How to Fix a Broken Nail

Co-authored by Luba Lee, FNP-BC, MS

Updated: January 24, 2020

Explore this Article Mending the Nail Using a Temporary Repair Applying Nail Glue Show 1 more... Show less... Article Summary Video Questions & Answers References

The next time your nail breaks, don't panic. There are several tricks you can use to fix the damage. It is painful to break a nail, but your fashion doesn’t need to suffer too! Never let an occasion be spoiled again by a broken nail.

Mending the Nail

  1. 1
    Wash your hands or feet. Before you can fix the nail, you need to make sure that your hands are clean and free of oils.
    • Use warm water and soap to wash your hands or feet. Dry well with a clean towel.
    • Wash and dry carefully to avoid accidentally snagging the torn nail and making matters worse.
  2. 2
    Cut a strip of nail mending material.[1] If you have a special nail mending kit, use the fibrous paper in the kit and cut a section large enough to cover the nail and wrap under the tip.
    • If you do not have a nail mending kit, you can cut a piece of material out of a tea bag. This is the most common substitution, and it works quite well.
    • If you do not have nail mending paper or tea bags in your house, you could also try handkerchief linen or coffee filters.
    • At minimum, the material must be large enough to cover the entire break. The material should ideally be large enough to cover the entire nail with enough excess.[2]
  3. 3
    Attach the mending material. Apply a small dot of super glue or nail glue to your nail and use the applicator tip to swirl the glue around gently until it covers the entire nail. Use tweezers to place the cut material onto the nail over the glue.
    • If using a nail mending kit, use the nail mender liquid in the kit instead of glue and apply it using the brush applicator inside the kit.
    • Use tweezers to smooth out any bumps or wrinkles in the material. The material should be as smooth as possible.
    • If necessary, use small nail scissors or regular scissors to trim away excess material.
  4. 4
    Wrap the material over the top of the nail. Pinch your tweezers over the material at the top of the nail, folding it down and under so that it sticks to the underside of your nail.[3]
    • If the material has not gotten any adhesive on it yet, you may need to apply a small dot of glue or mending liquid to make it stick to the underside of the nail.
    • This measure provides extra balance and protection to the broken nail.
  5. 5
    Apply another layer of glue over the material. Put another drop of glue onto the material covering the nail and spread it around using the applicator tip. Create as smooth of a layer as possible.
    • Nail mending liquid can also be used instead of super glue or nail glue.
  6. 6
    Trim and buff. If you have a buffing stone, carefully buff the nail after the glue dries. Use the smoothing side first, then the polishing side.
    • For the better results, rub the buffing stone in a single direction instead of rubbing it back and forth.
  7. 7
    Apply a top coat over the entire nail. Apply a layer of top coat or nail strengthener to the damaged nail in order to balance it out and provide an added, final layer of protection.
    • It is advisable to let the adhesive dry overnight before doing this step to avoid creating bubbles or uneven patches.
    • If desired, you can apply nail polish over the nail once the top coat dries.[4]

Using a Temporary Repair

  1. 1
    Trim a small piece of clear tape down to size. Use scissors to carefully cut a small piece of tape that is just barely bigger than the size of the tear.
    • To make it easier to cut the tape without having to peel the tape off the scissor blades, use small nail scissors or sewing scissors. If you’re using larger scissors, trim the tape using the tip of the blades.
    • Choose a single-sided tape with a mild adhesive. Consider “magic” tape, gift wrap tape, multitask tape, or other transparent office tapes. Avoid strong tapes like electrical tape.
  2. 2
    Cover the entire tear with the tape. Stick the center of the tape over the center of the break. Press down firmly to adhere. Then, using the tip of an unbroken nail, glide the lengths of the tape on either side so that they cover the tear from end to end.[5]
    • Make sure that both broken sides are lined up evenly before applying the tape.
    • Use firm, even pressure to secure the tape in place.
    • Rub the tape on in the direction of the tear, never against it. Rubbing in the opposite direction could cause the nail to peel up further.
  3. 3
    Trim off any excess tape. If the piece of tape you applied to your nail is slightly too large, use nail or sewing scissors to snip away any excess.
    • Make sure that the ends of the tape are flat against the nail.
    • You could also use the tips of standard size scissors to cut the tape if you do not have small scissors.[6]
  4. 4
    Fix the nail as soon as possible. Even though this fix will suffice for emergency nail care, it is by no means a permanent solution. You will need to adhere the nail back into place using a stronger adhesive and a more thorough application.
    • Take special precaution, in the meantime, to avoid snagging the tape or the nail beneath.
  5. 5
    Proceed with caution during tape removal. As you peel the tape off, peel the tape off in the direction of the tear, not against it.

