An ingrown toenail can be very painful, irritating, and prone to infection. It can hurt you a lot while walking or running. And if it knocks on an object while moving around, you will experience the most excruciating pain.
An ingrown toenail, or onychocryptosis, is one of the most common nail problems affecting anyone.
Any of your toenails can become ingrown if the growing edge of the nail begins to dig into the skin surrounding the toe. As this nail grows, it breaks through the skin and flesh to produce inflammation, pain, and irritation. It can also lead to microbial infections in the nail bed. The nails of the big toe have a higher tendency to grow inward.
The symptoms of a toenail infection are redness, swelling around the nails, pus, or watery discharges tinged with blood. It would be best if you regularly observed these signs of infection,
An ingrown toenail may be caused for reasons such as:
- improper trimming of nails,
- thickening of the nail plate,
- wearing tight-fitting or improper footwear,
- unusually long, curved, or protruding toes,
- injuries and trauma on a nail,
- pressure from abutting digits caused by hallux valgus,
- a pincer-shaped toenail,
- side effects of medications like isotretinoin,
- abnormal walking postures,
- specific health issues like diabetes, obesity, arthritis, or fungal infections,
- other conditions that cause poor blood flow near the toenail.
“Pedicures can cause ingrown nails if the nail technician is overly aggressive in cutting back a toenail,” says podiatrist Dina Stock, DPM.
Nail fungus is another issue that often pops up along with ingrown toenails. The trauma or injury caused by the nail allows the fungus to get into the nail beds and cause infection. The toenail fungal infection can be kept at bay by keeping the cuts or injuries on the toes clean and medicated.
You can easily treat an ingrown toenail at home through timely intervention, simple home remedies, and preventive care.
It isn’t always necessary to consult a doctor to remove an ingrown nail. But you must see your doctor if a severe toenail infection or the nail is damaged beyond recovery.
Best Ingrown Toenail Home Remedies
If the ingrown toenail is treated at the initial stage, it is easy to manage and grow back the nail.
Mild cases of ingrown nails usually have symptoms like swelling, erythema, edema, and pain with pressure or drainage. You can relieve mild ingrown toenails by treating them with natural remedies and preventive care.
Severe cases of this nail trauma include ulceration in the nail fold, chronic inflammation, and granulation or nail-fold hypertrophy. At this stage, the issue must be treated by a well-trained doctor.
You can fix the issue with natural remedies for ingrown toenails at home, especially in mild or moderate cases. Let us now look at some of the best DIY solutions you can try:
1. Elevate the nail with dental floss or a cotton wisp
You can place dental floss or cotton wisps under the nail edge to shift the position of the nail and encourage it to grow in the correct direction.
With the help of tweezers, lift the edge of the toenail that is growing into the skin. Take a small piece of rolled-up cotton wisp or gauze and neatly place it under the lifted corner of the nail.
Roll up the unflavored dental floss like a thick candle wick and use it to keep the ingrown toenail elevated.
Alternatively, you can also use the conservative “gutter splinting” method to separate the nail from the flesh.
The elevated corners of the nails gradually grow outward and away from the skin. Keeping the corners of the toenails elevated will cause discomfort and irritation, but it is worth the trouble to straighten your ingrown nail.
It is important to change the cotton wisp or dental floss placed under the nail daily. Soak the toenail in the foot tub for 10 minutes before you elevate the nails with tweezers to make them nail soft and flexible.
It would help if you continued with this treatment until the nail has fully grown out of the skin and in the normal direction.
2. Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is an excellent natural remedy for treating inflammation and infections on the skin and nails.
The acetic acid in ACV has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties that help heal and prevent infection. It also has antibacterial qualities that can clean and disinfect the toenails.
Add two ounces of ACV to the lukewarm water in the foot tub. Soak the affected toenails in this water for 15 minutes. Repeat this treatment twice daily to prevent infection in ingrown toenails.
Alternatively, you can soak a cotton ball in raw, unfiltered ACV and place it on the affected nail. It is better to fasten it with a bandage and let it stay there for a few hours.
Drinking an ounce of apple cider vinegar may produce several health benefits. This helps the internal healing of toenail infections from within. Before drinking, make sure to dilute the ACV in moderately hot water.
3. Epsom salt
Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) is a time-tested mineral compound with many uses. It helps heal and soothe infections and wounds on the skin and toenail beds.
Epsom salts contain powerful antimicrobial properties. They are effective for getting rid of microbial infections caused by nails.
Soaking the toes in Epsom salt-treated warm water softens and makes removing the toenails easier.
Add one tablespoon of Epsom salt to the warm water in the foot tub. Soak your feet, especially the affected toes, in this solution for 20 minutes. Afterward, dry your feet and toes. It is better to do this treatment once a day until you get rid of the infection caused by the infected nail.
Alternatively, you may soak the nails in soapy water made of liquid Castile soap to get extra relief.
4. Hydrogen peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide helps to heal wounds and reduce the risk of infection. Also, it may help reduce inflammation and relieve the pain caused by the nails growing into the skin.
Finally, it helps soften the skin and nails for easy trimming and straightening the affected nails.
Fill the foot tub with warm water and add a tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide. Soak your affected toes and feet in this solution for 20 minutes. Repeat this treatment daily until the issues arising from the inward-growing nails are fully solved.
5. White flower oil
White flower oil is made from a mixture of essential oils, including lavender, peppermint, and eucalyptus.
This oil is a traditional remedy used in manicure treatments for ingrown nails and toenail fungus.
This oil has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Thus, this oil heals wounds and reduces the pain caused by nails growing into the skin and flesh.
You can soak a cotton ball in the white flower oil and rub it around the affected areas of the nails and toes. Repeat the white flower oil treatment until the infection or wounds fully heal.
