Nail Ridges Be Gone With These Expert-Backed Tips

Here's how to treat and disguise them.

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Nail Ridges

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There are few things that bring us as much peace as having our nails done. We don't need to have wild nail art or the perfect almond shape, but having polished nails makes us feel more put-together than when they're cracked, peeling, and dry.

As such, we spend a lot of time making sure our nails stay as healthy as possible. There are nail strengthening polishes on the market that work wonders, we know that maintaining a healthy diet can make them grow quickly, and our ears perk up when we hear about trends such as "nail slugging" make their way around TikTok. We focus on strength and length, but something that sometimes slips our minds are ridges.

Ridges in fingernails aren't the end of the world, but they can be annoying for people who prefer their nails to have an even, smooth surface.

So to better understand what they are, what causes them, and how to treat and disguise them, we tapped three experts to learn more.

What are nail ridges?

Nail surfaces are usually smooth, but celebrity nail artist Sonya Belakhlef explains that, sometimes, they can have ridges that look like small canyons dipping down to give the nail an uneven, rough texture. "They can appear either vertical up-and-down along the nail bed, or horizontal–from side to side," they explain.

What causes nail ridges?

There are several reasons you could be seeing ridges in your fingernails, some more serious than others. For starters, identify whether you have vertical or horizontal ridges.

Vertical ridges are the most common, and they're typically nothing to worry about. Dr. Kim Nichols, a Board-Certified Dermatologist and Founder of NicholsMD of Greenwich, says that aging is the primary reason people experience these types of ridges. Another popular cause is dehydration, both internal (from not drinking enough water) and external (doing things such as washing your hands in excess), points out licensed nail artist Hannah Lee. However, in some cases, this could also be a sign of a medical condition, such as vitamin deficiency or rheumatoid arthritis, so play it safe and visit your doctor if you notice ridges on your fingernails.

Horizontal ridges, however, are another story. "These are often signal more serious health concerns, as it shows that an underlying cause of some sort has temporarily stopped nail growth," says Dr. Nichols. "Most commonly, diabetes, thyroid diseases, and Raynaud’s syndrome have been found to be the culprits of horizontal nail ridges."

How to Treat Nail Ridges

After you've consulted your primary care physician to rule out a more serious diagnosis, there are several things you can do to strengthen your nails and even out the ridges.

  • Maintain a healthy diet. Dr. Nichols recommends a diet full of dairy, biotin, and zinc. "If for some reason you have a dietary restriction, I recommend taking supplements to ensure that your nails stay healthy and strong," she adds.
  • Apply nail strengtheners. This rings especially true if you're also experiencing breakage and brittleness. Dr. Nichols recommends the ISDIN SI-Nails Serum as "it is formulated with hyaluronic acid for hydration, pistacia lentiscus gum to promote keratin, and silanedial salicylate to promote silicon production." 
  • Avoid harsh manicures. Or at least take breaks. Lee says to be especially cautious with manicures where there is excess filing or grinding on the nail bed. What's equally as important is the removal of these types of manis, as that's where much more serious damage can occur. But fear not, Lee says that a trained nail tech should always be able to remove acrylics or gel without any damage.

How to Disguise Nail Ridges

If you're in a pinch for time and want smooth nails stat, you can fake it 'til you make it. Belakhlef says to use a ridge-filling polish to fill in each little crevice. We love Olive & June's Ridge Filler, ORLY's Nail Armor, and Sally Hansen's Repair + Rescue Ridge Filler — use them alone or as a base for your nail polish.

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