What Causes Vertical Ridges in Your Nails?

Yesterday a patient asked me why he has ridges on his nails. This is a common question and a common condition. Nail ridging is almost always normal and is, as one 60-something patient kindly put it, “a sign of maturity.”

Vertical ridges come with aging and are in some ways analogous to wrinkles on your skin. They occur as straight lines from the cuticle to the tip of the nail. They usually start in one or two nails and eventually develop in all of your nails as you get older. They can appear as early as your 30’s but become more noticeable by the time you cash your first social security check.


What can you do to prevent nail ridging? Not much. But you can ensure that you have the healthiest nails possible by doing the following:

  • Take biotin 2.5 mg each day. Supplements are available in drugstores and places like Target. Foods high in biotin include: green leafy vegetables, brown rice, wheat, peas, lentils, oats, soybeans, sunflower seeds, walnuts, liver, egg yolks, cheese, and sweet potatoes.
  • File your nails with a coarse nail file to smooth the ridges, then continue to file and smooth with a progressively finer grit file; last, use a buffer to get a polished look.
  • Soak your nails in olive oil to keep them protected from drying out.
  • After washing your hands, apply moisturizer and rub it into your nails.
  • Don’t push back your cuticles.
  • Should men get manicures? Smoothing out ridges is probably a good idea, a bit like “highlighting your grays.” But shiny buffed nails certainly do not work on some men. Best bet: ask your wife/girlfriend/partner.

17 thoughts on “What Causes Vertical Ridges in Your Nails?”

  1. I occasionally get infected hair follicles. The only remedy I know of is to extract all of the hairs in the infected area. I shampoo daily and use nothing else on my hair. I have no known allergies.

    Is there anything I can do to prevent this?

  2. What if you get them but you’re in your early 20’s and eating healthy?

  3. well what causes vertical ridges or bumps on the nain bumps that look like tiny speed bumps

  4. Try manicures or nail treatments regularly at your local manicurist or beauty salon to keep them in tip top condition. Even with ridges.

  5. I’ve always had ridges on my fingernails, and I’m only 18.

    I eat healthily, and don’t have any deficiencies… So… What causes this? …Not that it really bothers me.

  6. i’m only 23 and don’t think I should have them

  7. Erik Andersson says:

    Iam 18 and i definitely don’t think i should have them

  8. I’ve had ridges on my pinkies since I was a child. Do I have old pinkies? I doubt it.

  9. Great only in 30,s and ALL nails ridged and no cure..there must be something!!!!!

  10. leah winfield says:

    i am 17 and have vertical ridges running down my thumbs and they are very deep ridges and causes lumps in the rest of the nail. what could this mean????

  11. wanda jeanne says:

    Less well-appreciated are the ability of whole grains to impair biotin metabolism. My colleague, Bruce Watkins [Watkins 1990], as well as others [Blair 1989; Kopinksi 1989], have shown that biotin deficiencies can be induced in animal models by feeding them high levels of wheat, sorghum, and other cereal grains. Biotin-dependent carboxylases are important metabolic pathways of fatty-acid synthesis, and deficiencies severely inhibit the chain-elongation and desaturation of 18:2n6 (linoleate) to 20:4n6 (arachidonic acid). Human dietary supplementation trials with biotin have shown this vitamin to reduce fingernail brittleness and ridging that are associated with deficiencies of this vitamin [Hochman 1993].

  12. wanda jeanne says:

    Sending from phone so sent b4 I could write…the above post I recently found in an essay by Dr Loren Cordain.
    Dr Loren Cordain believes that the ridging is due to a biotin
    deficiency caused by excessive intake of carbs as phytates bind to minerals inhibiting their absorption.

  13. Huey Oster says:

    im only 12 and i have ridges on my fingernails

  14. I’ve heard for many years that ridges on your nails signify an underlying heart prob. I’ve had them since early 30’s and in my late 50’s, had tests done and discovered I have a congenital heart problem. I started noticing other peoples nails. the ones with ridges also have some kind of a heart problem. I don’t think this is coincidental.

  15. Terry Brown says:

    I have been taking Biotin for 1 1/2 years now and my nail are worse then they have ever been they do seem to grow out faster than before. I am 46 year old and notice my ridges are more defined and my nails are extermely thin. Here’s an example..when I put on a necklace and have to hold open the clasp to hook the other side of the neclace my nail splits in half. I receive a manicure about every 4 weeks and recently tried the gel coating. The gel coating help keep my nails from splitting but they only last 7-10 days and the cost is $30 so it get’s very costly. I am very self conscious about my hands.

  16. Since I cut wheat and gluten from my diet, my nail ridges have dramatically decreased. I have always had very deep vertical ridges, even since childhood. Now my nails feel very smooth and the ridges are barely visible, except on the pinkies where they are still a little more pronounced. In addition to cutting gluten, I have started to take cod liver oil, which is high in vitamins A and D and other great bone/teeth/hair supporting ingredients. That may also be helping my nails. I also ensure I have vitamin C and adequate iron. The C is needed to absorb iron (if you tend to be on the anemic side, as I do) and I have read elsewhere that iron deficiency is also common in those with vertical nail ridges.

  17. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. I hope other readers find it helpful.

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