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Why Do My Thumbnails Ridge Down the Center?

By Cynthia Bailey MD. This page was updated on Fri, Sep 01, 2017

The habit of flicking or rubbing the thumbnail cuticle causes the ridges. This is called Habit-tic deformity. The friction irritates and thickens the nail fold and where your thumbnail grows, causing the nail to grow with the ridging. The cause is repeated trauma and friction. Once the nail has hardened with the ridges, it won’t flatten out. How Do You Stop This from Happening? Stop the flicking and the nail fold will stop making ridged nails. It really is that simple. But flicking your nail is often subconscious. Try to notice when you start to flick. Or even better, when you feel the urge, come up with an alternate plan. The flicking may be due to tension or stress. Having another outlet might help. How you do that would be based on what works for you. Options might include simply acknowledging the tension and looking up, out a window, or taking deep breaths and letting the tension subside. Another option is called EFT tapping. It is based on meridians in the body and tapping them when the tension rises. I have used it when under stress and it helps. The Karate Chop on the side of the hand is a good alternative for nail flicking since the tension is playing out in the hands. Another simple option is to do acupressure on your hand. Press firmly but gently on the point between your thumb and index finger around the second metacarpal bone. I am not a Chinese medical expert, but I think the technique helps. To help heal the nail and fold, use bag balm after washing. Bag balm helps to soften nails and thick calloused skin. Patients have seen quicker results using bag balm. Don’t seal the cuticle with it though. You can see in the below photo that the cuticle is rounded and the seal has been lost. That leads to nail fold infection called paronychia. Ensure your nail fold dries well while your thumb skin heals. While your nail is healing, take good care of your hands. Use a non-drying hand soap like my Natural Foaming Hand Soap. Apply a good moisturizer after washing, and throughout the day. Top choices include my Natural Lotion or my Dry Skin Hand Cream. I use both. There is a Natural Lotion at my bathroom sink and I keep my Dry Skin Hand Cream in my lab coat pocket and at my kitchen sink. When it comes to keeping hands free from dryness and chapping, these simple steps will do the trick.