If you’ve ever had an ingrown nail before — whether on a finger or toe — then you know just how painful they can be. Seriously, ouch!
You probably never want to get another ingrown nail again, which is why we’re here to explain exactly what causes them so you know how to avoid them! If you do find yourself stuck with an irritating ingrown nail, we’re also sharing how to treat these bad boys so you can nix the pain ASAP.
Why do ingrown nails happen? Who gets them?
Ingrown nails happen when your nail starts growing into your skin instead of over it. They occur most commonly on the big toe, particularly to those who have thick or curved nails. But toenail thickness isn’t the only common cause of ingrown nails. If you injure your toenail — say, you stub your toe, squeeze your feet into too-small shoes, or clip your toenails too short — you could also wind up with an ingrown nail. Runners often end up with ingrown toenails when they trim their toenails really short and wear improperly fitted shoes. So, if you’re thinking of hitting the pavement, keep that in mind before working up a sweat. Super-tight heels are another ingrown toenail culprit, since they cause major pressure on toes. And if you have bunions or hammertoes, you could also be more at risk for developing ingrown nails.
Can I get an ingrown fingernail?
You sure can! Although ingrown nails most often show up on toenails, it is still possible to get one on a fingernail, for many of the same reasons why you’d find yourself with an ingrown toenail (mainly trauma or cutting your nails too short). Biting your nails can also lead to ingrown nails.
What does an ingrown nail look and feel like?
For starters, you can expect the edge of your nail to be pressing into the skin on either or both sides of your nail. As for what an ingrown nail feels like, expect pain, swelling, and redness around your nail. In other words, it’s no fun at all.
What can I do to treat an ingrown nail at home?
The good news is, there’s an easy at-home remedy: Soak the foot that’s affected in warm water for 15-20 minutes. Adding Epsom salt, white vinegar, or bleach may alleviate some of the pain. It almost goes without saying, but definitely only wear comfy shoes when you’ve got an ingrown toenail so that you don’t make things worse. For an ingrown fingernail, use a warm compress for 10 minutes a couple of times a day.
When do I need to visit a doctor?
If you start to experience more than just discomfort — like it hurts really, really badly and/or you see pus — then your ingrown nail may be infected, so definitely head to a doc to have it checked out.
We hate to break it to you, but feet are the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and fungi, mostly because they’re nice and moist. If you have a cut in the skin near your nail, these icky germs could worm their way in, leading to an infection. You may need to take an antibiotic to clear up the infection or have part of your nail removed. You should also head to an M.D. if you have an ingrown toenail and also have diabetes. This condition affects blood flow to the feet and may make it more difficult for an ingrown toenail to heal.
How can I make sure I don’t get an ingrown nail in the future?
Ingrown nail prevention is pretty simple. Pay attention to how you groom your nails — don’t cut them too short, and quit snipping the corners of your nails. When it comes to your feet specifically, make sure you always slip on shoes that fit the right way (hey, we won’t stop you from shopping for a few new pairs).