Hangnails on fingernails and toes are a common complaint in cold weather but other factors such as inappropriate manicure can trigger the problem. If removed inappropriately, hangnails can cause damage to the skin around the nails. Continue reading to discover how to get rid of hangnails naturally fast and permanently prevent their recurrence.
What Are And What Causes Hangnails?
In spite of the name, hangnails are actually a problem of the skin around the nails, not the nails themselves. A hangnail (or agnail) is a torn piece of skin (cuticle) at the base of a fingernail or toenail. The question is, “how do you get hangnails?”
Hangnails form when any factor that leads to drying of cuticle causes it to detach from the rest of the skin.
Apart from the peeling skin, you may experience other symptoms such as pain, redness, slight swelling and bleeding.
And why do hangnails hurt so badly, you ask? Well, agnails can be pretty painful if the detached piece of skin is still attached to the live part of the nail bed, says Sally Hansen, a nail expert in an interview with the Allure magazine.
Hangnails form when any factor that leads to drying of cuticle causes it to detach from the rest of the skin. Listed below are the most common causes of hangnails:
- Dry weather: Dry weather, especially in winter, is the leading hangnail cause. Moisturizing the fingers is usually effective in getting rid of hangnails due to dry skin around nails.
- Contact with harmful chemicals: Contact with cuticle drying chemicals such as detergents (some), nail polish removers, spirits, etc. is another likely cause of dry cuticles and bad hangnails on the side of fingers and toes.
- Inappropriate manicure: Do you keep getting lots of hangnails after manicure? Then chances are that you or your manicure provider is not getting it right. According to Dr. Maryann Mikhail, a dermatologist at Spring Street Dermatology, New York City, clipping the nails along the side can cause agnails and so can pushing the cuticle too far.
- Washing your hands too frequently: Repeated washing can strip the cuticles of their essential moisture and cause them to tear off, leading to hangnails.
- Trauma: According to Zocdoc, Injury to the nail can also be the reason for hangnails.
- Biting and picking at the nails: Individuals who tend to bite or pick their nails have higher risk of hangnails. According to Mayo Clinic, nail biting can cause damage to the skin around nail – a precursor to agnails – and increase “the risk of infection”.
- Nutritional deficiency: Essential nutrients and vitamin deficiency may be a predisposing factor for dry cuticles and hangnails. Biting and picking at your nails can cause damage to the nail plate that culminate in hangnails.
How to Get Rid Of Hangnails on Fingers and Big Toes Naturally, Without Nail Clippers
Hangnail are unsightly, not to mention they can hurt so much or cause redness, swelling, or bleeding in the affected fingernails or toenail, especially when they rub against clothing, hair, etc. they can also get infected, leading to aggravation of the symptoms. Treating hangnails is all about fixing the existing hangnail while at the same time removing the underlying causative factors. A complete guide on how to get rid of hangnails is provided below:
Clip the Hangnail at the Base
The first thing you want to do when fixing a hangnail is to cut the hard, rough part of the torn skin (close to the cuticle) with the help of a pair of scissors or nail clippers. You should never rip the torn piece of skin off (i.e. pull it off) as this can cause further damage or even infection.
Seattle Children’s Hospital recommends rubbing the tool you use with alcohol first to sterilize it and thus prevent infection. If left untreated, agnails may catch on clothing and other objects and get worse.
Before trimming the hangnail, it is also a good idea to wash your fingers or toes in warm, soapy water. This helps to remove dirt and germs. Dr. Mikhail recommends using antibacterial soap for the purpose. It is also a great idea to apply an antibacterial ointment e.g. Neosporin, Bacitracin, etc. after trimming the hangnail and then finish off by applying a Band-Aid.
If you are wondering how to get rid of hangnails on toe or fingernails without nail clippers, Vaseline – or any other petroleum jelly – is your best bet. Vaseline helps to reduce dryness in the skin around the nails and thus heal hangnails.
Dr. Mikhail recommends applying Vaseline (or antibacterial cream) on the affected finger or toe and then wrapping a Band-Aid around it. The Band-Aid ensures that no object tugs on the torn piece of skin as it heals off. For maximum effectiveness, you will want to stay with the Band-Aid on overnight.
Apply Vitamin E Oil
Vitamin E oil is not only hydrating to the skin but also helps to promote faster healing of the skin. This makes it one of the best home remedies for hangnails. As for how to treat hangnails with vitamin E oil, you can choose from the following two options:
- Apply generous amount of vitamin E oil on the affected fingers or toes. The oil will dry naturally on the skin. Reapply several times each day until the hangnails get cured.
- Alternatively, mix with vitamin E oil with castor oil, jojoba oil, olive oil, or any other oil of your choice, then apply it to the skin as outlined in step 1.
Soothe the Skin with Honey
Because of its powerful moisturizing, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and skin healing properties, honey also makes a great natural remedy for dry cuticles and hangnails. It helps to facilitate healing while preventing infection. Below is how to stop hangnails symptoms and heal the problem completely with honey.
- Wash the affected toes or fingers with warm water and antibacterial soap.
- Pat them dry with a towel.
- Apply organic raw or Manuka honey on the trouble areas.
