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Home » Ridges in Nails: What They Mean & How to Fix Them
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Ridges in Nails: What They Mean & How to Fix Them

It is not uncommon to have imperfect nails. Growing up, most of us were taught that imperfections like white spots and ridges meant we weren’t drinking enough milk, and so there was a lack of calcium in our bodies. When you don’t know any different, it’s easy to believe what we’re told. However, studies have proven that these imperfections have absolutely nothing to do with the level of calcium that is in your body.

Fingernail ridges are lines on your nail that are typically thin, slightly raised, and not pigmented. They can exist anywhere from your cuticle to the tip of your nail and can even show up on raised areas of the nail. There’s not an age limit on nail ridges. Anyone can get them. However, as you age, the more likely you are to have them, and more often.

Causes of Fingernail Ridges

What causes these ridges are things like genetics, aging, poor circulation, and prolonged exposure to water and certain chemicals. Keep in mind that nail ridges are a common occurrence and aren’t always related to a medical reason. Underneath the nail, the skin loses integrity, causing it to wrinkle. Use hand moisturizers and avoid alcohol-based sanitizers.

If you develop fingernail ridges, there is no need to panic and call the doctor. The only time you should be overly concerned is if the ridges show up suddenly and severely. Otherwise, there are remedies you can try at home, as well as preventative measures. If the ridges are “powdery,” it may be an indication that there is a fungal infection present, but you still don’t need to panic if this is the case – simply use an anti-fungal treatment. It’s important to note that, if the ridges run vertically from cuticle to tip, there is nothing to worry about in most cases.

Ways to Prevent Ridges in your Nails

If you experience fingernail ridges, you’re most likely trying to figure out what you can do to rid yourself of them or prevent future spots. There are many ways that you can prevent future spots. You can do things like frequently applying moisturizers, using nail strengthening topcoats, massaging your cuticles, eating a balanced diet, and more.

Lunula and longitudinal ridging nail on thumb

To understand how to prevent future ridges and help fix current ridges, you need to know all that you can about them. Let’s focus on aging being the culprit of ridges. Your body starts to produce natural oils slower as you get older. Because of this, there is a lack of moisture in your nails, leaving them thin, brittle, and susceptible to peeling.

This all causes ridges to form. If aging is the reason for your nail ridges, you have nothing to worry about; it’s normal. It’s best to make sure you’re eating a healthy diet, exercising, and drinking plenty of water. All these measures will help to keep the circulatory system running well. Cardiovascular exercise helps blood flow to the fingers, which will, in turn, help with ridges.

While you typically don’t need to worry about health concerns when ridges appear, they could be warning you of health concerns. If there’s a brown line or dark pigmentation in your nail, that’s not caused by bruising, then you could have a medical condition or illness. In these cases, you will want to contact your doctor for medical advice.

If you experience certain infections or high fevers, your nail growth could come to a sudden stop. When this happens, it causes Beau’s lines, which can also cause ridges to form under the nail. The good news is that this condition is not permanent, and the ridge will go away once your nail grows out. While there are not any scientific studies showing evidence that supplements help to speed up nail growth or strengthen nails, reports indicate that gelatin and biotin will strengthen the nails in some cases.

Restoring Nail Integrity

If your body is lacking its natural oils to keep your nails healthy, don’t fear! There are things that you can do to restore the moisture your nails need. There are products like vitamin E oil, nail oil, olive oil, and coconut oil that can help prevent nail ridges from forming to begin with. If you have horizontal ridges, especially after you’ve had an illness, doctors recommend that you pay extra attention to your nails for the next few months (or until they have grown out). Giving your nails extra care will help ensure that they don’t end up cracking.

Hand cares, moisturizing nourishing oil for the skin and nails. Home care treatments

Many people accidentally cause ridges that are caused by trauma when they pick or shove the cuticles back. The cuticle is more than extra skin that you think looks bad. It is the only barrier standing between the tissues of your finger and dirt or infections. If you ruin this barrier and end up developing an infection in that area, you can damage your nail matrix, sometimes causing permanent ridges on all future nails.

The matrix refers to the tissue that your nail protects. It’s under the nail and contains lymph, nerves, and blood vessels. Instead of risking the integrity of your nails and matrix, simply turn to using oils instead. Not only will they help the health of your nail, but they’ll prevent cracks, hangnails, and future ridges. If you massage the lotion in instead of just rubbing it, you will be able to increase the blood circulation to your nails, and it will distribute the oil more evenly.

There are other products that you can use to keep your nails – and the skin around them – healthier. When washing your hands, make sure you’re using a moisturizing hand soap. While it’s smart to wash our hands regularly, it can very easily and very quickly begin breaking down the skin – leading to cracks, hangnails, and dry skin. Throughout the day, use hand lotion that’s specifically a moisturizer. An added measure to take would be applying a nail hardener weekly.

A nail hardener helps your nails grow and be breakage resistant. It will protect them from further damage as well. If you’re afraid that this all sounds like too much moisturizing – it’s not. You can’t over-moisturize, and you’ll be preventing the formation of future ridges, cracks, hangnails, etc. You really have nothing to lose by trying these methods.

