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The way you cut your toenails decides a lot about the fate of your growing nails. If you taper the corner of the toenail deliberately while cutting, you are giving room to ingrown nails.

These are nails that curl down from their corner and penetrate the skin, leading to immense discomfort and pain.

They may appear red, swollen and tender to touch and have a tendency to get infected, leading to pus discharge and in severe cases shivering. In fact, ingrown toenails may sometimes be so distressing that they need surgical interventions. But don’t worry that is a rare case and most commonly this condition can be treated at home with some pampering and care.

If you too are personally victimised by your own carelessness and are looking for remedies to get relief, read on to know some evidence backed options. You will also get to know tips to prevent ingrown nails.

  1. Home remedies for ingrown toenails
  2. Tips for prevention of ingrown toenails

Until it is not infected, an ingrown toenail can be taken care of at home. All you need is some time and effort. Let us have a look at some of the most common remedies that can help you get rid of an ingrown toenail.

  1. Warm soapy water for ingrown toenail
  2. Apple cider vinegar to get rid of ingrown toenail
  3. Epsom salt for ingrown toenail
  4. Cotton balls or dental floss for ingrown toenail
  5. Taping for ingrown toenail
  6. Essential oils for ingrown toenail

Warm soapy water for ingrown toenail

Warm soapy water is the easiest and hassle-free remedy for ingrown nails. It helps in softening the skin as well as the part of the nail digging into the skin and prevents further growth of nail into the skin. The warmth from the water also soothes inflammation and relaxes muscles, providing respite from pain. Follow these steps in order to get the best outcome:

What you’ll need:

  • A tub
  • Warm water
  • Mild soap

Procedure:

  • Fill a tub with warm water in a quantity that allows your toenail to get wet
  • Add some soap into it and shake it properly to let it dissolve
  • Soak your toenail for 10 to 20 minutes in this water
  • Remove your foot and pat it dry with a soft towel or tissue paper
  • Repeat this practice 3 to 4 times a day for a few days to prevent ingrown nails from growing further

After performing this basic step you can also go ahead with pushing the invaded skin back with a cotton pad in order to change the direction of the growing corner of the toenail.

Always remember to apply antiseptic cream or tincture on the area to prevent infection.

Apple cider vinegar to get rid of ingrown toenail

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) possesses strong antibacterial and antifungal properties and is widely used to treat fungal infections, especially of toenails. Exposing your ingrown nail to apple cider vinegar will also soften the skin around so you can pull out the nail and change the direction of its growing corner. Though you need to be gentle with the latter, lest it’ll just damage your nail and worsen your pain. You can dab ACV on the affected part or make a foot soak out of it in the following way.

1st method

What you’ll need:

  • A tub
  • Warm water
  • Apple cider vinegar

Procedure:

  • Take a tub filled with warm water as much as your foot needs to soak
  • Add two cups of apple cider vinegar into it
  • Put your foot into it and relax peacefully for a while; at least until the water cools down
  • Remove the foot, pat it dry
  • Apply some astringent or antiseptic thereafter

2nd method

If the first method seems like a tedious job, here is an easy way to do it with an almost similar effect:

What you’ll need:

  • Cotton ball
  • Apple cider vinegar

Procedure:

  • Soak a cotton ball in ACV solution
  • Apply ACV on your ingrown toenail
  • Let it stay for a while
  • Wash with warm water
  • Repeat this application at least two times a day for at least 10 minutes daily to get effective results
  • Dry your toe after you are done with vinegar application
  • Apply an antiseptic lotion or astringent on the affected area for further prevention from infection

Epsom salt for ingrown toenail

Salt is an excellent antimicrobial agent. It helps suppress and prevent microbial growth and infections. A salt soak is widely used to reduce swelling and pain. All of these properties make this condiment the perfect remedy for ingrown toenails. Though common salt has all of these properties, Epsom salt is considered to be a better alternative when it comes to skin care. It has been speculated that this salt is rich in minerals, especially magnesium that helps relieve pain and muscle spasms on being absorbed topically. However, this effect is not confirmed so far. So, for all you know, Epsom salt may not have an edge over your normal table salt in terms of its topical effects.

