When it comes to your beauty regimen, dealing with ingrown toenails is on par with finding a surprise pimple or trying to get rid of dandruff— that is, not fun and a big pain to deal with. And, more often than not, ingrown toenails are literally painful. But here’s the good news: There is a right way to remove them. So before you resign yourself to hobbling around in pain, read this.
How to prevent them
The best way to deal with an ingrown toenail is to keep one from forming in the first place. Unlike fingernails, which you can shape however you want to (be they square, oval, “squoval,” stiletto, whatever), toenails should have one shape and one shape only: straight across. “Rounding the edges, or the ‘corners’ of your nails, or cutting your nail too short can lead to ingrown toenails,” says New York-based podiatrist Suzanne Levine. And if you’re squeezing your feet into too-small shoes, you’re basically asking for ingrown nails. Keep an eye on your big toes, which is where they most often appear.
So you already have an ingrown
A DIY solution can take care of most ingrown toenails. In minor cases— so, those with no swelling or redness— the nail might just cause some pain. In that case, you can try soaking your feet in warm water with Epsom salt once or twice a day to keep the pain at a minimum. If you’re feeling more proactive, break out the dental floss. Yes, you read that right. “It can help to gently insert a small amount of cotton or a strand of dental floss between the corner of the nail and the skin,” Levine explains. “This encourages the outgrowing of the nail.” Do this a few days in a row to let your nail grow. Once it does, you can then cut it straight across with nail clippers. Pedi problem, solved!
Call in the professionals
In more serious cases, the pain doesn’t subside. And if, on top of that, your ingrown nail begins to look swollen, red, or generally inflamed, it’s time to call in a podiatrist, Levine says, because at that point, you might need surgery. If you have a recurring ingrown toenail, too, that may mean that your nail is just too wide for your nail bed— which can be fixed with (again) surgery. It’s not the easiest option, but it’s a permanent solution.