How to Prevent & Treat Ingrown Toenails

by Annie Crawford

Springtime means sandals, bare feet, and a serious need for sexy toes. But what to do in the case of ingrown toenails? Our feet are in a sorry state after hibernating in boots and woolen socks all winter. We've suffered dry skin, cracking heels, and totally neglected toenails. At the very least, a rejuvenating pedicure is in order. But more frequently we also need to deal with ingrown toenails, too.

First thing's first: What is an ingrown toenail? In medical terminology it is onychocryptosis, a condition wherein the edges of the toenail (usually of the big toe), grow into the skin instead of over it. New York City's Park Ave podiatrist, Dr. Suzanne Levine of Institute Beauté, explains that when the corners of your toenail cut into the skin, those nail corners can cause swelling, redness, and discomfort. When left untreated, it can become excessively red, filled with pus, and you may have an ingrown toenail infection. That's absolutely not sexy for our spring sandals!

The good news is, you can easily learn how to prevent ingrown toenails. Dr. Levine provides a few easy tips to prevent the pain.

1. Be careful with your cuticles!

Do no let your pedicurist trim or cut your cuticles, nor should you get all crazy and pick at them. Let your cuticles live in peace.

2. Shoe shape

Choose shoes that don't squish toes or point your large toe inward. Also be mindful that shoes of non-breathable synthetic materials can increase the chance of your toe getting infected if an irritated toe gets too sweaty.

3. Clip with caution

Clip toenails straight across, being careful not to cut too low. Avoid rounding or creating v-shaped toenails. Important: never tear your toenails.

4. Foot freedom

Foot mechanics can play a part! According to Dr. Levine, if you have flat feet, your big toe and forefoot are more likely to roll inward when you walk, which will increase the pressure on the nails and increase the chance of an incurvated toenail. If this is the case, be sure to choose shoes that are wide enough and avoid wearing pantyhose or tight-fitting socks.

If you're already in the painful stage, Dr. Levine suggests some home remedies for how to treat ingrown toenails.

1. Soak your toesies

Soak your foot in a solution of 1/2 cup iodine and 1 gallon of warm water for 15 to 20 minutes twice a day. Alternatively use warm water, 1/3 cup of sea salt, and a few drops of tea tree oil for 15 to 20 minutes twice a day. It will be a great time to practice meditating!

2. Play doctor

After your feet have soaked, trim nails (straight across!) if needed and gently clean and dry nail grooves with a cotton swab. Then, cut or trim your nails and gently clean the nail grooves with a cotton swab. Be sure to apply an antibiotic cream to reduce inflammation. Be sure to finish off with a protective bandage or bandaid.

If your ingrown toenail has turned into a monster it may be time to seek professional help. Dr. Levine suggests informing a professional if your toenail is painful for an extended length of time, or if the toe is excessively red or swollen with pus. You should also speak to a podiatrist if you have reoccurring ingrown toenails, or you have poor circulation and/or diabetes. In extreme cases, the trouble zone on the nail can be removed with a laser.

You're all set with the basic knowledge to prevent ingrown toenails, or treat ingrown toenails using these simple home remedies. Maybe you'll even splurge and try out a foot facial or other pedicure pampering treatment. Your gorgeous toes will be ready to be exposed and flaunt-worthy for all your springtime flirtations.

Images: Giphy (7)