Nail Ridges: Causes, Symptoms and Prevention

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Nail ridges can appear for various causes. Although usually vertical nail ridges are nothing to worry about, in some cases can be a good indicator of your health.

In fact, According to a study, Vertical nail ridges, also known as longitudinal ridging or Onychorrhexis, can sometimes be connected to anemia. While central nail ridges can also be caused by iron, folic acid, or protein deficiency. 

While these ridges may be unsightly, there is something that you can do about them. Keep reading to learn all about what those ridges mean, as well as how to reduce and even prevent them.

Vertical nail ridges symptoms (1)

Why Do We Even Have Nails?

It is believed that humans have evolved to grow nails to help us with such essential survival skills as picking things up and holding onto something such as food. Nails also help with picking items off of ourselves, such as parasites or thorns.

Without a fingernail and just a tender spot instead, it would be a lot harder to grip things. So let’s pause and just be thankful we have them. 

What Makes Up the Nail?

Our nails are made up of a hardened protein called keratin (which also makes up your hair).

The fingernail growth begins from the matrix. The nailbed is a result of the keratin cells being pushed out from the matrix, then being flattened, and hardened to form the fingernail.  

Nail Ridge Types and Symptoms

Nail ridges can make us more self-conscious about our nails. While most of the time, those groves in our nails are totally harmless, some types of ridges can be tell-tale signs of underlying problems in the body.

Nail ridges that are accompanied by other symptoms, such as discoloration, brittleness, etc., can be a significant warning sign that we should not ignore! 

There are two types of ridges we can identify in the nail: vertical and horizontal ridges. To put it simply: if you have light vertical nail ridges, take a deep breath.

These vertical ridges usually just mean you’re getting older. They should definitely not be tender or painful to touch. If they are, see your doctor or dermatologist, stat! 

 central horizontal and vertical ridges on finger nail

What Causes Horizontal Ridges in Fingernails?

There is a very long list of things that can cause ridges in your fingernails, which can be a bit tricky. Be aware that different factors can cause the same sign.

If you have horizontal ridges, then its time to do a bit of investigation. Horizontal lines are often seen in conjunction with illness or injury, which we’ll cover in a bit.

Horizontal lines, along with depressions, separation, discoloration, or any other abnormality, could signify a critical underlying condition that needs medical attention.  

These sideways lines, sometimes known as Beau’s lines, can be an indicator of infection, vascular disease, high fever, pneumonia, malnutrition (especially zinc deficiency), heart attack, poorly controlled diabetes, or some other metabolic disorder.

If these are developing, get to your doctor quickly, as something dangerous may be growing in your body.

What Causes Vertical Nail Ridges?

Vertical lines are most common, and the anatomical explanation is rather simple. The ridges are caused by the slow cell turnover during the aging process.  

Besides aging, the causes of ridges include (but are not limited to) stress, hormonal imbalances, eczema, skin dryness, digestion issues, or nutritional deficiencies. 

Sometimes (although rarely), these vertical ridges can be caused by trauma, malnutrition, overuse of nail solvents, surgery, or a nailbed tumor.

Dehydration of the nail plate can happen from excessive exposure to water, also leading to these ridges. But most often, the case is just a result of another trip around the sun.  

Why Do Nails Get Ridges as You Age?

The older we grow, the more we lose that beautiful baby-smooth texture that we had in our youth thanks to a slower process of cell turnover. Yes, the slowing of cell processing happens everywhere in the body, including our nails. 

Your skin underneath your nail becomes wrinkled, like the other wrinkles you’ll identify on your body. This results in the ridges, because of the loss of integrity in the skin.

Who knows…maybe someday they’ll invent a Botox equivalent for the nailbed, but until then, there are plenty of other ways to deal with ridges.  

What Vitamin Are You Lacking When You Have Ridges in Your Nails?

Vitamin deficiencies are usually an easy fix. Some symptoms that may accompany ridges that indicate nutritional deficiency include slow growth, brittle nails, and cracking skin around the nailbed.

Vitamins A, D, E, and minerals like calcium, biotin, and zinc are fundamental for healthy skin and nails. 

If you lack proper amounts of these nutrients in your diet, then your body does not have the necessary tools to rebuild itself. Although rarer, ridges could also indicate a deficiency in protein. 

If you have not had access to a well-balanced diet or you suspect a digestive disorder, it would be worth a trip to your doctor to run a lab test to see what your body needs. 

One of the most common vitamin deficiencies among people worldwide is vitamin D, which plays a role in building healthy nails, among other vital functions in the body.

When supplementing with this vitamin, you may be able to grow healthier nails and minimize ridges.  

Another common indicator of vertical ridges is iron deficiency anemia. This usually results in deep ridges. Other symptoms to watch out for with this are weakness and dizziness.  

When you eat right, you will give yourself the best shot at healthy and full nails.  

