Whether you’re a nail-loving DIYer or someone who doesn’t know how to use a clipper, it’s important to know how to avoid ingrown nails. These nails are often painful and can cause infections.
Ingrown fingernails are rarer than ingrown toenails, but they can still occur. Luckily, you can usually treat an ingrown fingernail at home and it’s not something to fear.
Here are a few ways to keep your fingernails from developing ingrowns:
1. Maintain proper nail hygiene, including cleaning underneath them daily.
2. Wear shoes that are the correct size and fit properly, avoiding those that pinch or pressure the toes.
3. Wear socks that have a good stretch and allow the toes to rest comfortably.
4. Stay away from activities that place pressure on the toes, like running or kicking.
5. Seek treatment immediately if you notice any redness, swelling, pain or drainage around the toenail.
6. Visit your doctor if you experience frequent, severe or recurring ingrown toenails (more than two or three in the same toe).
7. Occasionally, an ingrown nail may lead to infection of the skin surrounding the nail, known as paronychia.
If you have a recurrent ingrown toenail, your doctor may recommend removing the nail and tissue with a procedure called a chemical matricectomy with phenolization. This can help prevent ingrown toenails from recurring, says Dr. Garshick.
But before you make the appointment, be sure to check out some of these tips for avoiding ingrown toenails:
1. Properly trim your nails.
Cutting your fingernails straight across and not too short is the best way to avoid ingrowns, explains Dr. Garshick, who also recommends not picking at your toes or peeling them.
This will irritate the soft tissue in the toe, and make it more likely that your nail will get stuck in the skin.
2. Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently with soap and water.
Using soap and water can help you avoid ingrowns by keeping bacteria and germs at bay, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
3. Soak your feet in warm, soapy water twice a day to reduce inflammation and prevent infection.
4. Apply antibiotic ointment.
Ointment can promote healing and help prevent infection of an ingrown nail.
5. Stuff small pieces of clean, moist cotton between the ingrown toenail and the skin to separate them and provide a bit of cushioning.
Ingrown toenails can be uncomfortable, but with a little self-care and some over-the-counter pain relievers, you can usually manage them at home.
If you’re experiencing a recurrent ingrown toenail, it’s best to book an appointment with your podiatrist. He or she can diagnose the problem and prescribe medication or other treatment options, such as oral antibiotics.