We usually don’t think about them often—we even literally gloss over them sometimes—but toenails can be pretty fascinating. Did you know they’re made of the same stuff as our hair, and research suggests they help us keep our balance by letting us feel out our surroundings better?
Of course, a “fun fact” corner isn’t that much fun when you’re in pain from ingrown toenails. Let’s go into some information about this bothersome condition that could help you keep your nails on the straight and narrow.
1. Nail Trimming Can Cause Ingrown Toenails – But Which Way is Best?
It’s true that the way you clip your nails can gradually influence them toward curving their growth into the skin. There always seems to be some argument, however, over how best to trim your nails to avoid this.
In general, toenails should be cut relatively straight across. This encourages growth to continue forward and not the sides.
You might want to curve the edges just a little to avoid pointy ends, but definitely do not give yourself broad curves at the sides of your nails. That’s asking for trouble.
The length at which you trim your nails also counts! Cutting the nail too short can also interfere with normal growth. Having 1-2 mm at the end of the nail—enough to get a fingernail under—is a good goal.
Also, keep in mind that your fingernails grow faster than your toenails! You will likely not be clipping them at the same time.
If you have trouble clipping your nails due to thickness, consider doing so after you shower. If you don’t have problems, your nails may get too flimsy when wet, risking tears. Trim your nails when dry, instead.
2. Your Shoes Can Cause Ingrown Toenails
Giving your toes wiggle room is an important part of avoiding ingrown toenails.
Shoes with toe boxes that press up against the front of the toes or squish the toes together provide a stifling and uncomfortable environment—just like when your aunt tries to set you up with her co-workers. The results are often just as painful.
However, shoes that are too loose can also cause ingrown toenail problems. If your foot slides too much within the shoe, your toes will repeatedly slam up against the inside of the shoe, causing enough trauma to your nails to potentially make them curve.
Ultimately, the ideal shoes give your toes room for you to move them, but not enough to slide around like bumper cars when you are walking briskly.
3. Sometimes Ingrown Toenails Are Hereditary
So, you cut your nails like a pro. You wear shoes that feel perfectly made for your feet. Yet you still get ingrown toenails.
The fault may not be yours at all. It may just be your genetics.
Some people just naturally have toenails that are more curved than normal. This can lead to consistent ingrown toenails over time. Having toes that are longer than average can also be a contributing risk factor.
In these cases, a potential treatment is to remove the problematic toenail altogether to prevent these cases from coming back.
The underlying nail matrix is then treated to prevent new nail from growing back. It is a relatively simple procedure with local anesthesia.
4. You Should NEVER Dig into An Ingrown Toenail Yourself
There are some easy, helpful home treatments we recommend to help relieve an ingrown toenail. None of them involve poking at your inflamed skin with a knife, that strange curved cleaning part on your clippers, or anything else!
The skin around the site of an ingrown toenail is inflamed to protect itself from infection—the same type of infection you risk by irritating it further or outright cutting it.
The proper way to treat an ingrown nail at home is through gentle guidance. Soak the foot in warm water to soften the nail, then gently lift it away from the skin.
Use dental floss or a small piece of cotton to keep the nail separated from the skin (however, replace the floss or cotton several times a day to prevent bacteria from building up on it!).
Trying to dig the nail out or cutting a notch in the nail only risk causing more problems. If your nail is too painful to work on, does not feel better in 2-3 days, or starts showing radiating redness, foul odor, or pus, it’s time to give us a call.
Ingrown Toenail Treatment When You Need It
So, these aren’t necessarily facts you’ll want to share at your next pot luck gathering, but they’re still helpful all the same. And they can help you avoid a troublesome infection, too!
If an ingrown toenail is giving you concern, or is more problematic than you anticipated, never hesitate to contact our Berkley office at (510) 647-3744.
You can also use our online contact form if you wish!
However, you schedule an appointment with us, you will receive expert care and a commitment to providing you as much comfort as possible!