Still, if you want to use Epsom salt for your ingrown toenails, here is an easy way:

What you’ll need:

  • Two tablespoons of Epsom salt

Procedure:

  • Fill a tub with as much water you need to dip your feet comfortably
  • Add Epsom salt into it and shake properly to dissolve the salt
  • Soak your feet into the warm salty water for 10 to 20 minutes
  • In between, massage your toe area 
  • Try to draw the toenail gently form the impacted area
  • Dry the nail with a clean towel or tissue
  • Apply an antiseptic solution or astringent on the concerned area
  • Repeat this procedure two times every day until the symptoms go away

Cotton balls or dental floss for ingrown toenail

The impacted nail is the real reason for all the pain and discomfort. Logically, to alleviate the symptoms, you should seperate the ingrowing toenailf from the skin. A safe and effective method for this as recommended by the American Family Physician organisation is by using cotton balls or dental floss.

Both these act as a mechanical barrier for the ingrowing toenail and helps in conveniently changing its direction to normal. A case study using this particular method reveals a 79% success rate in elimination of all the symptoms within 24 weeks.

You too can try this method at home. Just follow the below-mentioned steps:

What you’ll need:

  • A cotton ball/ Dental floss

Procedure:

  • Make a tiny cotton ball from sterile cotton
  • Draw the ingrowing toenail out of the skin gently by using elevator of the nail cutter or small curette, the best time to do is after a bath or any of the above-mentioned remedies when your nail is soft
  • Apply the cotton ball into the gap provided thereafter
  • You can also dip cotton ball with antiseptic cream or lotion (optional) before application
  • Repeat this procedure daily, gradually increasing the size of the cotton ball day by day
  • After a few days when all the pain is gone and corner of the toenail has changed its direction, you may fix the cotton ball under the nail with acrylic glue for a week, just to be extra sure

Dental floss can be used in the same way as a cotton ball. When done in the right way, this procedure is very effective and foolproof. It does not lead to infection or damage to your toenail either.

Taping for ingrown toenail

Taping procedure is similar in working and usage as cotton balls and dental floss. This particular method uses tape to elevate the corner of the nail from the site of penetration. The Journal of Dermatology Research and Practice considers taping as the least aggressive method for ingrown toenails. If you practice taping correctly and consistently, you will be able to get rid of mild cases of ingrown nails successfully and in no time!

The correct way of taping is as follows:

What you’ll need:

  • Elastic tape

Procedure:

  • An elastic tape of approximately 15 to 20 mm in width and 5 cm in length is taken
  • Gently pull your nail a bit and apply a piece of tape between the skin and encroaching toenail
  • Leave it for a few days and reapply after removing the old tape

Tips: Always remember to dry the skin around the ingrowing nail before taping. It will ensure that any cuts or scrapes do not get infected.

Essential oils for ingrown toenail

As if an ingrown toenail is not distressing on its own, trying to pierce or pull it out could be really painful in itself. You need something to soften the surrounding skin, reduce the pain, initiate healing as well as prevent infection. Essential oils provide all of this in a combo pack.

They contain active compounds that not only help suppress the growth of infectious microbes but also reduce inflammation apart from the inherent quality of softening the skin any oil posses in general. But the very next question which pops up is, which all essential oils can be used for ingrown toenails. Well, you have lots of options with this like tea tree oil, eucalyptus oil, lemongrass oil, peppermint oil and orange oils.