Applying Nail Glue

  1. 1
    Wash your hands or feet. Before you can fix the nail, you need to make sure that your hands are clean and free of oils.
    • Use warm water and soap to wash your hands or feet. Dry well with a clean towel.
    • Wash and dry carefully to avoid accidentally snagging the torn nail and making matters worse.
  2. 2
    Soak the detached nail in warm water. If the tip of your nail broke off completely and you want to reattach it, soak the broken tip in warm water until it feels pliable again.
    • If your nail is still attached or still pliable, disregard this step.
  3. 3
    Apply nail glue to the torn nail. Gently press the tube of nail glue until a small bead of glue comes out. Grab this bead with a toothpick and spread it over one side of the broken nail, creating a thin coat of adhesive.
    • If you do not have nail glue, use super glue. In general, a glue containing cyanoacrylate will form the strongest bond.
    • Do not touch the glue with your fingers for any reason.
  4. 4
    Press the nail into place. Use the tip of the toothpick to ease the broken portion of the nail back into place. Press down on the nail with firm, even pressure, using the side of the toothpick.
    • Again, it is important to avoid getting glue directly on your fingers.
    • Apply pressure for at least 1 minute to ensure that the nail adheres properly.
  5. 5
    Wipe off excess glue. Before the glue finishes drying completely, dip a cotton swab or cotton ball in nail polish remover and run the soaked cotton along the sides of your nail bed. This should get any excess glue off your skin.
    • You may need to scrub a bit to get the glue off.
    • Make sure to apply nail polish remover on any part of your skin you got glue on.
  6. 6
    Smooth the repaired area. After the glue has finished drying, file the nail to look even. Use the rough side of an emery board or nail file to file down the rough, exposed edge of the tear.
    • Move the file in one direction, not back and forth. To minimize the risk of further damage, move in the direction of the break, not against it.
    • Work slowly to prevent yourself from causing additional damage.
  7. 7
    Apply a protective top coat when dry. Once the broken nail seems smooth again, protect it by applying a coat of nail strengthener or protective top coat over the entire nail. Let the nail dry completely.

Repairing a Detached Nail

  1. 1
    Remove the detached nail. When a nail or a portion of the nail gets completely ripped from the nail bed, you may need to remove the nail in order to treat the injury. Use nail scissors to carefully snip away any portion that is partially attached and lift the nail out using tweezers.
    • Untreated nails can lead to infections or ulcers if you have one of these diseases.
    • By removing the nail, you allow yourself better access to the injured nail bed beneath. As a result, you might be able to reduce the risk of infection by treating the area better.
    • Alternatively, you could leave the detached nail in place and clean around it. Doing so is harder, but possible. The detached nail will fall off on its own once new nail grows in its place.