Can Stress Cause Ridges in Fingernails?

Yes, stress can definitely cause nail ridges. When we are exposed to chronic (weeks, months, or years of) stress, our psychological burdens create wear and tear on our bodies.

This can result in compromising our immune system and early aging. When the keratin cells cannot replace themselves because the body is using its energy to sustain other functions and battle with chronic stress, your nails will suffer.  

If you’ve been experiencing chronic stress, it would be best to visit your healthcare provider and get a blood test to check your cortisol levels and check the functioning of other systems.

Much like a car, our bodies can often hide problems until its too late, so it’s best to do a little routine maintenance now and then to seek out help before a major break-down.   

Try to find other creative ways to reduce your stress like going for a walk out in nature, do yoga or meditate, and spend time with loved ones and friends.

You’ll likely notice that the less stressed you are, the better you will feel, and the healthier your nails will look! 

How to Get Rid of Nail Ridges?

Buffing the nails

Sometimes the ridges will get rid of themselves. But when it’s time to take matters into your own hands, we have some solutions for you. While you may not be able to completely get rid of nail ridges, you can certainly reduce them.

Here are some tried and true ways you can reduce the appearance of nail ridges:


Grab your trusty buffing block and get to work on those nails. Make sure to do so gently, so as not to damage and weaken the nail altogether. Don’t try to buff out the entire ridge.

Gentle buffing will help the texture look more even. Not to mention, it will help them shine.

Bring on the moisture!

Using nail oil will help quench your thirsty nails. Moisturizing your nails will reduce the appearance of ridges and also help protect the keratin.

You can apply before bed and even wear some light gloves to bed to really lock in that moisture. 

Nail hardener

Invest in a prescription-strength nail hardener like hard as hoof from Onyx. This highly–rated supplement will give your nails some needed nutrition and help strengthen them.

Ridge filler

Sometimes a manicure can highlight those nail ridges. But when you use a ridge filler, you can help make those ridges disappear, like magic. 

Can You Prevent Getting Nail Ridges?

Preventing ridges is A LOT easier than getting rid of them. Below are the very best tips to avoid ridges and having healthier nails.  


The first and most important thing you should be doing is eating a healthy and balanced diet high in vitamins and minerals. Foods rich in nutrients also prevent premature aging,

which helps to combat nail ridges. You can also supplement with a quality multi-vitamin for extra insurance.

If you don’t like swallowing pills, opt for a gummy vitamin. Some people swear by taking prenatal vitamins for optimum nail growth, so you can always try this too.

Nail Biting

Don’t bite your nails. This is a common habit but only results in adverse outcomes. You weaken the nail, and you expose the finger to risks such as infection/inflammation and ingrown nails.

Worse yet, you could also give yourself a disease, facial warts, or dental issues by putting your nails in your mouth. If you bite your nails, talk to your doctor about help with this; there are plenty of options!

Don’t get crazy with the nail file

Some shaping is ok when needed, but be sure you’re not constantly using an emery board on your nails like some 1950s secretary. Constant filing can and will weaken the nail and cause ridges.  

Avoid trauma

You may be rolling your eyes at the obviousness of this. Still, many people don’t realize that even minor traumas are affecting their nails.

Take steps to avoid this by wearing gloves when working around the house, at the gym, or doing other tasks with your hands. Try to keep your nails short, too, to reduce snagging and tearing. This will help prevent ridges significantly. 

Leave your cuticle alone!

Destroying or pushing back the cuticle can stunt important growth.

Keep ’em dry!

Sometimes, we don’t have a choice when we have jobs that require water exposure or constant hand washing. During your wash, however, you can combat dryness with moisturizing hand soap, followed by your favorite moisturizer after drying your hands.

Let them breathe

Lay off the constant use of acrylics, as these can definitely lead to ridges if used too often. Now and then, it’s ok to use acrylics, but be sure to give your nails a much-needed break!

It’s even better if you stay away from acrylic altogether and decorate your nails another way. Chose the gentler gels and polishes.

Bottom Line

By now, you probably realize that you can tell a lot about a person by their nails. It’s essential to pay attention to them, as there are A LOT of different things that can cause ridges in your fingernails, which can be quite unnerving.

But now, after reading this article, you’ll have some peace of mind that you’ll know what to watch out for.

The bottom line is to know your nails! If you notice a significant change in them, accompanied by other unusual symptoms in your body, get to your doctor immediately.

Never ignore the warning signs in your body. 

Even if you are unhappy with the way your nails or your ridges look, take a moment to appreciate your nails for all of the work that they let your hands do.

Your nails are just as unique as you, and they work hard, so be sure to show them a little love. And while you should treat yourself with a manicure, remember all the ways that you can prevent future ridges, and your nails will thank you in return by growing beautifully.  

Thanks for stopping by! We hope you enjoyed this article on nail ridge causes, symptoms, and prevention.

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