Hangnails can happen to anyone – at any time. And while they may seem rather small and innocent, they can actually cause a great deal of pain. In fact, the pain is often far more than you might expect.
If you have a hangnail, you shouldn’t just immediately clip it off with a nail clipper. That can potentially make the pain worse and it might not fix the problem. If you take the time to follow a few simple steps you can get the relief you’re looking for, repair the hangnail, and prevent new ones from forming.
How to Fix a Hangnail
Soak Your Finger
Grab a bowl of warm water and start soaking your fingers. Plan on leaving your fingers in the water for at least 10 minutes. If you have sensitive or dry skin, especially around the nails, consider adding a drop of olive oil to the water.
The warm water will help soften your skin and nails, making it much easier to cut away the hang nail. This will also help prevent bleeding and additional pain should you accidentally cut into the cuticle.
Clip the Hangnail
When cutting a hang nail, you should use sharp cuticle scissors, not a standard nail clipper. Make sure the scissors are clean and attempt to make the cut as close to the base of the hangnail as possible. You want to cut closely so you don’t have to worry about the remaining bit of the hangnail getting caught on clothing or tearing even further.
You should never pull the hangnail. This can cause bleeding and further irritation. Do not cut off more skin or nail than you need to—this puts you at risk for an infection.
Cover the Nail in Ointment
Hangnails are actually very susceptible to infection, especially once they have been clipped and if you leave an open wound around the nail. Since we use our hands so much, our dry nails and cracked fingers are often prone to bacterial infection.
To kill the bacteria right away and prevent infection, apply an antibacterial ointment on top of the entire nail and surrounding skin. After repairing, consider covering deep hangnails with a bandage too, especially if you are prone to infections.
Put Oil on Your Nail
One of the best things to do for small hangnails is to keep the area moisturized. In fact, often it is dry skin that caused the hang nail to begin with. Cut open a Vitamin E capsule to remove the Vitamin E oil and rub it on the hangnail and surrounding skin. Vitamin E promotes healing, is very moisturizing, and easily absorbs into the skin.
The more you can use this type of oil, coconut oil, honey, or even olive oil to keep the nail moisturized and strong, the better. You should always try to use a natural moisturizer like this several times a day to keep your nails healthy and promote healing—it can also prevent new hangnails from forming.
Monitor Your Wound
Maybe your hangnail ripped again on its own, was extra-deep to begin with, or you accidentally cut too close to the base. Either way, there are many ways in which your hang nail can start bleeding again and reopen the wound. It may seem small, but this wound is prone to infection.
Make sure to clean out the area regularly. Consider cleaning it with hydrogen peroxide and putting an antiseptic on the area to prevent infections from forming. If you use your hands a lot, put a Band-Aid on the nail to prevent bacteria, dirt, and debris from getting in the wound. All of these things will help you monitor the hang nail and prevent it from turning into something more serious.
If your hangnail starts to become red, swollen, and more irritated, or the nail bed around your hangnail starts hurting, you may have developed an infection. Continue to monitor the wound and keep the nail clean and begin soaking the nail in hot water 3-5 times per day. If the pain, redness and swelling persists, visit your doctor for treatment.
Preventing New Hangnails
Using Vitamin E or other oils on your nails is key to preventing hangnails. In fact, you should moisturize your nail beds daily in order to keep dryness at bay. Dry, cracked nail beds are the number one reason hangnails form.
In addition to your daily moisturizing routine, here are a few other things that you can do to prevent new hangnails from forming.
- Remove any sign of a hangnail. Even when the hangnail seems short, it can accidentally catch on something and rip, causing an even bigger issue and even more pain. Cut off even short ones right away with nail scissors.
- Don’t pick at your cuticles. If you struggle with this, consider going to a nail salon regularly to get your cuticles pushed back and taken care of so they stay well-manicured.
- Do not bite your nails. It increases your chances of having a hangnail and of developing an infection.
- Don’t use a nail polish remover with acetone, it will dry out your nail beds and make hangnails more likely.
- Always use rubber gloves when cleaning, working with chemicals, or doing the dishes.
- Moisturize your hands and nails more than usual in the winter when skin tends to get more dry and cracked. Consider a cuticle balm if your nails are extra prone to dryness during this time of year.
If you do continue to have issues with hangnails then you may want to visit a dermatologist. Persistent hang nails and issues with overly dry cuticles can be signs of a skin problem that can be treated by a dermatologist.