If you ever had one, you know how uncomfortable and painful ingrown toenails can be. This fairly common condition, medically referred to as onychocryptosis, can easily spiral out of control and sometimes requires surgical treatment. Rather than waiting for it to resolve by itself – which is not likely to happen – and letting it get worse or even infected, take some steps to deal with it. There are many things you can try in the comfort of your home to fix the sore ingrown toenail and in this article, I’ll discuss the best home remedies to get rid of an ingrown toenail.
Causes of Ingrown Toenails
The condition can develop on any of your toes or fingers, although it usually affects the big toe. Some people have nails that naturally curve and they are more susceptible to develop ingrown nails. Other major reasons behind nails growing into the surrounding skin include:
- Ill-fitting shoes –Shoes that are tight and shoes with high heels put the toes under too much pressure and can make the nails grow the wrong way.
- Improper trimming and cutting of the toes – Toes should be cut in a straight line and not made round. If nails are cut too short or the corners are rounded, they can dig into the skin.
- Injury – Injury near the toenail can make it grow incorrectly. Depending on the type of injury, it can also cause the toenail to fall off.
- Infections – Bacterial and fungal infections can change the skin tissue and thicken and widen the nail.
- Diabetes – If your ingrown nails are connected with a diabetic condition, you need to be extremely careful and seek professional help. Small cuts and grazes can lead to serious complications, so it’s necessary to check your toes daily and to see a podiatrist for your feet care. People with diabetes and vascular problems often have diminished sensation in their feet, and they might not notice an ingrown toenail for a while, so it is more likely to become infected, making the situation even worse.
Symptoms of Ingrown Toenails
Unless you have problems with your sensation, it’s rare that you would miss the signs of an ingrown nail. The condition usually presents with the following symptoms:
- Pain in the toenail area.
- Redness and swelling.
- If the toenail gets infected, you can see a discharge that is either yellow (pus) or watery and can have traces of blood.
Best Home Remedies for Ingrown Toenails
1. Soak your feet
Foot baths are a very important part of the treatment as they soften the nail and the surrounding skin and make other remedies more efficient. It’s important to:
- Soak your feet regularly and for long enough – do your foot bath 2 to 4 times daily for 20 to 30 minutes.
- Use hot or warm water.
For best effects, add the following healing substances:
- Epsom salt – Epsom salt softens the skin, which makes it easier to draw the toenail out. Add a heaped tablespoon of salt into the bowl of water and let your feet soak for 20 minutes. Repeat at least twice daily.
- Hydrogen Peroxide – Mix half a cup of hydrogen peroxide in water and perform the foot bath for at least 20 minutes. Peroxide softens the skin, prevents infection and offers some relief from the unpleasant symptoms.
- Apple cider vinegar (ACV) – Add a few tablespoons of raw ACV to your warm water and then soak your foot in the mixture. ACV can also be ingested to provide you with some of its benefits internally and help you fight off infection. As mentioned in many of my previous posts, it’s best to mix ACV with raw honey and warm water and drink the concoction every morning as it has amazing health benefits.
2. The cotton ball method
After you’ve soaked your feet, do the following:
- Take a small piece of cotton or cotton ball and roll it between your fingers, so you get a small role.
- Carefully lift the nail and place the roll between the nail and the skin. This might be very painful, but it elevates the toenail and prevents it from growing in.
- Leave the roll in until you do your next soak.
- Change the roll after every soak and try to push it a bit further every time (without causing any damage).
3. Topical treatments for Ingrown Toenails
There are also substances you can apply directly to the affected area to help with the treatment and prevent infection. These include:
- Apple cider vinegar – pour some raw ACV on a cotton ball and dab the affected area. Repeat several times a day.
- Essential oils – Essential oils can help relieve pain and prevent infection. Put a few drops directly on your toe or mix it with a carrier oil. You can use:
- Eucalyptus oil
- Tea tree oil (there are 75 extraordinary uses for tea tree oil)
- Oregano oil – this essential oil needs to be mixed with a carrier oil (olive oil, coconut oil) before application.
- Lavender essential oil
- White flower oil – This is actually not an oil of a white flower, but a mix of different herbal oils. It’s used to make the removal of the ingrown nail easier.
4. Other home methods for ingrown toenails
There are other techniques you can try on your misbehaving toe:
- Lemon slice – Cut a thin slice of lemon and secure it to the nail using a bandage or gauze. Leave it overnight. This treatment is particularly useful if you already have an infection as the lemon’s acidity will fight it.
- Vicks VapoRub – This product aimed at colds and coughs can also offer some relief for your ingrown as it softens the nail so you can remove it the next day and it’s also an antiseptic which can clean out the infection. The menthol-based ointment can be applied directly on the nail and helps to heal it, as well as it eases the pain. Preferably put Vicks vapor rub on the toenail (try to get some of the rubs underneath the toenail as well) and then a bandaid overnight.
While you’re undertaking your home treatment, give your feet and toes a rest. It’s best to go barefoot or bare-toed for a few days and let the toe heal. Afterwards, wear comfortable shoes that give your toes enough space, and cut your toes straight to prevent another ingrown nail.
If the problem persists or you observe signs of infection, you need to see a doctor to avoid any complications.