If you have severe inflammation and an open wound, this oil should not be applied directly to the wounds, as it can produce a high-voltage burning sensation and irritation.
6. Oregano essential oil
Oregano oil from the Origanum vulgare plant is well known for its antimicrobial and antibiotic effects.
According to some research, the antimicrobial properties of this oil are as effective as prescription antibiotics. This oil also contains antiseptic, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties.
It not only heals the wound and infection caused by the ingrown toenails but also fights the fungal infections that usually affect the toenails.
Fill the foot tub with warm water and add 10 drops of oregano oil. Soak your feet and toes in this water for 20 minutes.
Alternatively, add 5 drops of oregano oil to 2 tablespoons of olive oil and blend it well. Soak a cotton ball in this oil blend and place it on the affected area. Fasten it with a bandage, keep it overnight, or remove it after an hour.
Turmeric contains a compound known as “curcumin,” an excellent anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and antibacterial substance.
It is very good for healing wounds created by ingrown toenails. It prevents and removes inflammation and infections that may appear in severe incidences of onyxis.
Take one teaspoon of turmeric powder and one teaspoon of mustard oil; knead them into a paste. You can apply this paste to the affected area and then cover it with a bandage. It is better to leave the application overnight and rinse it off in the morning.
Repeat the treatment once a day till the problem is gone.
Consuming turmeric internally also helps reduce inflammation and swelling. You can use it liberally as a flavoring agent in dishes you prepare.
8. Essential oil treatments
Besides the oregano and white flower oils, which we have already discussed, you can also use other essential oils that work well for managing the ingrown toenail problem.
Tea Tree Oil: It is excellent for eliminating fungal and bacterial infections.
Eucalyptus Oil: Its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties relieve pain and soften the nails and cuticles.
Lavender Oil: This oil’s powerful antibacterial and antifungal properties help fight infection. It also has anti-inflammatory substances that heal wounds and reduce pain and swelling.
Peppermint oil: This menthol-based essential oil is known for its cooling and healing effects. This oil has antibacterial and antiseptic properties that can resist infection and heal wounds.
Peppermint oil also has pain-relieving properties that can free you from the pain and irritation caused by ingrown nails.
9. Lemon juice
The citric acid in lemon juice is rich in powerful antiseptic and antifungal qualities. It is very effective for treating all types of infections that affect the nails and skin.
If your ingrown toenail issue has developed into an infection, apply the fresh lemon juice to the affected areas and leave it overnight. Repeat the treatment every day till the infection is cured.
10. Coconut oil
Virgin coconut oil is known for its antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. The fatty acids in this oil, lauric and caprylic, get metabolized in the body and become powerful antifungal and antibacterial agents.
Coconut oil treats ingrown toenails, nail infections, athlete’s foot, and cracked heels.
Apply coconut oil to the affected nail twice daily to prevent infection and keep the nail soft and moisturized.
How To Cut An Ingrown Toenail
It is quite a difficult task to cut an ingrown toenail. If you aren’t careful, faulty cutting of the ingrown nail can hurt the toes and cause infections.
Here are a few important tips for how to cut toenails:
- Soak your feet for 20 minutes in warm water treated with Epsom salt; this helps soften the nails, cuticles, and nail beds.
- With the help of tweezers, gently lift the corners of the ingrown nail without hurting the swollen skin.
- With sharp nail clippers, gently cut the nail from the lifted corner to the center and then restart from the other side to the center of the nail.
- Trim away the edge of the nail that is growing sideways into the skin.
- Lift the ingrown side of the nail and place a cotton wisp or dental floss under the nail (replace the cotton wisp once or twice daily); this will help change the direction of the growing nail.
- Apply essential oils, hydrogen peroxide, or apple cider vinegar to the affected area;
- Avoid wearing tight and improper footwear or socks that bend and squeeze the toes.
Here is a video that can help you learn how to remove ingrown toenails:
How to Prevent Ingrown Nails
You can prevent ingrown toenails by identifying the specific reasons for their development and taking the necessary steps to get rid of those reasons.
If your toes or feet are deformed, it may be hard to avoid ingrown toenails, but you can keep infections to a minimum by taking care of the situation well.
You can prevent ingrown toenails by adopting simple preventive methods such as:
- Avoid wearing tight-fitting footwear and high-heeled sandals; you should be able to wiggle your toes easily in your footwear.
- Wear shoes that don’t squeeze toes or push your large toe inward.
- Clip toenails straight across and never cut toenails too short. Avoid rounding or creating V-shaped toenails and tearing your toenails.
- If you are a diabetic patient, manage and cure the disease to ensure proper blood flow to the toes.
- Carefully avoid trauma and injuries to the toes and feet.
- Make sure to go to an experienced pedicurist who is not overly aggressive in cutting back the toenails.
- Get the deformities on your toes corrected with medical help.
- Identify the reasons for your ingrown toenails and see a doctor if necessary.
The Final Thought
Ingrown toenails, or onychocryptosis, most commonly affect the great toenail.
Several behavioral and anatomical factors are responsible for this. It is difficult to overcome the genetic dispositions that cause it, but those arising from causes like improper trimming, accidental trauma, or poor foot hygiene can be easily prevented.
The most commonly followed methods for getting rid of ingrown toenails are soaking the foot in warm water, placing cotton wisps or dental floss under the nail edge, or gutter splinting.
You can also take the help of natural remedies to treat and manage the ingrown toenail problem; they are effective and DIY methods that work.
You can solve the ingrown nail problem through surgical approaches, electrocautery, or radio frequency.
Partial nail avulsion followed by direct surgical excision of the nail matrix is equally effective in treating ingrown toenails.
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