Nail fail.
October 26, 2011 9:35 PM   Subscribe

Is my fingernail ever going to stop being weak and splitty?

I slammed my finger in a car door some ten-odd years ago. It was painful, I lost the nail, etc. The nail has long since grown back, although there is still a visible scar underneath it, but it's just been kind of a dud as a nail ever since. It splits a lot, when it's not very long at all, and gets snagged on things. All my nails used to be kind of splitty and bad, but now I'm being treated for hypothyroid and the one bad nail's deficiencies have become much more, you know, glaring and annoying and such.

Has anyone else had a nail just go sour like this after an injury? Did it ever get back to its game? Is there anything I can do to make that happen, or do I just learn a valuable lesson about not slamming one's finger in doors and move on, older and wiser?
posted by troublesome to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It might be possible to fix it somehow, but as a datapoint my husband split a toenail playing soccer in college, and now (six years later) it still will only grow split.
posted by Nattie at 9:40 PM on October 26, 2011

Another point of anecdata: I have a toenail that split as a child that grew split for 10-15 years. Now it's just funny shaped, no longer split.
posted by faethverity at 9:47 PM on October 26, 2011

I used to have terrible ingrown toenails on my great toe. One time, the doctor excised the toenail completely. He cut it down the middle, pulled one side out and burned it with acid so that it wouldn't grow back. Then he did the other half. For a few years, it didn't grow back at all. Looked like crap, but it worked - no more ingrown toenails.

Now, it does grow a nail, and it's got a funny shape to it - it's split down the middle where the doctor cut it. It's really weird because there is no underlying reason why it should be that way - the skin underneath was/is smooth. There is no sign that there was ever a cut there, except for the split nail.

But I still don't get ingrown toenails anymore either, so; success, I guess.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:54 PM on October 26, 2011

If there's scarring, you may have a permanently damaged nail sinus, matrix, or eponychium, and it may not grown back correctly, ever.

If this is an issue with other nails, you may have either just congenitally bad nails, or there may be a dietary issue. Cystiene is a major component, and is a non-essential amino acid ( synthesized from methionine - both are present in meat, among other things)
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:58 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't know about making it better, but I can tell you that 15 years ago I had a biopsy that required a fingernail to be removed. It grew back brittle as hell and has always remained so.
posted by Roman Graves at 10:19 PM on October 26, 2011

One of my fingernails has been prone to splitting in exactly the same spot for the last thirty years. I just keep it trimmed short.
posted by flabdablet at 10:57 PM on October 26, 2011

Go to a professional manicurist. They know how to train your nails to grow correctly. Take their advice.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:21 PM on October 26, 2011

Try taking a multivitamin.
posted by bardic at 12:30 AM on October 27, 2011

I had a hand surgeon suggest vitamin E, applied topically, to prevent/reduce some scarring. He suggested that a side effect of this might be stronger & healthier nails. That's a cheap thing to try. You can get vitamin E caplets, tear them open, and rub the oily stuff on your fingertips. I have also found the oil bottled on its own, to be spread with a tissue.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 1:13 AM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I slammed the pointer finger of my left hand in a metal door when I was 8, I lost the nail completely. I'm now 31 and that nail is still a little thinner than my other ones. It took 10 years for it to grow farther than the tip of my finger, and even now it still tears easily.

I just decided that the injury was significant enough that the nail will always be a little worse for the wear.
posted by TooFewShoes at 5:52 AM on October 27, 2011

This kind of permanent split begins in the nail bed itself and really can't be repaired permanently. Think of it as a tree — if the trunk splits into two growing tips, there's no way to reunite them. There's some advice out their on the internets suggesting applications of superglue as a way of keeping the split from propagating (file down short, apply glue to the lengthwise split, let it grow, reapply at the nailbed as the nail grows out). It will make the nail look better and prevent the snagging. But once you stop, the split will still be there.
posted by beagle at 7:05 AM on October 27, 2011

I slammed the middle finger of my left hand in the door of a '64 Mustang convertible in 1980, and the nail has had a lengthwise crack--seems to nearly grow in two somewhat-joined parts--ever since. Thirty-one years! I'm hoping next year will be better but the doc says nothing can be done.
The first joint of that finger has also throbbed a bit for all that time, and a slight knock or crush sets off a real pain. I'm guessing you're stuck with it.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 7:35 AM on October 27, 2011

My only suggestion would be to try using Nailtiques which is what manicurists recommend to repair your nails after removing acrylics or gels. Also a mulitvitamin with omega-3s wouldn't hurt.
posted by radioamy at 7:54 AM on October 27, 2011

I have a split in my big toe nail on my foot. For several years, pedicurists have dutifully super-glued it and put polish on it, and it is maybe a little bit slightly better? The superglue (plus careful trimming and a coat of protective polish) keeps it stable but I keep hoping it will just grow out and it doesn't seem to want to do that.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:36 AM on October 27, 2011

Go to a professional manicurist. They know how to train your nails to grow correctly. Take their advice.

hal_c_on, AFAICT they only know how to repeat what the nail care experts sell them - and nail care experts are a subset of makeup/haircare experts. In my experience, if that entire supergroup of experts know more about the human body's needs than my teacup does, they're willing to lieLieLIE in order to sell a product.

For instance, they sell products that are meant to strengthen the nails that are nothing more than wax/oil mixes. They also sell nail-polish type "nail strengtheners"; these of course only coat the nail temporarily, which protects it while it stays intact, but doesn't actually change the way the nail grows at all.

I have a perennially split nail as well - probably a result of decades of damage from severe nailbiting, now thankfully in the past. If you have followed said advice, and it solved such a problem, I'd be interested.

posted by IAmBroom at 10:57 AM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I also slammed a thumb tip in a car door twenty years ago and still have permanent nail damage. It's not split side to side, but sort of front to back. Like the skin of an onion. If I keep it relatively short, it's fine, but more than a mm or so and it starts to break.
posted by instamatic at 4:51 PM on October 27, 2011

Lame. Who knew: nail damage is forever. I guess I will abandon hope! Thanks all.
posted by troublesome at 9:28 PM on October 27, 2011

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