Hangnails are little bits of skin that peel off and appear on the sides of your nails. In most cases, they appear when your skin lacks oil supply. Your skin can become dry because of harsh soaps and detergents. Or if you bite your nails, hangnails often appear. But in most cases, they are a sign of vitamin deficiency.
While they might look like nothing serious, it is nice to know how to get rid of hangnails. And what can you do to prevent them from happening in the future.
When hangnails get infected, they can be quite painful. The number one rule is never to try to pull or bite them. If you pull or bite your hangnails, it can result in swelling, inflammation, and more misery.
What causes hangnails?
During the cold winter months, hangnails are more common. There is a simple explanation and logic for that.
They appear mostly due to dry skin. And if your skin is dry, you are more susceptible to a pesky hangnail.
Simply put, dry skin is more vulnerable to the damage caused by a harsh soap, water, and low temperature. As mentioned previously, vitamin deficiency can also result in hangnails appearing.
When do hangnails appear?
Hangnails are usually the first sign of winter. Cold weather usually brings several changes to our health, including flu. But a painful hangnail is another symptom.
The small, yet often annoying sign that winter is here are hangnails. These pieces of skin that appear around your nails can become irritated if you do not take care.
What are the symptoms of hangnails?
The moment a hangnail occurs, it can become irritated. This can cause discomfort, and make it unpleasant for you to perform your daily tasks.
It might be hard to believe that something so small can hurt so much, it is all due to the location where it appears and skin composition.
Hangnails appear at the base or sides of the nail. In these areas, the nerve endings and blood vessels are present in large numbers.
And as the hangnails become inflamed or swollen, they put pressure on the nerve endings which causes even more pain and discomfort.
Here are the symptoms of a hangnail:
- Visible, jutting, piece of skin
- Pain, tenderness, and discomfort at your nails
- Redness along the side or bottom of the nail bed
- When the hangnail is infected, you can also notice pus-filled abscess and a sensation of warmth
Is there a quick fix?
It might be tempting to find a quick fix. But that is not possible. The worst thing you can do is bite, tear, rip, or chew the infected area.
Remember, there are nerves and blood vessels under your hangnail. And doing anything like biting and chewing may cause bleeding, infection, and pain.
You will notice symptoms like red and irritated skin around the affected area. If the infection spreads, you may even get a fever.
Remedies for hangnails
The worst thing you can do with hangnails is give in to the temptation and try to rip them off or bite them off. Doing that can tear your skin attached to the nailbed. And once it is open, the area of skin can bleed and become even more susceptible to infections.
That is why we suggest trying one of the two remedies below.
Water and oil soak
The simplest way to get rid of hangnails is to use a water and oil soak remedy.
Here is a step by step guide how to do it.
- Fill a large bowl with warm water and some olive or castor oil. Soak your fingers in the water for 10 to 15 minutes. This will soften the infected hangnail and allow you to cut it off using cuticle cutters later on
- Dry your hand completely. After that, use a sterilized and sharp cuticle nipper to cut off the base of the hangnail and prevent your hangnail from getting caught on things. Do not cut off more skin than required, as that can be painful as well
- After you’ve cut the hangnail, apply an antibacterial ointment to the area to prevent further nail infection. If the painful hangnail was embedded too deep into your skin, wrap a band aid around it
- Continue adding moisture to the area with vitamin E oil multiple times per day until the area fully heals. Make sure to apply moisturizer after washing your hands. Another option is using petroleum jelly, olive oil, or coconut oil
How to care for your fingernails and prevent hangnails
If you practice proper and regular skin care, hangnails can actually be prevented. Now that we know how to get rid of hangnails, let’s talk a bit about what you can do to prevent hangnails in the first place.
- During the cold weather months, cover your hands with gloves to protect them
- Do not cut your cuticles, even when you are doing a professional manicure. Instead, just soak them with warm water, and push them back gently with a cuticle stick. You can do the same treatment after a shower
- Apply cuticle oil that will moisturize the hangnail area
- Avoid using acetone products, for example, a nail polish remover
- When you are performing activities that are hard on your skin, wear gloves to protect your hands. These activities include dishwashing, gardening, and household cleaning, for example
- Try ways to stop if you are a nail bitter. One method for doing that is using bitter-tasting nail polish. You certainly won’t like to bite that
- Stop using products containing acetone. If you cannot stop, at least try to reduce it as much as possible
- Keep your hands moisturized at all times. Use emollient hand cream for dry and cracked skin. If you want household remedies, go with petroleum jelly
Should you check with a doctor?
If your hangnails get infected, it is mandatory that you visit a doctor and treat it. Infected hangnails can easily be treated, but you have to react fast. Doctors usually prescribe a topical antibacterial ointment.
As a general rule of thumb, doctors recommend that you try one week with home ointments, and if the condition doesn’t clear, schedule a visit.
Hangnail infections are rare, but they can sometimes spread to other parts of the body. The infection can also cause your nail to become discolored. If the infection is severe, check with a doctor, do not try to treat it at home.