How to avoid ingrown toenails: 10 steps

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How to avoid ingrown toenails: 10 steps
How to avoid ingrown toenails: 10 steps

An ingrown toenail appears when the sides of the toenail grow into the surrounding skin, causing swelling, pain, and redness. Usually the big toe is the most affected, but it can appear on any toe. Ingrown toenails usually become infected, causing more swelling, tenderness, and a discharge of white or yellowish pus. There are a number of strategies that can help you avoid the development of these ingrown toenails.


Part 1 of 2: Prevent ingrown toenails

Avoid Ingrown Toenails Step 1
Avoid Ingrown Toenails Step 1

Step 1. Don't cut them too short

One of the main causes of ingrown toenails is cutting them too short. If you do, the pressure on the ends of your toes when walking (especially if your shoes fit too tight) can cause the sharp edges of your nails to dig into the surrounding tissue. Therefore, you should keep your toenails trimmed to a moderate length so that they are roughly even with the tips of your fingers.

  • You should trim your nails with a clean, sharp clipper made for thicker toenails rather than smaller ones that are more suitable for fingernails.
  • Some people's toenails grow faster than others, but you should think about trimming them every week or so.
  • Poor eyesight, not being able to reach your toes because of belly fat, and having nails that are too thick can make it difficult for you to properly trim your toenails.
  • If cutting your toenails is very difficult, make an appointment with a podiatrist (foot specialist).
Avoid Ingrown Toenails Step 2
Avoid Ingrown Toenails Step 2

Step 2. Trim your toenails straight

Another major cause of ingrown toenails is cutting them at angles along the sides to match the rounded shape of the toe, causing the skin to grow over the sharp edge of the nail and become irritated. Therefore, you should either trim them straight or tell the pedicurist to do it that way. This will greatly reduce your risk of developing ingrown toenails, especially on the big toes.

  • If you remove or break the corners of your toenails, they could also become ingrown.
  • Some people's toenails are curved or fan-shaped in nature, which predisposes them to developing ingrown toenails.
  • People with very thick toenails are less likely to develop ingrown toenails because their nails do not bite into the surrounding skin as easily as thinner nails.
Avoid Ingrown Toenails Step 3
Avoid Ingrown Toenails Step 3

Step 3. Wear shoes that fit well

Shoes that squeeze or put too much pressure on the ends of your toenails can also cause a toenail to grow into the surrounding tissue and hurt. So try to buy and wear shoes that fit well, especially if the shoes are for sports that involve constant running and stopping, such as soccer, basketball, football, or tennis.

  • If you are not sure which shoe size to wear, ask an experienced salesperson about an appropriate size and ask them for some advice on the types of shoes that are best for the shape of your feet.
  • If you wear very thick stockings, your fingers could also meet and that can increase the risk of trauma to the toes and ingrown toenails.
  • Shoes that are too loose and too large can increase the risk of ingrown toenails, especially on the big toe, because it slides too much when you walk and run.
Avoid Ingrown Toenails Step 4
Avoid Ingrown Toenails Step 4

Step 4. Consider wearing protective footwear

If your job puts you at significant risk of injuring your feet, then wear protective footwear, such as special steel-toed shoes or boots. These types of shoes or boots will protect all of your toes from trauma, which increases the risk of ingrown or missing nails, since the most injured and bruised nails become discolored and simply fall off.

  • The jobs that justify the use of steel-toed boots or shoes are construction, factory, mechanics, welding, firefighters, and forest police.
  • Always buy shoes and boots made of breathable material, like leather and suede, as sweaty feet soften the skin around your toenails and make ingrown toenails easier. In addition, it is also useful to wear socks that help keep moisture away from the feet.
Avoid Ingrown Toenails Step 5
Avoid Ingrown Toenails Step 5

Step 5. Try not to trip

Trauma to the ends of the feet usually causes swelling, which pushes soft tissue toward the edges of sharp nails and increases the risk of ingrown toenails. So, be careful when walking around your house and consider wearing sturdy slippers or house shoes for extra protection, just in case.

