Vertical Ridges On Fingernails: What Causes Them?

by Gio

vertical ridges on fingernails causes and cures

Do you have vertical lines on your nails?

They’re totally normal. They’re just another sign of aging (like we needed another one…).

By the way, they’re called onychorrhexis. Here’s all you need to know about them:

What causes vertical ridges?

Think of vertical ridges as wrinkles. As you get older, they’re gonna get you.

Cosmetologist Jen Atkins says it better: “as you age, the growth of your nails slows down and ridges can form from lack of moisture from your body’s natural oil.”

By the way, you don’t need to be that old to get them. They can show up announced on your nails as early as in your ’30s. But it’s after 50 that they multiply.

Why? Lawrence Gibson, M.D. and Dermatologist at the Mayo Clinic thinks it’s because of “variations in cell turnover within the nail.”

Basically, when you get older, your nails can’t renew themselves as fast and well as they used to.

How do you deal with vertical ridges?

Do you want the bad news or the good news first?

Ok, bad goes first. There’s no cure for onychorrhexis.

Yep, once you get it, you get it. But – and this is the good news – you can do something to make your nails look better:

  1. A healthy diet is a must here. Your nails need biotin to stay in good condition, so gobble down foods rich in it. The best ones? Soybeans, sweet potatoes, cheese, brown rice, and, you guessed it, green leafy vegetables.
  2. Use your hand cream daily. Reapply it after every wash. Yes, it’s a pain, but vertical ridges are caused by lack of moisture. So, put as much moisture back into your nails as you can. (FIY, if you’re looking for a natural alternative, a few drops of olive oil will do the trick).
  3. Wear gloves when you wash the dishes. Dish washing detergents can be harsh on the skin and dry it out. And that just makes it easier for vertical ridges to develop.
  4. Already stuck with vertical ridges? Your best bet is to use a ridge-filler to smooth out the nail bed. I guess you could gently buff the nails too, but I don’t recommend it. Your nails are already weak. You don’t want to make things worse.

When to see a doctor

You don’t need to see a doctor if you have vertical ridges on your nails.

But if you get horizontal ones or your nails change colour, consult your doctor ASAP. Changes in nails are often the symptoms of underlying health conditions so you want to get checked out, and the sooner the better too.

If you have onychorrhexis, how do you deal with these vertical ridges on your fingernails? Share your tips in the comments below.



Makeup Morsels November 2, 2013 - 1:12 am

Always wondered what caused these! And LOL I’ve had them as a kid hmmm wonder what they will look like in 20 years….

beautifulwithbrains November 3, 2013 - 8:58 pm

Makeup Morsels, they’re just another problem caused by lack of moisture. And they sadly get worse and worse as we get older. But at least they aren’t dangerous. 🙂

Ana November 2, 2013 - 1:42 am

Got those ridges at… 10? 11?

They’ve been getting less noticeable with years, knock on wood.

beautifulwithbrains November 3, 2013 - 9:00 pm

Ana, I’m glad they’re getting better. Keep your hands well-moisturized and you shouldn’t have any more problems with them. At least for a while… 🙂

Icaria November 2, 2013 - 1:28 pm

Great! Another thing to look forward to in my old age! 🙁

beautifulwithbrains November 3, 2013 - 9:02 pm

Icaria, I know, right? At least, they’re not dangerous…

DA Mil February 9, 2020 - 5:06 pm

I don’t agree. For me I have low iron blood count , it’s chronic. I take iron supplements, B12 changed my diet, and drink lots of water(very important). Had this problem like forever. I’m now 72 yrs old and have lots of concernable health issues as a result. Get your blood checked, it’s important. Untreated can lead to congestive heart failure. I too am a cosmetologist and would never give medical advise. There are too many other causes of nail disorders. First I would tell client to check it out with there Dr, and follow his advise. And let me know what he advises. If Dr won’t take patient seriously, find another Dr.

Janessa November 19, 2013 - 6:40 am

I don’t have these luckily but my nails could use some more TLC! I need to cut them before they grow too long and break off and also polish them with a file and USE A BASE COAT and moisturizer my hands some more.

beautifulwithbrains November 19, 2013 - 8:45 pm

Janessa, I’m glad you don’t have these ridges. It’s so easy to neglect your nails until they grow too long and break off, isn’t it? That’s happened to me too a few times and it’s so annoying!

