Nail Ridges: What Causes Them and How to Get Rid of Them

November 12, 2021


During 2020, I, like many others who were stuck inside, tried to learn how to DIY everything. Cutting my own hair, at-home waxing—you name it, I DIY’d it. And while I was in the middle of my 50th at-home mani of the year, I noticed all these
little nail ridges going down my nails like 3D lines. I brushed it off and continued painting, but my mind starting doing what it always does: overthinking and turning a small observation into the absolute worst-case scenario (I’m a pessimist, what can I say).

So I, wet nails and all, began panic-searching the internet for answers. But when the search results ran the gamut from “no big deal” to “really big deal,” I decided it was time to take my questions from Dr. Google to board-certified dermatologist Lucy Chen, MD, of Riverchase Dermatology (ahem, a real doctor). If you, too, have ever stressed over your fingernail ridges, keep reading to find out when and if you should actually be concerned.


What are nail ridges?

Nail ridges are small indentations that start at the cuticle on the nail bed and can run both vertical and horizontal. FYI, the direction and depth of those fingernail ridges point to different causes, so let’s dive a little deeper…


What causes vertical ridges in nails?

This is actually a really important distinction, because vertical fingernail ridges (running from your cuticles to the tips of your nails) are different than horizontal ridges (running across your nails). Usually, vertical nail ridges are a natural part of aging that happens because of a decrease in cellular turnover. If the ridges are pretty deep and pronounced, and you’re on the ~younger~ side, Dr. Chen says they could point to vitamin deficiencies or dehydration instead. Vertical nail ridges aren’t usually something to be concerned about, but horizontal ones? A whole different story.


What causes horizontal ridges in nails?

Horizontal fingernail ridges are typically a bit deeper than vertical ridges and go across the nail bed from left to right. Dr. Chen explains that horizontal nail ridges (also known as Beau’s lines) can be caused by a variety of underlying health conditions—like kidney disease, diabetes, or a thyroid condition—all of which should be checked out by your doctor. Sometimes diseases such as the mumps or bacterial infections could even present themselves in horizontal nail ridges, so make that doc appointment stat, k?

If a nail ridge pops up after an injury, like if you accidentally slammed it in a car door, it’s likely nothing to stress over. But if very deep vertical lines appear, Dr. Chen says it might be a good idea to get it checked out. And again, if you see any horizontal nail ridges, or if your health feels off, make an appointment with a medical professional asap, k?


How do I get rid of ridges on my fingernails?

If you’re experiencing vertical nail ridges and would rather not, follow Dr. Chen’s tips for smoothing out those lines:

  1. Take a multivitamin. If your nail ridges are due to vitamin deficiency, Dr. Chen says a multivitamin may be beneficial, but always consult your doctor before making any changes to your regimen.
  2. Drink water. Water is baaasically the answer to 99 percent of beauty questions, and this is no different. Dr. Chen explains that drinking lots of water
    and staying hydrated could actually prevent nail ridges from forming as a result of dehydration. It’s that simple, people.
  3. Moisturize. Another way to keep your nails healthy and hydrated or help them out when they’re feeling particularly parched is with a little moisturizing. Dr. Chen recommends using nail and cuticle oils to help replenish your body’s natural oils and aid in the growing out process.
  4. See a doctor. If you’ve tried all of the above and still aren’t seeing any kind of improvement or more nail ridges are forming (ugh), make an appointment with
    a dermatologist for diagnosis and a custom treatment plan.


4 cuticle oils your nails (and ridges) need asap:


Pear Nova Growth – Green Tea Cuticle Oil


Mischo Beauty Nail Elixir Cuticle Oil



Tenoverten Rose Oil



JINsoon Cuticle Oil



The takeaway:

While horizontal dents can be signs of bigger health concerns and something to definitely get checked out by a doctor, vertical nail ridges are typically nothing to worry about and can be addressed at home. As for me, my vertical nail ridges ended up being no cause for concern, or in the famous words of Karen Smith, my nail beds suck. But you know what? I’m really glad I checked anyway.


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