    Have a doctor trim the nail if you have diabetes, peripheral arterial disease, or an immune system problem. Since these diseases can reduce blood flow and feeling in your feet, nail injuries can cause more serious problems. See a doctor for help with your nail injury.[7]

  2. 2
    Stop the bleeding. Depending on how severe the detachment was, your nail bed may be bleeding a lot. Before you can continue treatment, stop the bleeding by applying pressure to the injury.
    • When possible, use medical gauze or sterile cotton pads. Place the cloth or pad directly over the injury and press firmly for several minutes. Use even pressure.
  3. 3
    Trim down any remaining nail. Use nail clippers or sharp nail scissors to cut away any jagged or sharp edges. You should do this regardless of whether you removed the detached nail or left it in place to prevent further catching and tearing.
    • Contact your doctor and have her trim your nail if it is too painful, or if you are not comfortable doing so yourself.
  4. 4
    Soak your foot or hand in cold water. Immediately after you trim the nail, soak the damaged nail bed in a bowl of cold water for 20 minutes.
    • The water should be cold enough to soothe and numb the area.
    • Soaking your toe or finger in cold water helps regulate blood flow in that area of your body.
  5. 5
    Soak your foot or hand in salt water. After using the cold water treatment, switch to a treatment of warm water and salt.
    • Mix 1 tsp of salt into 4 cups of warm water.
    • Let your damaged finger or toe soak in the salt water for 20 minutes. The salt water helps prevent infection.
    • Repeat this procedure two or three times daily for the first three days.
    • Pat dry using a clean, soft cotton cloth.
  6. 6
    Apply an antibiotic ointment. To further speed up the healing process and reduce the risk of infection, use your fingers or a clean cotton swab to gently rub a layer of antibiotic ointment over the entire area.[8]
    • Make sure that your hands are clean as you handle the injury.
  7. 7
    Cover the nail bed until a new nail grows in. Wrap an adhesive bandage over the damaged nail to prevent further snagging and reduce the risk of infection.
    • Keep the bandage over your nail bed until enough new nail has grown in to cover the entire nail bed.
    • Change your bandage each time you soak or clean the wound. Make sure that the wound is dry each time you change the bandage. If the bandage gets wet, change it too.
    • To speed up nail growth, you can apply petroleum jelly to your nail and cover it with a non-stick bandage.[9]
  8. 8
    Monitor the injury for infection. Watch for signs of infection each time you change the bandage. This is especially important during the first 72 hours, but you should continue to check until enough nail grows in to cover the exposed nail bed.
    • Signs of possible infection include: fever, redness, increased heat to the injury, pain, tenderness, swelling, or puss.
    • If you suspect that an infection has set in, schedule an appointment with your doctor.

