Ingrown toenails? This is what you should do

It is very likely that you have experienced what it feels like to have an ingrown toenail.

It is a painful and uncomfortable condition that, when it affects the toenails, can prevent us from wearing shoes and even walking normally. Learn here about its main causes, ways to prevent it and how to relieve pain naturally.

Onychocryptosis or ingrown toenail occurs when the edge of a nail burrows into the skin of one of the toes, usually in the “big toe”.

As time passes, the skin on the foot can become red, swollen, and even secrete pus as a result of an infection.

An ingrown toenail can be due to many causes, especially:

  • Walk, run, or play sports frequently.
  • Cutting the nails too short or making the edges rounded instead of trimmed straight, as the nail can curl and dig into the skin.
  • Picking or tearing at the corners of the nails.
  • Suffering from a foot disorder or deformity that causes additional pressure on the affected toes.
  • Having vision problems or limited ability that affects good nail care.
  • Having very thick nails.
  • Wear very tight shoes.

Specialists warn that ingrown toenails can be more of a problem for people with diabetes, poor blood circulation, or neurological problems.

How to treat ingrown toenail

If you have diabetes, nerve damage in your leg or foot, poor circulation, or an infection around the nail, see a health professional right away. Do not try to treat this problem at home.

For common cases of an ingrown toenail:

  • Soak your foot in hot water 3-4 times a day if possible. The rest of the time, keep your toe dry.
  • Gently massage into inflamed skin.
  • Place a small piece of cotton or dental floss under the nail. Wet the cotton or dental floss with water or an antiseptic.
  • Don’t try to trim the ingrown part of the nail, as this will only make the problem worse.
  • Consider wearing open shoes until the problem is gone. Over-the-counter medications that are placed on the ingrown toenail can help with the pain, but they do not solve the problem.
  • If this doesn’t work and the ingrown toenail gets worse, see your GP, a foot specialist (podiatrist) or a skin specialist (dermatologist). If it doesn’t heal or keeps coming back, the doctor may remove part of it, and within 2 to 4 months, it grows back.
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Soak and deflate

Soaking in warm water is a great and easy way to relieve swelling and soothe the pain of an ingrown toenail. Try doing up to three foot baths a day for 20 minutes each.

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You can also prepare solutions to enhance the anti-inflammatory effects, mixing the water with soap or with a tablespoon of magnesium or Epsom salts per liter of water.

guide nail growth

Regarding this point, not all health professionals agree. It consists of placing a small piece of cotton or clean dental floss under the nail, with the aim of stimulating its correct growth.

You must be careful, since if you apply too much pressure or sudden movements, you can not only increase the pain but also cause damage and promote an infection. To avoid this, soak the cotton or dental floss in alcohol.

Before placing any of these elements, soak the nail in hot water to soften it. You should also make sure to keep your foot dry to prevent fungal growth.

Other home remedies

Traditional medicine also has options to relieve the pain of ingrown nails:


Vinegar, especially apple cider vinegar, is considered a cheap and effective disinfectant, as it has antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, although the available scientific evidence on these effects is still scarce.

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Historically it was used to cleanse and treat nail fungus, warts and even lice.

You can try using it to relieve the pain of ingrown toenails by mixing half a cup of vinegar in 2 liters of warm water.

Then soak the affected nail for 20 minutes up to three times a day. Remember to dry the nail well after this procedure to prevent fungal growth.


Thanks to the fact that it has a substance called allicin, garlic is usually recommended to combat the pain caused by infections derived from ingrown nails, due to its antiseptic, fungicidal and bactericidal properties.

To take advantage of it, you can prepare a solution by boiling five cloves of garlic per liter of water and then submerge the affected nail for 15 minutes.

You can also prepare a paste by crushing two cloves of garlic in a mortar. It is then applied to the ingrown toenail, covered with a bandage and left on overnight.


Similar to the use of garlic, onion has antifungal effects that can be helpful when an ingrown toenail causes an infection.

To take advantage of its benefits, you can gently rub a skinless onion on the affected nail, or you can blend a piece of onion and use a cotton swab soaked with the resulting juice on the affected area.

Leave on for 30 to 45 minutes, rinse with warm water and pat dry.

what shoes to wear

Tight-fitting shoes and socks are very common risk factors for ingrown toenails.

You can stimulate recovery and relieve pain by wearing shoes that provide a correct space between the fingers and even sandals, to avoid or limit the pressure on the fingers as much as possible.

What medications to take?

To soothe ingrown toenail pain, experts advise using over-the-counter pain relievers:

  • ibuprofen: Advil®, Genpril®, Haltran®, IBU®, Menadol®, Midol® or Motrin®, among others.
  • naproxen sodium: Aleve®, Anaprox®, Flanax®, Naprelan® or Naprosyn®, among others.
  • Paracetamol: Actamin, Anacin®, Conacetol®, Mapap®, Panex®, Paramol® or Tylenol®, among others.
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Consult an expert

If none of the above options work, you cannot implement them because the pain prevents you, or the inflammation is accompanied by a fever, you should consult a doctor.

This will make a diagnosis and determine if there is an infection and determine the best treatment for your case, including removing the nail.

  • oral antibiotics: They are not normally prescribed to relieve uninfected ingrown toenails, and there is also no evidence that they can improve this condition. However, they may be necessary in cases of a weakened immune system or infection.
  • braces: these consist of thin adhesive material whose objective is to protect the skin and lift the edges of the nail so that it grows correctly.
  • If these options do not work, the health professional may resort to partially or completely removing the nail.

    For this, local anesthesia is used and part of the edge of the nail, the underlying nail bed or part of the middle growth plate is removed.

    After this procedure, the doctor may recommend using some medication to prevent future infections.

    How to prevent ingrown nails

    You can prevent ingrown nails by taking the following tips into account:

    • At the time of fixing your nails, try to start by soaking the nail with hot water to soften it. Then use a clean, sharp clipper and trim straight across the tips (don’t round the corners or trim too much).
    • Keep your feet clean and dry.
    • Wear shoes that fit properly, meaning they have a good amount of room around the toes.
    • Source consulted: Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, US National Library of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, US Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

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