How to treat painful ingrown toenails

An ingrown toenail is a common condition affecting people of all age groups. However, sometimes it can get infected and become painful. This article explains simple self-care tips to prevent as well as treat ingrown toenails using home remedies.


Sometimes side or corner of toenails grow into soft flesh. Skin grows over the nail. Hence the name ingrown nails. Ingrown toenails are an unpleasant and painful condition. The pain aggravates every time toes are accidentally knocked or when they are used to carry out the daily movement. This condition can occur at any age. It is also known as onychocryptosis. It is a common toenail problem. If care is not taken, it can get infected. In mild cases, a person only experiences slight pain and swelling whereas in severe cases, there can be inflammation and excruciating deep pain. There are lots of causes for ingrown toenails. The most common one is improper trimming or cutting of nails, trauma and not adopting proper foot hygiene. Ingrown nails usually affect the big toe. However, other toes can also be affected. This common problem can be easily treated at home. Below-mentioned tips will help in preventing and treating ingrown nails and stop them from getting infected or inflamed.

How to prevent onychocryptosis?

Prevention is always better than cure. Thus, adopt these simple tips and regularly practice foot hygiene to prevent painful ingrown toenails from developing. The first simple way of preventing ingrown toenail is to remain careful. Those who regularly get them should be extra cautious. Some of us might have had them before. Such people should regularly lookout and take every effective measure to prevent corners of toenails from growing into soft flesh.

  • Wear comfortable shoes which should be of the right size. Never wear smaller sizes that do not allow enough room for toes. Tighter shoes and wrong sized ones can cause this painful condition. One can also opt to purchase open-toed sandals or shoes which completely take off pressure from toes. However, make sure to wear socks before wearing open-toed footwear.

  • Avoid wearing tight stockings and shoes that have high-heels and are pointed. Too much pressure on toes can cause ingrown nails. Thus, avoid them as much as possible or wear them occasionally.

  • Improper trimming of nails is one of the common causes of ingrown toenails. Take some time off and regularly trim toenails. Do not over trim them nor allow them to grow too long. They should have a moderate length. Nails should not be rounded. Trim them straight across. Corners of the toenails should be given special attention. Do not leave sharp edges over there.

  • Pay special attention to foot hygiene. Wash them properly and daily. After washing, make sure to dry them thoroughly. Use clean towels for the purpose. Socks and shoes should be clean. Avoid skin from getting hardened and for that regularly scrub foot with a pumice stone or a foot file.

Tips to prevent ingrown toenails from getting infected

  • If already suffering from ingrown toenails, it is better to avoid pedicure treatments as such fancy treatments can aggravate the pain. Moreover, if done in unhygienic parlours or with non-sterilized instruments, it can infect the ingrown toenails which can make the condition much worse.

  • To prevent the ingrown toenails from getting infected, it is essential to soak feet in soapy water for half an hour daily. One can choose cold or warm water as per the liking. Make sure to rinse feet with clean water to get rid of all the soap from it. Dry them properly with a clean towel. Regularly soaking them relieves them of pain and helps in maintaining proper foot hygiene.

  • If necessary cover the ingrown toenail area with a suitable bandaid. It will prevent the nail from getting infected and also protect it from accidental injury.

  • At least twice a day apply antibiotic cream to ingrown toenail and extend it to surrounding skin. Do it after soaking the foot in water and after taking a shower. Antibiotic cream prevents infection risk which in turn prevents the condition from getting complicated.

Home remedies to self treat ingrown toenails

Below-mentioned home remedies can help in the treatment of painful ingrown toenails.

  1. Soothing warm water soaks
    Warm water is not only soothing but also prevents inflammation. Soak feet in warm water. Add some Epsom salts to it. Regularly soaking for nearly 15-20 minutes can help nails to grow outward. Risk of infection and inflammation also decreases as debris are pushed outside that will prevent the buildup. Later, apply some antibiotic ointment over the affected and surrounding area. Water will soften the ingrown toenail but do not use hot water. Warm water with Epsom salt is more than enough. Instead of adding Epsom salts, one can also add povidone-iodine to cold water and soak the foot in it. It is an antiseptic that can prevent the risk of infection.