- Allow the honey to stay on for 30 minutes or more before washing it off with warm water.
- Repeat the process regularly to effectively heal the hangnails.
Use Almonds to Remove Hangnails
Almond oil also constitutes one of the best ways to deal with agnails naturally. They are rich in Vitamin E which is known to promote faster healing of damaged skin and are also rich in fatty acids which not only help to moisturize the skin but also reduce inflammation, welling, and redness.
- Leave a few almonds in water the whole day.
- In the morning, peel off their skin and then crush them.
- Add in one beaten egg yolk followed by a few drops of honey.
- Apply the mixture on the finger or toes affected by hangnails and then put on cotton gloves overnight.
- In the morning, rinse the mixture off with water.
- Use this remedy 3 to 4 times per week until the hangnails gets fully cured.
Avocadoes are not just good for smoothies and hair. They can also help to remove dry cuticles and hangnails. As a natural humectant that is rich in vitamin E, avocado works by moisturizing and nourishing the skin.
- With the help of a fork or whisk, mash the pulp from ½ an avocado.
- Pour in a couple tablespoons of coconut oil.
- Apply the resulting paste on areas of the fingernails or toes affected by hangnails.
- Leave it on for 2 to 3 hours – or even overnight – before washing it off.
- Repeat this home treatment every other day until the agnails get cured.
Prepare DIY Cuticle Softener with Oils
The following at-home cuticle softener will not only help to get rid of hangnails but also prevent their recurrence if applied regularly, especially by people in occupations that involve contact with causative factors such as chemicals, detergents etc.
- In a small bowl, add 2 drops of jojoba oil and eucalyptus oil followed by 1 drop of tea tree oil and 2 teaspoons of olive oil that has been warmed a bit. Massage this oil mixture into your fingers and toes paying special attention to the cuticles. Allow it to work in overnight. Repeat regularly.
- Alternatively, pour 2 tablespoons of warm olive oil into a small bowl followed by teaspoon each of coconut oil (or cocoa butter) and glycerin. Heat the mixture for a couple minute and then add 2-3 drops of lavender oil or eucalyptus oil. Finally, apply it into your nails and cuticle and allow it to stay on overnight. Repeat this home treatment every other day until the hangnails gets completely healed.
Beeswax is known for its powerful skin moisturizing and softening properties. It also helps to strengthen the nails. Here is how to remove hangnails on the toes or fingers with honey:
- In a small bowl, add in 2 tablespoons of coconut oil, olive oil, and almond oil.
- Add in 3 teaspoons of honey followed by 3 tablespoons of beeswax.
- Heat the mixture gently to melt the ingredients, then remove it from heat.
- Allow it time to cool and then add a couple drops each of tea tree, lavender oil, or peppermint oil.
- Moisturize your nails and cuticles with this enriching mixture overnight.
- Repeat the process every night until the hangnails go away.
Aloe vera is one of the best herbal remedies for hangnails. It not only help to soothe sore hangnails but also to promote faster healing.
This coupled with its powerful moisturizing action makes it a must-try for agnails. Aloe vera gel can be used alone but you may want to mix it with turmeric for a more powerful hangnail treating action.
- To one teaspoon of aloe vera gel, add a pinch of turmeric and mix thoroughly. Turmeric has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.
- Apply the mixture to the afflicted toenails or fingernails.
- After 30 minutes of treatment, wash the mixture off with water.
- Repeat this natural remedy once daily until the hangnails get healed completely.
Applying plain yoghurt is yet another thing you can do to get rid of hangnails on finger and toes. Why worry about bad hangnails when this treatment is so readily available in your local convenient store (or even in your kitchen)?
Yoghurt work by moisturizing the skin around nails while fighting off infections and inflammation thanks to its helpful probiotics and lactic acid. Ass for how to get rid of hangnails with yoghurt, simply apply generous amount of plain yoghurt on the affected finger and toes and leave it on for a couple hours before washing it off with water. Repeat frequently for faster agnail curing action.
How to Avoid Hangnails
Now that we know why we get hangnails and how we can get rid of them, what measures can we take to prevent their recurrence or occurrence in the first place? Below are some suggestions:
- If you are susceptible to hangnails, apply a moisturizing lotion or hand crème to your fingernails and toenails (pay special attention to the big toe) 2-3 times per day. Speaking to The Huffington Post, Beatrice Nemiro, a manicurist at Paintbox also suggested using cuticle oil for the purpose. This helps to hydrate the cuticle and prevent hangnails.
- Use acetone-free nail polish removers and avoid direct contact with harsh chemicals such as paints and spirits by wearing a pair of cotton-lined rubber gloves.
- Avoid biting and picking at the nails.
- For cases hangnails after manicure, speak to your salon attendant about being gentle with your cuticles, i.e. not pushing them too far or, even better, not cutting them at all. It is also a good idea to avoid artificial nails.
- American Academy of Dermatology: Hangnails
- Mayo Clinic: Does nail biting cause any long-term nail damage?
- Seattle Children’s Hospital: Types of Finger or Toe Injuries
- The Huffington Post: A How-To Guide To Treating Those Annoying Hangnails
- ZocDoc: How do you prevent hangnails?