Grab any of the oil and follow the guidelines of usage:

What you’ll need:

  • Essential oil (any)

Procedure:

  • Take a few drops of any essential oil on your palm
  • Rub between your hands to provide warmth and allow better absorption
  • Apply it on the concerned area and massage gently
  • Repeat its application a few times a day for the effective results
  • You can also accompany the application of essential oils with other remedies

Tip: Not all essential oils can be directly applied to the skin, especially over cuts, bruises or scrapes. As a rule of thumb, always use a 2% dilution of any essential oil for direct application. You can prepare it by mixing a few drops of these oils in appropriate quantities of carrier oils such as coconut oil and olive oil.

Home remedies may be enough to relieve the symptoms of an ingrown toenail but with some extra care, you can prevent this problem altogether. Here are certain habits you should consider picking up to keep your toenails healthy and in proper shape.

  1. Do's
  2. Don'ts

Do's

Trim your nails correctly
The first and most important tip to prevent ingrown toenails is to cut them properly. Use a proper size nail cutter to avoid injuries and trim the corners of your nails. You can also use a separate cutter for your toenails, they have a wider edge and are stronger to clip off these hard nails easily. The direction in which you cut your nail decides the direction in which it’ll grow again. So, cut your nail in a straight rather than tapering or in a lateral direction.

It is best to soak your feet before cutting the nail. Soaking helps soften nails so they can be easily trimmed and shaped even from the edges. If you can't put extra effort by soaking, cut your nails after taking a shower.

Wear the right size shoe 
If you choose to wear shoes a size shorter than your actual size, it will put pressure on your feet especially on the toe, being the largest one among all. This pressure might force the growing toenail to change its actual direction in order to accommodate in the provided space, leading to ingrown toenails. To avoid all this fuss, pick comfortable shoes and socks to give your toenail the essential freedom it deserves.

Keep your feet dry
Excessive sweating in feet makes the skin around toenails to be soft and smooth, as a result, any deformed nail can easily prick and curl in. To avoid this problem, you need to keep your feet dry as much as you can.

Don'ts

Don't wear pointy shoes or sandals
Avoid wearing pointed shoes or pumps to decrease the possibility of developing ingrown nails. Just like wrong size shoes, this footwear put pressure on your nails and leave them no space to grow. Thus, wearing pointy shoes on a regular basis would make your toenails to curl inwards to make space for itself.

Don't cut your nails at all
If you are prone to develop ingrown nails, try not to cut your nail for a while and see if your nails start to grow in a proper direction. You can also keep your nails to a particular length for a while to avoid this problem.

Don't cut your nails too short
Another tip to avoid ingrown nails in not to cut your nails too short. Doing this you might taper the lateral tip of toenail which would lead to their curling in.

Don't pick your toe or toenail
Even if you cut your toenail wrong somehow, do not try to pick the corner of toenail or toe. This might injure the skin around toenail or make your nail curl inwards. Instead, opt for a nail filer and shape up the broken edge so it grows in the right direction.

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References

  1. National Health Service [Internet]. UK; Ingrown toenail.
  2. Claire Georgiou. apple cider vinegar antifungal antibacterial anti-inflammatory. The Apple Cider Vinegar Cleanse [Internet]
  3. Foot Health Facts: American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeon [Internet]. Chicago; Ingrown Toenail.
  4. Am Fam Physician. 2009 Feb 15;79(4):303-308. Management of the Ingrown Toenail. American Academy of Family Physicians [Internet]
  5. Eckart Haneke. Controversies in the Treatment of Ingrown Nails. Volume 2012, Article ID 783924, 12 pages; Dermatology Research and Practice
  6. Carson CF, Hammer KA, Riley TV. Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree) oil: a review of antimicrobial and other medicinal properties. Clin Microbiol Rev. 2006 Jan;19(1):50-62. PMID: 16418522
  7. Pattnaik S, Subramanyam VR, Kole C. Antibacterial and antifungal activity of ten essential oils in vitro.. Microbios. 1996;86(349):237-46. PMID: 8893526
  8. healthdirect Australia. Ingrown toenails. Australian government: Department of Health