According to the Mayo Clinic, an ingrown toenail (onychocryptosis) is a condition where the corner side of a toenail grows into the softer flesh next to it. If the idea of it sounds painful, it is! They can become very painful if not properly managed. Many times, people choose to have an operation to alleviate this pain. However, there are ways to get rid of an ingrown toenail at home without surgery.
Typically, ingrown toenails affect the big toe. If your toenail hurts when pressure is applied, or your toenail hurts when walking, it’s a good sign that it’s time to take care of the problem. Too many people allow the problem to continue for a long period of time.
While complications from this type of abnormal nail growth aren’t usually common, they can be dangerous for some people. If left untreated, a toenail could curve directly into a bone and cause an infection. Diabetics or anyone with poor foot circulation could be more at risk for these serious complications.
If you do get an ingrown toenail, you should see a doctor right away if you have circulatory issues or you’re a diabetic. You should also get medical attention if there is redness in your toe or even some type of ‘pus’ that seems to be spreading. If you don’t have either of those issues, there’s a good chance you can take care of the problem yourself with a few helpful tips.
Will focus on a few effective ways to alleviate the pressure and discomfort of an ingrown nail. We’ll talk about how you can remove ingrown toenails without an operation. It is possible to correct the problem at home, depending on the severity of your case.
First, let’s dive into some symptoms of an ingrown toenail and the causes. They aren’t always preventable. But, once you know some of the potential causes, you may be more aware of what triggers your problem.
Table of Contents:
- 1 What Causes an Ingrown Toenail to Form?
- 2 What Are the Symptoms of Ingrown Toenails?
- 3 How to Remove an Ingrown Toenail without Surgery?
- 4 Read Our Latest Posts:
What Causes an Ingrown Toenail to Form?
There are a few common causes of ingrown toenails. No one is necessarily more at risk for developing them than others. However, they can be more prominent for people with sweaty feet or thicker nails.
Additionally, people who are extremely active each day with their feet may be more susceptible to experiencing this problem. Putting pressure on your feet or using your toes for something like kicking a ball or running can be considered ‘trauma.’ It can lead to conditions like toenail fungus, infection, or even an ingrown toenail.
One of the most common causes is pressure on the nail. This is typically caused by ill-fitting footwear. Or, shoes that pinch the toes together, like high heels. Even socks and stockings can cause this problem if they are too narrow for your feet. Every time you take a step, that pressure builds as your toes rub against each other. Use a shoe stretcher to create extra room in your footwear.
How you take care of your toenails can also play a part. Proper foot hygiene is essential. This includes keeping your toe clean and dry. Clipping your nails regularly can make a big difference, too. If you cut your nails too short, or ‘curve’ them when you clip them, you’re putting yourself at risk. Instead, you should be cutting your toenails straight across. This helps to prevent the sides from angling into the skin.
Finally, as stated above, some type of trauma to the toe could trigger this problem. If you’re an athlete or someone who runs a lot, that can cause a buildup of trauma over time. Trauma can also occur instantly. If you drop a heavy object on your foot or even stub your toe against something, it could be enough to cause your nail to curve.
Some people simply have unusually-curved nails. You can clip them differently to help offset the natural curve, but it’s difficult to change the way your nails grow. If your ingrown toenail is the result of a genetic predisposition, don’t worry. You can still treat it safely and get rid of the pain.
What Are the Symptoms of Ingrown Toenails?
Chances are if you have an ingrown toenail, you’ll know it! Leaving it alone for any length of time can be painful. If your toenail hurts when walking or your toenails are hurting in the corners of your toes, it’s a good sign there is a problem.
But, as with most foot conditions, there are certain symptoms to look for and be aware of. Some of these symptoms include:
- Pain along one or both sides of the nail
- Tenderness when touched or pressure added
- Redness around the nail
- Swelling of the skin on the toe surrounding the nail
You may also experience a ‘warm’ feeling in your toe, due to the swelling. An official diagnosis by your doctor can be done by a physical examination of the toe and nail itself. Usually, though, you can determine whether or not you’re dealing with an ingrown toenail based on these common symptoms.
It’s important to note that ingrown toenails are typically ‘diagnosed’ in stages: Stage 1, stage 2, and stage 3. Stages 2 and 3 are considered to be more severe and may require medical help to remove the nail completely. However, if your ingrown toenail is in stage one (commonly associated with the symptoms above), you should be able to treat it on your own.
How to Remove an Ingrown Toenail without Surgery?