Community Q&A

Add New Question
  • Question
    I have a cracked toenail but no damage on the nail bed. Is it ok to apply nail gel over it until it grows out?
    Luba Lee, FNP-BC, MS
    Master's Degree, Nursing, University of Tennessee Knoxville
    Luba Lee, FNP-BC is a Board Certified Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) and educator in Tennessee with over a decade of clinical experience. Luba has certifications in Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS), Emergency Medicine, Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), Team Building, and Critical Care Nursing. She received her Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) from the University of Tennessee in 2006.
    Master's Degree, Nursing, University of Tennessee Knoxville
    Expert Answer
    Use the glue only on the nail not between skin and the nail to avoid infection. Keep your nail and toe clean with daily washings with soap and water. Additionally, soak your feet in salt water, pat dry and apply petroleum jelly, cover with non-adhesive bandage for overnight to speed up nail growth. You can also take vitamin B complex to promote healthy cell growth and aid in nail repair.
  • Question
    If half of my nail is torn off, is it okay to put an acrylic nail over the entire nail? The nail is torn down to the nail bed on half of my nail.
    Community Answer
    If there is any area of damaged skin or nail plate where the nail was, it is better that you avoid putting a fake nail over it, and allow your skin to heal and the nail to grow back over it before applying a fake nail. Any glue that gets onto the damaged/weak skin can pull on it and cause more damage and stress. On top of that, applying a fake nail carries more of a risk for a fungal infection or a chance for bacterial growth in general, even with careful cleaning, etc, so you want to avoid this if there is damaged and/or broken skin or damage to the nail plate. Even if you don't apply nail glue to that specific area, it's not worth the risk; just wait a while until healed.
  • Question
    If I have a minor nail break (just along the top, not into the skin), can I just put nail polish over the top of it and wait for it to heal?
    Community Answer
    Cut a piece of tea bag to cover the break. Paint your nail in clear polish, and stick the tea bag over the break. Then apply a few more layers of polish and wait for your nail to grow out so you can file the broken part.
  • Question
    Is this for real nails or fake?
    Community Answer
    This is meant for real nails. You may be able to use the first three methods to fix a fake nail, depending on the type of fake nail that has broken, but it is often easiest to just remove and apply a new fake nail. If there is any skin damage or damage to the nail plate, avoid applying a fake nail, and it is good to carefully remove a current fake nail (if possible). Do not attempt to fix or apply a new fake nail if there is nail plate or skin damage, as it increases the risk of infection or more damage.
  • Question
    How do I fix a nail that is broken with a crack doing down the center?
    Community Answer
    Use nail glue to mend the crack, then cover the entire nail with mending material. Make sure that you glue down the material if it doesn't have adhesive, then cover it with nail glue, let dry, then put on a top coat or polish the nail.
  • Question
    The top part of my nail broke off (the bottom part is still on). Is there any way of fixing this?
    Community Answer
    Use a tea bag with some nail glue to create a fake tip. Works great!
  • Question
    What do I do if the top of my nail was ripped off and the flesh under the nail is showing?
    Community Answer
    Clean the exposed area and wrap it so it stays clean. Do this daily until the nail grows back.
  • Question
    I have a nail which is split in the middle and keeps splitting but there is a nail growing underneath. What can I do?
    Community Answer
    Trim the nail, keep it clean and see a podiatrist for help.
  • Question
    What happens if I don't treat the fallen off nail?
    Community Answer
    Nothing should happen, but keep an eye on it for any swelling or infections.
  • Question
    For the tea bag method, will the nail grow back like that, or should I take the teabag off from time to time?
    Community Answer
    Nails grow from the cuticle, you can wait until the nail grows long enough to cut or file away the broken part.
Show more answers
Unanswered Questions
Ask a Question
200 characters left
Include your email address to get a message when this question is answered.

    wikiHow Video: How to Fix a Broken Nail

    Article SummaryX

    If you need to quickly fix a broken nail, cut a small piece of clear tape so it’s just big enough to cover the tear. Lay the tape over the tear in the nail and press it down firmly so it adheres, then trim away any excess tape. If you have nail glue, you can create a longer-term solution by gluing down a small piece of a tea bag or coffee filter over the tear. Once the glue dries, apply a clear coat of nail polish over the entire nail, including the patch. If you need to repair a detached nail, read on!

    Did this summary help you?

    Article Info


    This article was co-authored by Luba Lee, FNP-BC, MS. Luba Lee, FNP-BC is a Board Certified Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) and educator in Tennessee with over a decade of clinical experience. Luba has certifications in Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS), Emergency Medicine, Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), Team Building, and Critical Care Nursing. She received her Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) from the University of Tennessee in 2006.

    Categories: Featured Articles | Broken Nails

    In other languages:

    Italiano: Riparare un’Unghia Rotta, Espa?ol: arreglar una u?a quebrada, Português: Consertar uma Unha Quebrada, 中文: 处理劈了的指甲, Deutsch: Einen eingerissenen Nagel reparieren, Русский: починить сломанный ноготь, Fran?ais: réparer un ongle cassé, Bahasa Indonesia: Menangani Kuku yang Patah, ?e?tina: Jak spravit zlomeny nehet, Nederlands: Een gebroken nagel repareren, ???????: ????? ??? ?????, 日本語: 爪が割れたときの対処, Ti?ng Vi?t: Ch?a móng tay b? n?t, ???: ??? ??? ???? ??, ???: ??????????????, ??????: ?? ??? ????? ?? ??? ????, Türk?e: K?r?k Bir T?rnak Nas?l Onar?l?r

    Thanks to all authors for creating a page that has been read 1,148,145 times.
    Did this article help you?