  • The legs of tables, chairs and beds are the ones that a person bumps into the most.
  • The big toe and little toe are more likely to bump into this furniture and be injured.
  • Other preventative measures you can take include making sure your floor is tidy without slippery rugs and wearing glasses or contact lenses if you need them to see clearly.
Avoid Ingrown Toenails Step 6
Avoid Ingrown Toenails Step 6

Step 6. See a podiatrist every now and then

If you have trouble taking care of your feet or toenails or if you have diabetes, see a doctor or podiatrist for help and treat regularly (every 3 to 6 months). Diabetes causes poor circulation and decreased skin sensation, making it difficult for you to feel if your feet are swollen or if your shoes are too tight. Your podiatrist can make special shoes or orthotics (orthotics) that fit your feet and decrease the risk of trauma to toes and ingrown toenails.

  • With diabetes, an ingrown toenail can easily become infected and later develop into a foot ulcer (an open wound that is difficult to heal).
  • Foot ulcers increase the risk of gangrene, which involves tissue death due to lack of blood circulation.
  • While pedicures can often help to trim toenails, they are not a substitute for professionally trained foot specialists.

Part 2 of 2: Treating Ingrown Toenails at Home

Avoid Ingrown Toenails Step 7
Avoid Ingrown Toenails Step 7

Step 1. Soak your feet in warm water

You should treat ingrown toenails at home as soon as you spot them (before they become infected) to avoid complications and the need for medical treatment. One of the easiest methods is to soak the affected foot in warm water for 15 to 20 minutes, 3 to 4 times a day. Soaking can decrease swelling and ease sensitivity.

  • Consider adding some Epsom salts to your foot bath. Disinfecting the ingrown toenail can help to relieve pain and inflammation.
  • If the ingrown toenail is still inflamed after the foot bath, apply an ice cube for 5 minutes. The ice will numb the pain and fight the inflammation.
Avoid Ingrown Toenails Step 8
Avoid Ingrown Toenails Step 8

Step 2. Apply some antibiotic cream

Apply an antibiotic cream, lotion, or ointment to your ingrown toenail at least a couple of times a day, especially just before going to sleep at night. After the cream has absorbed into the soft tissue around the nail, apply a bandage. Make sure to change it every time you apply the antibiotic ointment.

Avoid Ingrown Toenails Step 9
Avoid Ingrown Toenails Step 9

Step 3. Take over-the-counter medications

If your ingrown toenail is very swollen or painful, then consider taking some over-the-counter medications for a few days. You may be better off taking anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) or naproxen (Aleve) if you feel very inflamed. It's probably best to take pain relievers (also called pain relievers) if you have pain without much swelling. The most common over-the-counter pain reliever is acetaminophen (Tylenol, Paracetamol).

  • You should always consider anti-inflammatories and pain relievers as short-term strategies to control pain. If you take them in excess or take them for too long, you increase your risk of stomach, kidney and liver problems, or even organ failure if you take them in large quantities.
  • If you have chronic kidney disease, heart failure, hypertension or stroke, or if you take blood thinners, do not take ibuprofen or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
  • You can also rub a cream, lotion, or ointment that contains a natural pain reliever on your sore finger. Menthol, camphor, arnica, and capsaicin are helpful in relieving sensitivity.
Avoid Ingrown Toenails Step 10
Avoid Ingrown Toenails Step 10

Step 4. Place a cotton ball and dental floss under the ingrown toenail

After soaking your toenail in warm water and softening it, put a cotton ball or waxed dental floss under the ingrown edge. This will relieve pressure on the surrounding skin and help the nail to grow over the edge of the skin. Wet the cotton with water and a little antibiotic cream before inserting it.

  • Do not use this remedy unless directed by a podiatric specialist.
  • Consider putting coconut oil on inflamed skin beforehand to soften the skin and help reduce swelling. The cotton or dental floss will slide under the nail more easily.
  • Change the cotton or floss daily to keep the area antiseptic and to prevent a bacterial infection.


  • There is a difference between finger and toe nail clippers. The toe nail clipper is much larger and stronger than the normal nail clipper.
  • If you're dealing with an ingrown toenail, consider wearing open shoes or sandals until your toe feels better.
  • If the ingrown toenail doesn't heal completely or keeps coming back, the doctor or podiatrist may remove part of the nail.


  • See your GP or podiatrist if the ingrown toenail doesn't get better (or worse) in about 3 days.
  • You should not consider the advice in this article as a replacement for medical treatment, diagnosis, or advice from your doctor.

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