A common problem among women is the dilemma of fingernails that split and chip. Some women claim that their nails just will not grow. There is no single factor that can be blamed for brittle nails. Sherry Rauh of WebMD claims that fingernails can be a clue to a person’s overall health. Understanding how nails grow is also important for understanding why they break.

Nail Growth

Growth rates of fingernails vary, but according to health.learninginfo.org, nails grow at an average rate of one-and-a-half inches per year. The moon-shaped area at the bottom of the fingernail is where new nail is grown. When these cells die, they fill with a protein matrix composed of keratin fibers that causes them to harden, health.learninginfo.org reports. The oldest part of your fingernail is the very tip, the part that will likely break first.

Nutritional Deficiencies

Dr. Loretta J. Standley cites nutritional deficiency as the most likely cause of nail disorders. There are several nutrients that can affect the growth and suppleness of fingernails. Diets that do not include enough protein will lead to weak nails as there will not be a sufficient amount of protein fibers to allow the cells to keratinize. Deficiencies of folic acid and vitamin C will also cause brittle nails.

Poor Maintenance

If fingernails are not maintained with a regular manicure, splitting and chipping are inevitable. Nails that are not cleaned properly will allow infection to set up in the fingernail. Chewing and picking at nails breaks them and also exposes your nails to bacteria from your mouth. Jagged edges that are not smoothed with a file provide an easy surface to snag and tear. Nails that are well-shaped, particularly if they mimic the nail bed, are stronger than nails that are allowed to grow as they will.


When an infection gets underneath the fingernail, blood may not circulate properly. In turn, this will decrease the amount of moisture and nutrients that the nail has to grow. As the nail dries out it becomes brittle and may break or peel. WebMD recommends bringing your own instruments to the nail salon to decrease your chances of getting an infection from contaminated tools.


WebMD lists several diseases and disorders that can have a negative impact on fingernails. Poor circulation, indicated by whitish nails prevents blood flow to the new cells. White fingernails can also be indicative of anemia and liver disease such as hepatitis. Psoriasis and other inflammatory illnesses can cause the nails to have an uneven surface, which will ultimately lead to weak points in the nail.