Let’s take a look at a few easy ways you can treat an ingrown toenail at home:
Epsom Salt Soak
Most foot soaks associated with ingrown toenails are designed to soften the nail and the skin. They also help to prevent infection or bacteria from spreading. Use a foot soaker filled with warm water. Using warm water and soap alone can help to soften your skin. But, adding some Epsom salts to the soak can speed up the softening process. This will make it easier for the toenail to become drawn out from the skin.
Soak your feet in this solution two or three times a day, for 15-20 minutes at a time. You can also use a solution of Castille soap or apple cider vinegar. Any of these solutions will help to soften the nail. They will also keep bacteria from spreading. So, you have a lower risk of experiencing some type of infection. The main purpose of these soaks is to keep inflammation down. When your toe isn’t swollen from irritation, your nail can grow correctly.
Use a Cotton Ball
Soaking your feet or softening the nail somehow is important to the other remedies. No matter what you do, try one of the soaking methods listed above before working on getting rid of the nail in any capacity. Once you have, the ‘cotton ball method’ is one of the most popular solutions.
To try this method, use the following steps:
- Gather together a clean cotton ball and a pair of clean tweezers. If possible, the tweezers should be sterilized beforehand.
- Remove a small section of the cotton ball with the tweezers.
- Hold the torn piece of cotton to the corner of your toenail.
- Gently push the piece of cotton into the corner of the nail. Be careful not to push too hard or use something too pointy. This could damage the nail or create trauma.
- Pack as much cotton as is comfortable underneath your nail. It shouldn’t be so much that it causes pain, but it should slightly raise the nail.
- Repeat this process daily with a new piece of cotton. This will help to lower your risk of infection.
The idea behind this treatment is to change the direction in which your ingrown toenail grows. The cotton will allow for it to grow straight so that it won’t dig into your skin.
You can keep your toes safe by using an antibacterial cream on them each day, as well as keeping them clean. You should also allow your feet to ‘air out’ as much as possible. Go barefoot at home whenever possible. Keeping moisture trapped is dangerous. If it gets underneath the toenail, it could cause a fungal infection.
It should take a few weeks with this method for your nail to completely grow out. Once it does, clip your toenails as you regularly would, making sure to cut them straight across.
You can also use this method with dental floss, following a similar process. The dental floss should gently lift up the nail. It may be easier to initially get it underneath the nail each day to change it out.
Hydrogen peroxide is a great home remedy for getting rid of ingrown toenails. It works as a disinfectant, which is one of the biggest risks. If it becomes infected, it can turn into an even bigger problem.
Not only will it reduce your risk of infection, but it will also help to soften your skin while alleviating pain and inflammation. Since these are some of the most common symptoms associated with an ingrown toenail, it can be a big help. The softening of your skin is key, however. It will allow you to trim your nails more easily and correctly. This will guide the nail to grow straight instead of curving back into your skin.
To use hydrogen peroxide effectively, use it in your foot spa. Combine ½ cup of hydrogen peroxide into a tub of warm water and soak your feet for 20-30 minutes each day. This simple soak will soften your skin and prevent infection. It will allow you to guide your toenail in the right direction by clipping it properly without pain.
Try Using Turmeric
Turmeric continues to grow in popularity. This is due to its effectiveness with a wide variety of different health issues. Many people swear by it for overall health, while others take it for specific conditions. One of those conditions is an ingrown toenail. It offers anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and antibacterial properties. It will promote healing of the nail while getting rid of pain and inflammation.
To start, you can begin consuming turmeric regularly. This will help to fight and prevent infection from the inside out. It will also encourage the healing process and reduce swelling. There are multiple ways to take turmeric. You can either make turmeric tea, ingest a capsule, or mix a teaspoon with a glass of warm water or milk.
The compound within turmeric that makes it so beneficial is called curcumin. If you don’t want to start taking turmeric each day, you can go directly to the source by purchasing an antibiotic cream containing curcumin.
Apply it directly to the affected area. Then, cover it daily with a band aid. Switch out the band aid two or three times a day, and give your toe a chance to air out in between. Using this method, you should notice a difference within just a few days.
Essential Oils for Topical Treatment
Essential oils can help to do things like alleviate pain and get rid of the swelling. Different oils tend to work for different things.
Two of the best for an ingrown toenail are as follows:
- Tea tree oil – This is a natural antiseptic, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory agent. There are many uses for this ‘miracle oil,’ but it can help to reduce swelling and pain from an ingrown toenail. It will also help to soften the skin and prevent infection from occurring. Ingrown toenails are often associated with toenail fungus. Tea tree oil is another common remedy for dealing with a fungal infection. If you do have an existing toenail fungus, this oil can help with both conditions.
