Ingrown toenails occur as a result of the way your toenails grow. When the edge of the nail starts to grow into the skin around it, it’s then classified as an ingrown toenail. Albeit unattractive and mildly painful, an ingrown toenail is not cause for serious concern. It is, however, something that can drastically affect the quality of a person’s life if it’s left untreated. Known medically as “onychocryptosis,” an ingrown toenail is actually quite the common condition, with millions of people dealing with it every year around the world.
How Are Ingrown Toenails Typically Caused?
There are several reasons why a toenail might grow into the skin. In fact, countless cases of ingrown toenails are reported annually among newborn babies, even in the developed world. Not necessarily a sign of poor hygiene or lifestyle habits, ingrown toenails are usually caused by one or more of the following:
- Improper cutting of the toenail (angling)
- Having naturally irregular and/or curved toenails
- Wearing shoes that place a lot of pressure on your big toes
- Wearing socks that are too tight
- Sustaining an injury to your toenail or foot
- Poor posture
- Inadequate foot hygiene
- Genetic predispositions
- Excessive moisture
Knowing what causes ingrown toenails is and always has been the best way to prevent them. However, it’s also smart to know the risk factors as well. Plus, having a few safe and effective at-home remedies never hurt anybody.
Who Is Most Susceptible to Having Ingrown Toenails?
Ingrown toenails occur in women and men and can present on people of all ages. However, the National Health Services (NHS) reports that ingrown toenails are more common among those who have frequently sweaty/moist feet. Athletes, teenagers, elders and people who regularly wear sports gear are urged to keep a close eye on the condition of their toes and toenails.
What Are the Most Common Symptoms?
Symptoms of an ingrown toenail are not difficult to spot. The problem usually centralizes around the big toe, although an ingrown fingernail is possible as well. Severe/late stage ingrown toenails may need to be treated by a doctor to prevent further damage to the skin and/or nailbed. However, aside from some minor discomfort, the symptoms a minor ingrown toenail are relatively tolerable and include things like fluid build-up, pain with pressure, and redness and/or inflammation.
NOTE: If bleeding, extreme swelling or severe pain occur, see your doctor immediately as they may be signs of infection.
What Are the 3 Best Home Remedies for Ingrown Toenails?
Fortunately, taking care of that ingrown toenail doesn’t always require a doctor’s attention. There are at least three different things you can do right in the comfort of your own home to either treat the pain or remedy the problem altogether:
- Soak Your Feet in Epsom Salt
Epsom salt, otherwise known as magnesium sulfate, is an over-the-counter substance that is commonly used in foot spas and baths because of its cleaning, detoxifying and aromatherapeutic properties. Often incorporated into holistic self-care routines to stop muscle cramps, moisturize tired skin, decrease inflammation and/or relieve sunburns, Epsom salts also have disinfectant abilities. A 20-minute soak will soften the area around the affected toe, making it easier to dig the nail out from under the skin.
- Soak Your Feet in Hydrogen Peroxide
While an Epsom salt soak is considered the premier home remedy for ingrown toenails, perhaps an easier to come by but most certainly less expensive option is hydrogen peroxide. Commercial grade hydrogen peroxide (3%) can help heal an ingrown toenail quickly, even if it has started to become infected. It also softens the skin around the affected area in the same way Epsom salts do, making it safer and easier to remove the toenail from its hiding place.
- Apply Castor Oil
Castor oil is an essential oil that’s commonly used for skincare, haircare and at-home treatments of things like muscle spasms, tension, cramping and even warts and corns. As such, it makes the perfect substance to treat ingrown toenails. The ricinoleic acid within serves as a powerful antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, making it an ideal home remedy for ingrown toenails and other foot pains if used correctly. Simply apply castor oil to the affected area and allow it to sit overnight. In the morning, you’ll notice that the toenail has started to come out on its own.
If none of those home remedies for ingrown toenail work, you can always try one of the less popular options, such as:
- Cut the outer corners of the affected nail until it forms a V-shape.
- Wedge cotton beneath the affected toenail to encourage it to grow away from the nail bed.
- Use apple cider vinegar as an all-natural, multi-beneficial way to fight infections and promote healing while alleviating pain and swelling.
QUICK NOTE: Safe Ways to Remove an Ingrown Toenail After an At-Home Remedy
Regardless of the home remedy you choose, you’ll still have to remove your ingrown toenails with precision, accuracy and cleanliness. As eager as you may be to get it over with, being diligent here will pay off in the end. Typical removal tools generally include:
- Nail clippers
- Nail cleaning sticks
- Dental floss