Sherry G October 2, 2016 - 2:34 pm

I’m 56 and have them. However, they became less noticeable when I started taking magnesium supplements, which also caused my nails to be stronger and less brittle. I also apply lotion on my hands every night before bed.

Gio October 2, 2016 - 8:06 pm

Sherry, glad you’ve found something that helps. Getting the right nutrients into your body makes all the difference, doesn’t it?

Dani January 2, 2017 - 10:20 pm

Finally I find out what these ridges are and why they appear. I’ve always had it on one of my thumbs since I was a kid and now as I get older I have them on all of my nails. I was hoping for a quick fix to take it away for good. Just another thing for the dreaded old age . I’ve been smoothing my nails out with a conditioning file and they look normal and really good but I guess that’s not good for them.
I did see a possible remedy, I was hoping, it’s called Flexinail and it’s described to help this issue. I haven’t tried it yet due to they’re all sold out of it. If I may ask, what are your thoughts about using Flexinail?
Thank you.

Gio January 3, 2017 - 11:36 am

Dani, glad you found the post useful. And sorry for not giving you a quick fix but there really aren’t any. I’ve had a look at Flexinail and it just contains a bunch of oils and natural extracts that moisturize nails. These ridges are caused by a lack moisture so Flexinail should help somewhat. But I don’t think it will make them disappear completely.

Kaitlyn October 23, 2017 - 12:59 am

Hi I’m 12 but my nails are like this. Is this bad and do I need to see a doctor

Gio October 27, 2017 - 7:23 pm

Kaitlyn, if you only have vertical lines, you’re fine. But if you also have horizontal lines or your nails are changing colour then yes, you should see a doctor.

Hillary February 25, 2018 - 8:38 pm

I started getting them when I had thyroid problems. I have ridges but I also have had a few nails that split on the vertical ridge. I started using Londontown’s kur ridgefiller in Dec. My nails are improving!!

Gio March 9, 2018 - 6:56 pm

Hillary, so glad to hear that’s helping you!

Andee October 8, 2018 - 5:43 am

I worry about the half moons? They seem to change size and depth. Sometimes more visible and bright than others. If i flex my fingers, the nail bed is white but not if i curl my fingers under…

Gio October 21, 2018 - 5:14 pm

Andee, check out this post as it explains half moons in more detail:

Elaina October 8, 2018 - 10:41 pm

Hi I’m 11 but I’ve had VERTICAL nails for probably a year.Thank you for saying what it really is.I am so thankful it isn’t thyroid problems.

Gio October 21, 2018 - 5:12 pm

Elaina, glad to help!

Lina January 14, 2019 - 3:13 pm

I disagree!
I’ve had these since birth. My grandma started having them late. We are deficient in magnesium and I’ve read that vertical ridges can reflect that (or B12 status). Pretty sure our nails can tell a lot.
P. S. Half moons are definitely a sign of B12 levels dropping, even more accurately than the blood test can show!

Gio January 24, 2019 - 6:52 pm

Lina, thanks for your comment. I’m sure it will help people to know they should check their magnesium levels first. 🙂

Lisa August 17, 2019 - 5:50 pm

I can’t save the information in this article is not true, I’m not a doctor or scientist so I don’t know. What I do know is that my nail ridges have decreased with age. From the time I was a little girl I had really severe horizontal ridges down all my nails. Anytime my nail would grow past the tip of my finger it would split along each Ridge. Fast forward I just turned 52 and my nails are Ridge free. I would say each year from the time I was 30 until now my nails improved in health a little bit each year. I don’t know what to contribute it to oh, it’s definitely not diet because I admittedly eat like crap and yes I know I shouldn’t but I’m just saying that a healthy diet isn’t the cause of my nails getting less ridges instead of more. And as far as them showing up in your 50s or as early as your 30s I can remember them when I was 6 years old so you apparently can be born with this problem and I guess my case should be good news for anyone worried about it getting worse as you age because as I said the older I get the healthier my nails get and my ridges are basically gone after dealing with them for a half a century. Not everything is because of age and not everything gets worse with age.

Marci Rommal October 13, 2019 - 12:38 am

I don’t know if anyone can answer this question for me: I am 62. For the past decade or so, the fingernails on my middle and ring fingers (both hands) grow downward over the tip. Index, baby, and thumb nails all grow straight out, but the four fingers mentioned above grow down over the tip. Any possible reasons for this?

Gio November 8, 2019 - 11:45 am

Marci, I recommend you see a doctor for this.


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