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Family Foot & Ankle

The Top Tips for Keeping Ingrown Toenails at a Minimum

Very few things in this world are perfect, if any at all. You can always expect some small misfortune to happen now and then, and an ingrown toenail can fit that bill.

If you have never had an ingrown toenail before, that makes you either very lucky or a bit forgetful. Just about everyone can recall a time they had the side of their nail (usually on the big toe), curve inward and dig into the neighboring skin, causing a painful but often minor nuisance.

For some people, however, an ingrown toenail is a much more common occurrence. While an ingrown toenail once in a great while can simply be fate conspiring against you, getting them on the regular can be a sign that something is off.

The good news is that, in many cases, finding and correcting that problem can significantly take care of the ingrown toenail situation! The majority of these tips can be used right at home, too.

However, there’s one thing we should note before getting into the tips: if you currently have an ingrown toenail that is especially painful or is showing signs of infection (e.g. hot and very sensitive to touch, oozing pus, and/or radiating red streaks from the site of the ingrown nail), contact us promptly. You may well need additional care for this case.

With that understood, here are some simple changes you can make that may help a pesky ingrown toenail problem.

Ingrown toenail prevention

Change Your Footwear

Toenails don’t grow very quickly, but they still need room to do so. If your toes are too cramped in tight socks and shoes, it can set up a compressed environment that affects the manner your toenails grow. Instead of growing straight, they can start to curve into the skin.

If you’re a teen (or know one), the risk of ingrown toenails due to this reason is higher—simply because young feet are constantly growing and becoming too big for shoes!

If your toes feel too cramped in your current shoes, find options with a wider toe box. Your toes should be able to wiggle where they rest without having to grind against each other to do so. A change as simple as this may be enough to drop your rate of ingrown nails.

Check the Way You Trim Your Toenails

We understand if some of you feel a bit exasperated at this suggestion. You’ve been trimming your toenails your whole life now! It’s not hard. How could you possibly be messing it up?!

But if you are curving your toenails too much on the ends, you might just be opening yourself up to frequent ingrown toenails.

Cut straight across when trimming your toenails, trying to keep the remaining nail relatively straight. If you want to take down pointy corners, a nail file or emery board can do the trick nicely.

Another potential clipping catastrophe is cutting your toenails much too short. There should always be a bit of white left at the end of your nails—enough to hook with a fingernail. If you cut further than that, you risk damaging your nail bed. Damage your nail bed, and you increase the risk of your nails growing back in abnormal ways.

Another way you can potentially traumatize your toenails with a pair of clippers is by using the wrong pair or by using them at the wrong time.

Do not use smaller fingernail clippers on your toes. Having to make more individual clips provides more opportunity for the nails to become jagged and catch on socks, which can rip the nail. Also, if your nails are not very tough, do not clip your toenails when they are wet, such as after a shower. If they are too soft, they are liable to tear during clipping. Both situations can increase risks of ingrown toenails.

What if Ingrown Toenails Keep Coming Back?

If you take measures to give yourself roomy shoes and clip your toenails like a champ, but still have ingrown toenails, what gives?

The problem might just be out of your control.

In some cases, toenails can become consistently ingrown due purely to genetics. Your nails are just naturally a shape that makes them more prone to this trouble, and changing habits is not going to have much of an effect in this situation.

If ingrown toenails continue to plague you, it’s definitely time to give us a call. We can help you get to the root of the problem and recommend the best solutions for lasting relief.

In many cases such as this, a partial or full removal of the nail (matrixectomy) may be recommended. This in itself may provide relief, but the nail bed might also be treated with a chemical that prevents new nail from returning. If nail removal is something we recommend, we will of course discuss all the pros and cons with you before you make the decision whether to proceed.

Keep Ingrown Toenails from Coming Back for Good

Do not let recurring ingrown toenails (or any other skin and nail conditions) become a painful part of your life. Family Foot & Ankle Center can provide the insight and treatment you need to bring much-needed relief.

We have offices throughout the greater Cincinnati area that are ready to see you. Give us a call at (513) 728-4800 to schedule an appointment at the office closest to you. Or simply take advantage of our online request form to have a member of our staff reach out to you.


Dr. Cynthia Miller
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Dr. Cynthia Miller is a board certified podiatrist who has been established in the Cincinnati area since 2004.
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