- Oregano oil – This will assist with any pain you’re feeling due to an ingrown toenail. It will also help to promote proper healing. Again, oregano oil is also often used in foot fungus treatments, so it will help to ward off infection.
While both of these oils are 100% natural, you should apply them carefully with a neutral carrier oil. Olive oil, jojoba oil, or even coconut oil are great options. Just mix a drop or two of the essential oil into the carrier oil and apply it directly to the affected area. There is no need to rinse anything away. The oil will absorb into the skin and soften it, making it easier to trim the nail straight.
This may be a strange-sounding home remedy, but many people use Vicks VapoRub to deal with ingrown toenails. It is a natural antiseptic. So, it will keep any possible infections from spreading and keep the area clean. However, it also softens the nail itself. It softens it so well in a short amount of time that it makes it easy to remove the nail safely in a day or so.
To use properly, simply rub Vicks directly on the affected toenail and surrounding skin. Try to get a bit of the solution underneath your nail as well. Conceal with a bandage and let soak in overnight. In the morning, your nail should be soft enough to manage and remove. The antiseptic properties will ward off infection as you try to get the nail out.
Can an Ingrown Toenail Be Prevented?
If you have toenails that tend to grow in curved or abnormally, it may not always be possible to prevent ingrown toenails from occurring. However, in most cases, you can significantly lower your risk. You can also stop an ingrown toenail before it becomes too much of a problem or becomes severely painful. Keep these tips in mind to help prevent ingrown toenails from happening:
- The easiest thing you can do is to wear comfortable shoes that fit your feet properly. One of the common causes for ingrown toenails is ill-fitting shoes. If your shoes are too tight or cause your toes to be crammed together, your nail could start to grow abnormally. If you don’t want to get new shoes or try a shoe-stretching spray, there are still options. Keep a comfortable pair of shoes available whenever possible. If you have to wear high heels or dress shoes to work, keep a pair of sneakers under your desk to wear during the day. The less time you spend in tight shoes, the less likely it will be for an ingrown nail to form.
- Trim your nails directly across in a straight line. Most people prefer a curved look to their toenail. But, if you’re prone to ingrown nails, letting the sides curve down could make it easier for them to grow into the skin. It may not be as fashionable to cut them straight across, but it can help to prevent improper growth.
- In addition to cutting your nails the correct shape, it’s also important to cut them the correct length. Never cut your toenails too short. Shorter nails will have more room to grow improperly.
- Practice good foot hygiene. It sounds simple because it is! Taking better care of your feet can greatly lower your risk for common conditions.
Things That Must Be Avoided
As tempting as it can be to try to ‘cut out’ an ingrown toenail, never try to do it on your own at home! First of all, it can cause a lot of unwanted pain. Any cuts would need to be extremely precise, and it’s unlikely you’d be able to perform a correct cut on your own.
More importantly, however, it’s unlikely that the tools you would be using would be safe or sterile. One of the most important things to remember when you have an ingrown toenail is that it can become easily infected. If you’re using nail clippers or scissors from your medicine cabinet, they are probably riddled with bacteria. Even if they aren’t, exposing your skin to bacteria by cutting it is dangerous.
If a cut starts to bleed, you’ve put yourself at great risk for infection. It could make your ingrown toenail worse, get into the bone, or cause other foot problems. It’s understandable that ingrown toenails can be painful enough to want to cut out. But, never play the role of a surgeon in your own home. If you believe cutting out the nail is the only solution, see a podiatrist who can perform the procedure correctly.
Getting Rid of a Painful Ingrown Toenail Safely
Ingrown toenails are more common than you may think. Sometimes, genetics and irregular nail growth are the cause. Most of the time, however, they can be prevented with a few simple changes and solutions. The best thing you can do to treat an ingrown nail is to practice the proper steps to avoid getting one in the first place.
If you do experience a nail that starts to grow into your skin, these tips can help you to get rid of it safely. An ingrown nail can become extremely painful and dangerous if not taken care of. Doing what you can to soften your skin, soften the nail, and prevent infection are the key factors in a safe and healthy removal.
The suggestions listed here are meant to be used on ingrown nails that have just started to become a problem. If your nail has become a debilitating factor (you aren’t able to walk comfortably or put pressure on it), medical attention from a podiatrist may be needed.
We hope that we’ve provided some peace of mind if you have an ingrown toenail. They aren’t impossible to get rid of, even without an operation. You can ease the pain and inflammation quickly. From there, you can gently get rid of ingrown toenails without surgery and have healthy, pain-free nails.