Anyone who has ever gone through the suffering of an ingrown nail knows the pain is real. But the pain is not the worst part. The worst part is that you can’t use your toes as you normally do, which can definitely be annoying and irritating. Our usual daily movement is hampered, and even worse, we aggravate the nail even more when we move.
There is no age or gender limit to ingrown toenails. They can appear at any age, and it is one of the most common toenail problems. The Latin name for this painful condition is onychocryptosis. If not properly cared for, an ingrown toenail can cause even more problems and become infected. There are many causes for an ingrown toenail, but mainly they include improper nail cutting technique. With that in mind, let’s look at the causes of this irritating condition.
Common causes of ingrown toenail
As mentioned previously, the main reason for ingrown toenails is improper nail cutting technique. But there are many more. Here is a quick list:
- Wearing tight-fitting footwear
- Anatomical factors like thickening of the nail plate
- Wearing shoes that crowd the toenails (such as heels)
- Injuries to the toenail
- Having unusually curved toenails
- Pressure from abutting digits caused by hallux valgus
- Lesser toe deformities
- Outgrowth of bone from the tip of the toe
Symptoms of ingrown toenails
Before we go into the discussion about how to get rid of ingrown toenails, let’s take a look at the symptoms. Are you sure you have an ingrown toenail? The symptoms are the following:
- Redness around the toenail
- Swelling of your toe around the nail
- Pain and tenderness in the toe
- Infection of the tissue around the toenail
The good news is that there are many natural ways to treat an ingrown toenail. However, for a severe case, usually the only remedy is surgery. But in stages one and two, surgery is not needed.
Natural remedies for getting rid of ingrown toenail
The best way to treat an ingrown toenail naturally is to understand the condition. This common condition causes the corner or side of a toenail to grow into the soft skin flesh. As mentioned previously, ingrown toenails can be classified into three categories: mild, moderate, and severe. Mild cases are accompanied by pain with pressure, nail fold swelling, erythema, and edema. Moderate cases manifest with drainage, infection, ulceration of the nail fold, and increased swelling. Severe cases can lead to chronic inflammation and granulation. Here are some remedies to try.
Soaking the foot
One of the simplest and easiest ways to get rid of an ingrown toenail is to soak the foot in warm, soapy water. In addition to getting rid of the toenail, this method will help keep the area clean and free of bacteria. Repeat three to four times per day. If you like, you can add Epsom salt to soften your skin.
Wash your foot
If soaking doesn’t work, and you don’t have time to repeat it three to four times per day, washing the foot is a good option as well. Use a castile soap to wash the affected area two times per day. Soap and water are all you need. Castile soap has natural ingredients, and keeps the foot clean.
The power of apple cider vinegar
There are very few skin conditions that apple cider vinegar can’t help with. But when it comes to ingrown toenails, a wash with ACV will definitely help you. Thanks to its natural ingredients, ACV is a great natural treatment. All you have to do is add ¼ cup to a warm water soak. You can also apply ACV directly on the affected area (however, make sure to dilute the vinegar with purified water). Thanks to the vinegar’s antibacterial characteristics, ACV keeps the area clean and helps it heal.
Call the big boys
When you are dealing with a moderate case of ingrown toenail, the best thing to do is call in the big boys. That means adding essential oils to the mix. You can mix any of the following with a carrier oil like coconut: lavender, rosemary, tea tree oil, clove, and Cyprus oil. Blend them together, and then gently massage the affected area.
Dental floss is not beneficial just for your teeth. You can actually floss your nails as well! Place dental floss under the ingrown nail edge and try to lift up the corner of the nail digging in to the skin. You can actually shift the nail to grow in the correct direction with dental floss.
Avoid high heels
This is more of a prevention and precautionary measure, but avoid wearing high heels and tight shoes. At least try not to do it on a daily basis and for more than 5 hours per day. Heels and tight shoes put more pressure on the area. If you already have an ingrown nail, avoid wearing heels until the area heals.
The best homemade remedy
We mentioned previously that you can use essential oils for moderate cases of ingrown toenails. If you really want to take things to the next level, we recommend a homemade recipe. Here are the ingredients:
- 5 drops of eucalyptus oil
- 5 drops of tea tree oil
- 5 drops of lavender oil
- 1 drop of oregano oil
- 2 drops of peppermint oil
- 2 ounces of coconut oil
- 2 ounces of aloe vera gel
How to make it:
- Mix all ingredients in a glass. Get a small spoon, and stir the ingredients until well blended.
- Cleanse and rinse your toe, and then apply the ointment to the affected area.
- Let the solution dry and wear flip-flops while drying.
- Repeat the treatment two to three times per day. Wash your hands after applying the treatment.
How to cut an ingrown toenail
If you want to cut your ingrown toenail at home, you need some help. You have to be very careful, as there are many challenges. Cutting the nail can be difficult, but here is a step-by-step guide to do it carefully and without any risk:
- Soak your feet in warm water with Epsom salt for 20 minutes. This will soften the skin and the toenail and prepare you for the next step.
- Wash your hands. Using clean fingers, push back the swollen skin carefully. Don’t force it back more than the skin allows. Expect some pain and discomfort.
- Cut the nail straight across. You can start with the edges, and then cut the nail from the side. Never cut it from the middle.
- Place a small piece of cotton between your skin and the ingrown nail to help the nail to grow correctly.
- Avoid wearing socks while you are at home while the nail heals and recovers.
- Change the cotton daily to prevent infection.
Risks you should know about
There are many risks associated with ingrown toenails, such as anatomic and behavioral mechanisms. Some studies show that wider nail folds and thinner, flatter nails may increase the risk for development of ingrown toenails.
Repetitive trauma, which includes running and kicking, is another risk factor. To prevent trauma from running, purchase quality running shoes that fit and accommodate all of your nails properly.
During adolescence, feet perspire more often, which causes the skin and nails to become soft. As a result, they split easily and produce nail spicules that can pierce the lateral skin.
Diabetes and similar conditions that cause poor blood flow to your feet increase the risk of developing ingrown toenails. Diabetes and poor blood flow will also increase the risk of complications from your ingrown toenail.
If left undetected, the ingrown toenail can infect the bone and lead to serious bone infection.