What’s the difference between using oils and using moisturizes? One would think they’d do the same thing. However, the oils hydrate your nails and skin, while the moisturizers make sure the nail beds and skin aren’t being stripped. It even helps to apply sunscreen to your nails daily. Pair both methods of hydrating and moisturizing, and avoid alcohol-based hand sanitizers, and you will be on your way to preventing future formations of nail ridges.

girl paints nail polish

Some people will advise you to buff out your ridges. However, experts say that it is not a good idea, at all, to buff your nails when ridges are present. If you do have healthy nails, buffing will give them a healthy-looking shine. If you like the look of clear nail polish but don’t like trying to keep up with reapplication, buffing could be a great option for you.

The reason you shouldn’t use buffers when nail ridges are present is that they can be highly abrasive, eventually wearing the surface of your nail so thin that it becomes brittle and prone to cracking. Ridges are actually rows of “missing cells” that are present because the matrix (under the nail) has been damaged or aged and is not producing the new nail cells. If you buff over these areas of missing cells, you will risk wearing the nail around the ridge down and causing splitting or breakage. Be patient, and take care of the ridges before you consider buffing your nails. You will be happy you did.

If you’re embarrassed by your nail ridges, you can always try to cover them up with strengthening polish. If you use regular polish on your nails when ridges are present, you will most likely draw more attention to them instead of hiding them. Nail strengtheners are sometimes referred to as ridge fillers because they will not reflect light and draw attention to the ridges. You can use strengthening polish as a base coat or all by itself. If you do add regular nail polish on top of the strengthener, it will give you a smoother, shinier look than you’d achieve without.

If you do decide to use nail strengtheners, you must do your research when browsing for products. Some work better than others, and some even damage your nails instead of strengthening them. There are many strengtheners on the market that contain formalin or formaldehyde, which damage the nail. Now, formaldehyde will indeed harden your nail at first, but over time your nail will become brittle and will be at risk of separating from the nail bed.

Not only can formaldehyde cause damage to your nails, but it also poses a risk of allergic reactions. The skin around your nail can become very swollen, irritated, and painful. There are many experts concerned about the possibility that these ingredients are carcinogenic (meaning they may cause cancer). Check the directions before purchasing a product, as well.

wearing disposable latex gloves to avoid the contact with viruse

Another preventative measure you can take is wearing gloves during housework. When you think about it, your hands do a lot of work in a day. They are exposed to a lot of wear and tear, as well as water and chemicals. It’s not just your cleaning supplies that expose you to these chemicals; they can also be found in your hand sanitizers and soaps. Excessive exposure to water and chemicals will exaggerate nail ridges. If you practice wearing gloves during your housework, you’ll help protect your nails from the damage that would lead to breakage, ridging, and peeling.

It’s a trendy practice to use powder and gel dip polishes. The reason it’s popular is that the polish can last for weeks. It also makes the nail harder and less susceptible to breakage (while it’s on). However, over time, these polish dip trends will thin out and desiccate you nail plate. The gel and powder aren’t what cause the damage to your nails. It is the products used to remove the polish. Remover will strip keratin and oils off your nails, making them brittle. If you scrape your polish off or use a file to take it off, you can damage your nail as well.


The best advice to anyone who struggles with nail ridges or anyone who simply wants to avoid forming them is to take good care of your hands and nails using the tips from this article. Not only will you be keeping your nails looking their best, but you’ll also be protecting them from imperfections, cell damage, infections, etc. Use moisturizers whenever possible. Avoid any alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Do not ever try to file down a nail ridge; you will simply make the problem worse, and potentially painful. Do not mess with your cuticles – instead, use oils on your nails.

If you have cracks or hangnails, applying oils like olive oil and coconut oil can help bring moisture back to your skin and repair it. Stay away from harsh chemicals. These are found in your cleaning products and your soaps, moisturizers, and nail polishes. Use polish remover as little as possible and do not use buffers on your nails if you have ridges. Buffing your nails will bring back some shine, but it will also make ridges worse and more prone to breakage.

If you buff too often, you will ruin the integrity of your nail, wearing it thinner and weaker with each buff. The best form of protection for your nails, if you can’t avoid certain cleaning products or excessive exposure to water, is to wear gloves during these tasks. You may feel silly at first, but your nails, and the skin surrounding them, will thank you.

If you are going to look into purchasing a nail hardener or strengthener, make sure you choose ones that don’t require removal. If they say they need to be removed a certain amount of time after application, this means that they are not technically considered treatments. Because they need removing, they will not do much good for your nails. The removal process will undo any work the product got done.

While nail ridges are often nothing to be concerned about from a medical standpoint, that is not to say that they aren’t sometimes related to health issues. If you have a sudden and severe onset of nail ridges, you will want to call your doctor for advice as soon as possible. In the meantime, eat a healthy and balanced diet, massage your cuticles, use moisturizers, and stay away from as much exposure to water and chemicals as you can. With enough time, patience, and diligence, you’ll see stronger, healthier nails, and the nail ridges should grow out within 1 to 3 months.

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