It is humbling to be subdued by something as small and inconsequential as an ingrown toenail. But even hardened professional athletes – who endure pain as part of their job – can be sidelined by this injury. Minor bumps and nicks against a red, inflamed ingrown toenail will send even the hardiest, most pain-tolerant people into episodes of profanity. Luckily, mild to moderate ingrown toenails (not severely red or swollen, and not emitting puss) can usually be gotten rid of at home. Using simple home remedies, you can get rid of ingrown toenails and prevent them from forming…though for worse cases, you may need to see a doctor.
Ingrown Toenail Dangers
First of all, unless you are in fact a doctor (in medicine, Professor), do not attempt a DIY home surgery. No draining anything with needles or pulling apart the nail with tools from your any-thing-but-sterile shed. You’ll just butcher your toe and exacerbate the injury. You could also very easily create an infection. So be careful!
If you have diabetes, circulatory problems, AIDS, or are undergoing chemotherapy, getting rid of ingrown toenails is a very serious matter. These conditions undermine the healing process, turning a normally innocuous injury into something more. See your doctor as soon as possible.
Best Ways to Get Rid of Ingrown Toenails at Home
Soak your feet 3-4 times daily.
Soak your foot (or feet) in warm, soapy water for 15-20 minutes, three to four times daily. Give the side of your nail fold a light massage every soak or two. This process will ease swelling and reduce soreness, but it is tedious. Get yourself some library books, some films, or anything to keep your sanity intact. Keep your foot clean and dry between soakings.
Apply an antibiotic ointment.
After soakings, you can apply an antibacterial ointment such as Neosporin, and this can be done several times a day. If your ingrown toenail is obviously infected, start adding Epsom salts to your soaks, afterwards applying an antiseptic (hydrogen peroxide) and lightly bandaging the toe until you can see a doctor. We’d recommend neosporin, you can get it from Amazon.
Insert cotton under your toenail.
After soaking when the nail and flesh are a bit softer, roll a small piece of cotton into a wick or tiny ball and insert it underneath the offending nail edge. This will create padding between the nail and the flesh it’s biting. Replace the cotton after each soaking or cleaning. You may be able to insert the cotton a bit farther in after a few soakings. No, this isn’t comfortable, but it’s a good way to get rid of an ingrown toenail and save yourself from minor surgery.
Wear the right shoes.
While it’s healing, treat your toe to shoes with wide and deep toe boxes or open-toed shoes or sandals. Stay away from pointy, narrow shoes and footwear – such as high heels and cowboy boots – that put pressure on toes. But if your workplace poses a hazard to unprotected toes, stick with those steel-toed boots.
Get rid of ingrown toenail pain with OTC pain relievers.
If routine soaking doesn’t do enough to curb pain and discomfort, you can take OTC pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol). If you feel like you need anything more it’s a sure sign you need to go to the doctor.
Ingrown Toenail Surgery
If you have excessive swelling or puss, your toenail is quite obviously dug into your flesh, or your ingrown toenail doesn’t respond to home treatments, it’s time to visit a doctor – preferably a podiatrist. They can cut out the ingrown nail and prescribe topical or oral antibiotics.
Doctors can also perform a procedure that will get rid of ingrown toenails permanently, which makes sense if the problem is recurrent. After cutting out the ingrown nail, the doctor will destroy the tissues that grow in that portion of the nail (nail bed) using chemicals, a laser, or other instruments. Win-win, getting rid of them and preventing them from getting back!
How to Prevent Ingrown Toenails
Trim toenails correctly.
While you need not grow talons, most people hack off far too much nail. Doctors recommend clipping toenails straight across without rounding the edges. Lengthwise, nails should be even with the tips of toes. Sacrifice a little vanity for practicality and you may never have to get rid of ingrown toenails again, and you can walk/run with nary a complication (until blisters). When you go this route, be sure to have clippers that are straight rather than curved, like this Tweezerman heavy duty clipper sold on Amazon.
Wear comfortable footwear.
High heels, cowboy boots, pointy shoes, and ill-fitting footwear can all cause ingrown toenails. Shoes should conform to your foot but give your toes a little freedom. If the overenthusiastic salespeople can’t help you at the local shopping venues, talk to your doctor. You may also want to take a look at the website for the American Podiatric Medical Association, which sports recommendations for footwear of all kinds.
Protect your feet.
If your occupation or leisure activities may lead to toe crushing, take proper precautions. Introduce a nice pair of steel-toed boots to your shoe closet.