If you ever suffered from an ingrown toenail, then you know that it’s not only super painful, it’s also hard to cure.
Everyday activities like walking and putting on shoes can disturb your toe and have you screaming in pain.
Worst of all, it can also lead to an infection that can quickly get out of hand.
When Your Nail isn’t Growing Properly
Onychocryptosis (ingrown toenail) is a common condition that can affect people of any age.
It occurs when the toenail curls slightly inwards and the sides begin to grow into the toe instead of sitting flat above it. This leads to tears in the skin under the nail that can easily become infected with bacteria of fungi (1,2).
Ingrown toenails are typically caused by improper nail cutting technique, tight-fitting footwear, or trauma to the toe (3).
Less common causes include:
- Thickening of the nail plate
- Oddly shaped toenails
- Hallux valgus or other toe deformities,
- Subungual exostosis
- Taking isotretinoin (an acne drug)
Ingrown toenails are pretty easy to spot. As the nail digs into the skin, you may feel pain and tenderness in your toe along one or both sides of the nail. This is usually accompanied by swelling and redness around the affected area.
Ingrown toenails occur in three stages (4):
- Stage 1 is a mild condition characterized by nail-fold swelling, erythema, edema and pain with pressure.
- Stage 2 is moderate and is associated with increased swelling, drainage, infection and ulceration of the nail.
- Stage 3 is a severe health problem characterized by chronic inflammation and nail-fold hypertrophy.
Stage 2-3 typically require corrective surgery and medical treatment, but stage 1 can easily be treated at home!
6 Ways to Cure an Ingrown Toenail
These simple cures require a bit of time and effort, but they can get your toenail back to normal.
However, if you suffer from diabetes or any other condition that causes neuropathy or nerve damage, speak to your podiatrist before trying any of these remedies and enlist some help to cut and clean your nails.
1. Epsom Soak
Simply soak your foot for 15 minutes at a time 3-4 times a day to soften your toenail and gently tug on the corners of your nail with a sterilized nail file to relieve any pressure on your skin. As with any healing soak, dry your feet thoroughly and keep your nail covered with a band-aid throughout the day.
2. Castile Soap Soak
If you can’t fit in 3-4 foot baths into your schedule, soak your foot twice a day in a tub of warm water and castile soap to keep infection at bay.
3. Apple Cider Vinegar Wash
You can swap Epsom salt for a quarter cup of vinegar if you suspect you may be getting a fungal infection (6). Another option is to regularly apply diluted ACV to the skin under and around your ingrown nail to keep it clean.
4. Essential Oils
To reduce pain and inflammation and fight bacteria, make an antibiotic ointment out of 5 drops each of eucalyptus, tea tree and lavender essential oil, 2 drop of peppermint oil, and 1 drop of oregano oil.
Combine with 2 ounces each of coconut oil and aloe vera gel and gently massage the ointment into your wound after soaking and drying your foot.
Store the ointment in a sealed glass jar and apply 2-3 times a day before covering your nail with a clean band-aid.
5. Dental Floss & Cotton
After soaking your nail, pass a small piece of unflavored dental floss under the corner of your nail and slowly pull upwards to relieve pressure from your skin. Do not force your nail or you may cause further injury to your toe.
Take a small piece of sterile gauze and prop it under the nail to prevent it from touching your skin and to encourage it to shift back into its normal position.
Practice this trick after soaking your feet, using a new piece of gauze every time and wrapping it into place with a bandage or medical tape. After about 2 weeks, your nail will be as good as new!
6. Change Your Shoes
High heels an tight-fitting shoes force your toes together and put more pressure on these digits. This can push your ingrown toenail further into your skin and increase pain and healing time. Instead, wear flat, sensible shoes or sandals as your nail heals.
The Ultimate Ingrown Toenail Routine
Combine the methods above for a pain-free nail in no time!
- Soak your feet in Epsom salt, castile soap or apple cider vinegar.
- Use a disinfected nail file or fresh dental floss to lift the nail away from the swollen skin.
- Pour hydrogen peroxide or diluted vinegar onto the skin under the nail. It may sting a little.
- Pack gauze underneath the nail edge to prop it up.
- Apply a homemade antibiotic cream to the skin around your nail.
- Bandage the toe loosely as to not push the nail back into your skin.
- Wear open-toe shoes while your wound heals.
- Repeat daily until the toenail has grown out and is no longer ingrown.
To prevent future ingrown nails, trim your nails properly (straight across) and avoid tight-fighting footwear. It’s also a good idea to wash and dry your feet after working out to keep the skin around our toes from getting too soft.
If you’ve suffered from ingrown nails more than once, consider visiting a podiatrist.