using it as a lever etc

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    So you “transplant” a piece of nail from one hand to the other? – Stephie May 9 at 6:57
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    I think of it more like a false nail that I have to hand, if you'll pardon the pun ;) – Caius Jard May 9 at 8:34
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Physical:

Your nails split because you don't use them like evolution tells you to, so you could start using them by climbing trees, digging, grabbing things, ... but the more civilised way to get the same result is to:

  • stop cutting your nails
  • use a 240 grit nail file every single day for a few minutes to polish and buff all of them.

As you artificially remove the keratin of your nails, your body will react by creating tougher nails by creating more keratin and your nail will stop splitting.

Physiological:

One of the trace elements needed to get good natural nails is Zinc (Chemical formula Zn) so buy a mineral food supplement that contains Zn in the ingredients (no multi-vitamins needed: multi-minerals are good enough)¹

It'll take a while, but after a few months you'll have the best nails of the entire neighbourhood!


Note¹: Don't take nutritional advice from random strangers on the Internet, but see a qualified physician / nutritionist and double-check that the advice given works for you!
Note2: Having said the above, little white flecks on your nails are a symptom of Zn-deficiency in your diet!

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