  2. Vinegar soaks
    Apple cider vinegar wash is a natural and effective treatment for an ingrown toenail. Just add some amount to warm water and soak the foot in it for some time. Or else one can also directly apply it to the affected nail. Apple cider vinegar is antibacterial and thus prevents the risk of bacterial infection and accelerates the healing process. Moreover, adding it to warm water soothes the inflamed skin.

  3. Hydrogen peroxide soaks
    To treat a painful ingrown toenail, it is important to first get rid of pain and decrease the inflammation from surrounding skin. Hydrogen peroxide is the best remedy for the purpose. It makes the surrounding skin soft and decreases pain and signs of infection from it. One can also directly apply it to an affected ingrown toenail. However, be careful and do not leave it for a prolonged time as it may rupture the surrounding healthy skin tissues. Best way to use it is to add it to water and soak the foot in it for 15 minutes.

  4. Moisturize the toe skin with essential oils
    Certain oils such as baby oil and tea tree oil if applied regularly to the toenails can soften the skin and moisturize it which in turn will take some pressure off from toenail. When pressure is relieved, one can slowly see the improvement in the condition. Moisturizing the surrounding skin is an effective way to encourage ingrown toenails to grow outwards. Tea tree oil has certain properties such as it is antibacterial and antifungal that prevents the risk of infection. Massage these oils by adding them to a carrier oil such as coconut oil. Regular massages will keep the surrounding skin healthy. Thus, the healthy environment created will promote the healing of ingrown nail. Also, these oils can relieve some pain from the area.

  5. Natural antimicrobial treatments
    When suffering from an ingrown toenail, it is advisable to keep it covered with a bandage to prevent accidental injury and risk of infection. Keeping it exposed can subject it to trauma as well as dirt and debris get settled in it making it inflamed. However, instead of simply covering it with a bandage, it is more beneficial to first layer it up with freshly squeezed lemon juice as well as honey. Both these ingredients are antimicrobial. Leaving them overnight under the bandage can prevent the risk of infection. This treatment is particularly beneficial if the ingrown nail has become slightly painful and shows oedema and redness in the surrounding skin.

  6. Cotton wisps
    To treat an ingrown toenail, it is necessary to offer some help to it so that it can grow in the correct direction. This can be done by placing cotton wisps under it. Alternatively, dental floss can also be used. Corner of the nail is inside the skin. It has to be lifted. Place cotton wisps or dental floss between nail folds and nail plate so that nail remains elevated for a long time that promotes its growth in an outward direction and not inside the skin. The most important point to note here is to carry out the procedure very gently and not forcefully elevate the nail. It has to be done preferably after soaking foot as it softens nail to a great extent. Gradually every day push the roll slightly farther inside. Also, change the roll regularly. If done properly, within a couple of weeks, the nail will start growing away and outside the skin.

Precautionary measures

Ingrown toenail is a common problem and can be treated at home. However, in certain conditions, it is essential to go to the doctor to seek help. Such conditions are mentioned below.
  • Those suffering from diabetes should not take ingrown toenail lightly. They should take extra care for foot hygiene and should consult the doctor immediately if suffering from ingrown toenail instead of trying home remedies or self-care tips.

  • Those who suffer from blood circulatory diseases should also consult the doctor at the earliest. Those suffering from improper blood circulation in lower extremities and feet diseases should not try to treat ingrown fingernails with home remedies.

  • Self-care and home remedies can effectively treat ingrown toenails. However, in certain cases, if one cannot see the improvement after trying out lots of tips and are noticing the increase in infection and other signs of inflammation, they should not take the signs lightly and consult the doctor immediately.


Author: K Mohan23 Jun 2021 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 2

By writing this article the author has instantly connected to those senior citizens who have the hard toe nails and they would not cut fearing the injury as most of them are the diabetic patients and any small injury in the body would tell upon the health and uncontrolable blood oozing. Normally the salon workers are trained to cut the nails but given this pandemic situation the elders are not allowed outside to go for shaving, hair cutting etc. Therefore toe nails has to be removed by experienced persons at home without bothering the elders very much.

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