Beau’s Lines

Beau’s lines are horizontal ridges or dents in one or more of your fingernails or toenails. They’re a sign that an illness, injury or skin condition interrupted your nail growth. Treating the underlying cause will allow new, smooth nails to grow again.

Overview

Beau’s lines appear as horizontal dents on a person’s right hand fingers.
Beau’s lines are sideways (horizontal) dents in your fingernails or toenails.

What are Beau’s lines?

Beau’s lines are grooves or dents that run across your fingernails or toenails horizontally. They can affect all your nails or just a few, such as on your thumbs and big toes.

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Possible Causes

What causes Beau’s lines?

Beau’s lines happen when:

  • Illness or severe stress interrupts your nail growth. If you become sick or experience high stress, your body temporarily directs its energy away from growing nails.
  • Injuries damage your nail matrix (where nails start to grow).
  • Long-term health problems interfere with blood flow to your nail matrix.
  • Severe skin conditions damage your nail matrix.
  • Vitamin or nutrient deficiencies interrupt your nail growth.

What types of illnesses cause Beau’s lines?

Illnesses or infections can cause Beau’s lines, including:

What types of injuries cause Beau’s lines?

Trauma or damage to your nail matrix can cause Beau’s lines, such as:

  • Dropping something heavy on your finger or toe.
  • Exposure to extreme cold.
  • Manicure or artificial nails.
  • Slamming your finger in a door.

What long-term health problems cause Beau’s lines?

Chronic conditions that interfere with blood flow to your nail matrix can cause Beau’s lines, including:

Which skin conditions cause Beau’s lines?

Skin conditions that can cause Beau’s lines include:

What vitamin deficiency causes Beau’s lines?

If you have a severe zinc deficiency or aren’t eating enough protein, you may experience Beau’s lines. Your nail growth usually returns to normal once you receive proper nutrition again.

Can emotional stress cause Beau’s lines?

Mental and emotional stress can affect nail health and growth. Severe emotional stress, such as a divorce, death in the family or job loss, can cause Beau’s lines. Anxiety disorders are another possible cause.

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Can Beau’s lines be harmless?

Beau’s lines aren’t a disease and aren’t harmful by themselves. They’re usually a sign that you had an illness or nail damage a few weeks or months ago.

Chronic conditions that need treatment can cause them, so don’t ignore them. Work with your healthcare provider to find out the underlying cause so you can address any possible health problems.

Care and Treatment

How are Beau’s lines diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider or dermatologist may diagnose Beau’s lines by examining your nails and taking a health history. The thickness and number of Beau’s lines also provide clues about the cause:

  • A single Beau’s line on one nail may indicate an injury that affected only one finger or toe.
  • Beau’s lines on all of your nails can mean that an illness or stress caused them.
  • Multiple Beau’s lines on each nail may mean that an illness or trauma happened more than once.
  • Thicker Beau’s lines may be a sign that an illness or trauma lasted a longer time.
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How are Beau’s lines treated?

There isn’t a treatment for Beau’s lines. But treating the underlying cause can keep them from coming back once they grow out. Your healthcare provider may recommend you:

  • Apply creams or moisturizers for eczema or psoriasis.
  • Avoid manicures, artificial nails or harsh nail products.
  • Keep blood sugar under control if you have diabetes.

Discuss treatment options with your healthcare provider if you have peripheral artery disease, including medications and surgery.

Can you fix Beau’s lines?

Beau’s lines grow out gradually after you recover or receive treatment for the underlying cause. This process takes about six months.

You can temporarily hide the ridges by applying a nail ridge filler and nail polish. Use nail products with caution, however, as some can weaken or damage nails.

When to Call the Doctor

Should you seek medical attention for Beau’s lines?

If you notice Beau’s lines and don’t know what caused them, see your healthcare provider to rule out any possible health conditions. People with chronic conditions like diabetes and peripheral artery disease should talk to their healthcare provider if they notice any nail changes.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Your nails are a window into your overall health, so always mention any nail changes to your healthcare provider. Usually, Beau’s lines go away once your nails have grown out. If you treat the underlying cause, you’ll likely see smooth nails appear again.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/03/2022.

Learn more about our editorial process.

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