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 are going to experience the most excruciating pain of your life.
An ingrown toenail or onychocryptosis is one of the usual nail problems that can affect 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 symptoms of usual toenail infection are redness, swelling around the nails, pus, or watery discharges tinged with blood.
An ingrown toenail may be caused by reasons such as:
- Improper trimming of nails;
- Thickening of the nail plate;
- Wearing tight-fitting or improper footwear;
- Unusually long, curved, or protruded 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.
“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 ingrown nail allows the fungus to get into the nail beds and cause infection. The toenail fungal infection can be kept at bay by always keeping the cuts or injuries on toes clean and medicated.
Fortunately, you can get rid of the ingrown toenail issues through timely intervention, simple home remedies, and preventive care. You need to consult a doctor for treating the ingrown nail only if a severe toenail infection exists or the nail is totally damaged beyond recovery.
How To Get Rid Of An Ingrown Toenail?
It is easy to manage the ingrown toenail issue if treated at the initial stage itself.
Mild cases of ingrown nails usually have symptoms like swelling, erythema, edema, and pain with pressure or drainage. You can get freedom from mild cases of ingrown toenails by treating them with natural remedies and preventive care.
Severe cases of this nail trauma have symptoms like 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.
There are several effective natural remedies for fixing ingrown toenails; especially those that are 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 Cotton Wisp
You can place dental floss or cotton wisps under the ingrown nail edge to shift the position of the nail to grow in the correct direction.
With the help of tweezers lift the corner of the nail 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.
You can also use unflavored dental floss (rolled up like a thick candle wick) to keep the ingrown toenail elevated.
Alternatively, you can also use the conservative method of ‘gutter splint’ to separate the ingrown 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 is going to cause you some 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 the nail soft and flexible.
You need to continue with this remedy 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 present in the ACV has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties to heal and prevent infection. The ACV also has antibacterial qualities that can clean and disinfect the toenails.
Add two ounces of ACV to warm water in the foot tub. Soak the affected toenails in this water for 15 minutes; you can 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 to let it stay there for a few hours.
Drinking an ounce of apple cider vinegar diluted in a glass of warm water provides numerous health benefits, including the internal healing of toenail infections from within.
3. Epsom Salt
Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) is a time-tested mineral compound with many uses. It helps heal and soothe the infections and wounds on skin and toenail beds.
Epsom salt contains powerful antimicrobial properties that are beneficial for getting rid of microbial infections caused by ingrown nails.
Soaking the toes in the Epsom salt-treated warm water makes the nails soft and easy to draw out the ingrown nail.
Add one tablespoon of Epsom salt to 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 till you get rid of the infections caused by the ingrown nails.
4. Hydrogen Peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide helps to heal wounds and prevent infection caused by an ingrown nail.
It is also beneficial for reducing inflammation and relieving the pain caused by the nails growing into the skin.
Finally, it helps soften the skin and nails for easy trimming and straightening the ingrown nails.
Fill the foot tub with warm water and add a tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide to it. 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 which include lavender, peppermint, and eucalyptus.
This oil is a traditional remedy used in manicure treatments for ingrown nails and toenails fungus.
This oil has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that heal wounds and reduce 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 nails and toes. Repeat the white flower oil treatment until the infection or wounds are fully healed.
If you have severe inflammation and an open wound, this oil should not be applied directly to the wounds as this 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 and 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 to it and soak your feet and toes in this water for 20 minutes.
Alternatively, add 5 drops of oregano oil to 2 tablespoons olive oil and blend it well. Soak a cotton ball in this oil blend and place it directly on the affected area; fasten it with a bandage and keep it overnight or remove it after an hour.
Turmeric contains the compound known as “curcumin” which is an excellent anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and antibacterial substance.
It is very good for healing the wound created by the ingrown toenails. It prevents and removes inflammation and infections that may appear in severe incidences of onyxis.
Take one teaspoon turmeric powder and one teaspoon mustard oil; knead them into a paste. You can apply this paste to the affected area and then cover it up 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 ingrown nail is got rid of.
Consuming turmeric internally also helps in reducing inflammation and swelling. You can use it liberally as a flavoring agent in dishes that 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: Excellent for getting rid of fungal and bacterial infections
Eucalyptus Oil: Its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties provide relief from pain and soften the nail and cuticles.
Lavender Oil: The powerful antibacterial and anti-fungal properties in this oil help in fighting 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 give you freedom from the pain and irritation caused by ingrown nails.
9. Lemon Juice
The citric acid contained in lemon juice is rich with 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 totally cured.
10. Coconut Oil
Virgin coconut oil is known for its antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal properties. The fatty acids in this oil, namely lauric and caprylic, get metabolized in the body and become powerful antifungal and antibacterial properties.
Coconut oil is very convenient and effective for treating ingrown toenails, nail infections, athlete’s foot, and cracked heels.
Daily apply the coconut oil to the affected nail twice a day; it will help in preventing infection and make the nail soft and well moistened.
How To Cut An Ingrown Toenail
It is quite a difficult task to cut an ingrown toenail. If you aren’t careful, faulty methods of cutting the ingrown nail can hurt the toes and cause infections.
Here are a few important tips for how to cut an ingrown toenail:
- Soak your feet for 20 minutes in warm water treated with Epsom Salt; this helps softens 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 again 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 daily once or twice); this will help change the direction of the growing nail.
- Apply essential oils, Hydrogen peroxide, or Apple Cider Vinegar in 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 with how to remove ingrown toenails:
How To Prevent Ingrown Nails
You can prevent ingrown toenails by identifying the specific reasons for it and start taking the necessary steps to get rid of those reasons.
If you have deformed toes or feet it may be difficult to prevent ingrown toenails but you can minimize the infections by managing the situation well.
You can prevent ingrown toenails by adopting simple preventive methods such as:
- Avoid wearing tight-fitting footwear and high heels sandals; you should be able to wiggle your toes easily in your footwear.
- Choose shoes that don’t squeeze toes or push your large toe inward;
- Clip toenails straight across and never cut it 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 toes corrected with medical help;
- Identify the precise reasons for your ingrown toenails and remedy them.
The Bottom Line
Ingrown toenail, or onychocryptosis, most commonly affects the great toenail.
There are several behavioral and anatomic factors that are responsible for this. It is difficult to overcome the genetic dispositions that cause it, but those arising from causes like improper trimming, inadvertent 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 may try to solve the problem of the ingrown nail through surgical approaches, electrocautery, or radiofrequency.
Partial nail avulsion followed by direct surgical excision of the nail matrix is equally effective in the treatment of ingrown toenails.