Are you often troubled by that tiny piece of torn skin near atroot of your nail, waiting to snag on your clothing or your hair? This annoying and often painful problem is known as a hangnail.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, hangnails are basically small bits of skin that hang off the cuticles of your nails.
Although hangnails generally occur in the fingernails, people may get them on their toenails as well.
Causes of Hangnails
Hangnails are usually caused by:
- Dry skin (especially during the winter months)
- Prolonged exposure to water
- Exposure to harsh chemicals (such as those present in detergents)
- Bad manicure
Those who bite their nails or suffer from nutritional deficiencies are more prone to getting hangnails.
Symptoms of Hangnails
Apart from marring the beauty of your nails and hands, hangnails can be painful, especially if they get caught on your clothes or hair.
Hangnails may end up becoming infected on exposure to fungus or bacteria. Infected hangnails exhibit various symptoms, such as:
- Tenderness or pain
- A warm feeling
- A pus-filled blister in the affected area
The following tips can help you keep this common but annoying problem at bay.
- Keep your hands well moisturized, especially the skin around your nails.
- Moisturize your cuticles.
- Trim your nails properly and regularly. Avoid clipping too close to the cuticles.
- Avoid picking or biting your nails.
- Have a nutritious diet for healthy skin and nails.
When to See a Doctor
If a hangnail persists over a long period of time, it can lead to a skin infection around the nails called paronychia.
Infected hangnails may need medical attention if symptoms do not resolve in a week.
A hangnail is not really a serious medical condition and often goes away within a few days. There are a number of household remedies that can be used to get rid of this problem.
Here are the best home remedies for hangnails.
1. Petroleum Jelly
The first line of treatment for hangnails is to keep the affected area moisturized. This can easily be done with the help of petroleum jelly.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, petroleum jelly helps rehydrate nails and prevent dry skin.
For best results, always apply petroleum jelly on damp skin.
- Soak your nails in lukewarm water for about 15 minutes.
- Then, trim the hangnail with a pair of cuticle scissors.
- Apply a layer of petroleum jelly over the affected area.
- Keep reapplying the petroleum jelly as required in order to prevent dryness.
2. Vitamin E Oil
A lot of research has been carried out regarding the dermatological uses of vitamin E. It comes loaded with antioxidant properties, which makes it a popular treatment for various skin disorders. It has been observed that reactive oxygen species (ROS) have the ability to alter the biosynthesis of glycosaminoglycans and collagen in the skin. Antioxidants fight the effects of ROS.
Vitamin E oil is an efficient remedy for hangnails as it softens and moistens the nail beds. In fact, it helps create a protective barrier on the skin’s surface, which aids in locking in the moisture.
In addition to this, vitamin E also facilitates healing of the skin tear.
- Apply pure vitamin E oil on the affected area. Let it sit until it is absorbed completely by the skin. Reapply several times a day until you get rid of the hangnails.
- Another option is to combine vitamin E oil with other oils, such as olive, castor, or jojoba oil and apply the mixture daily.
- Apply a drop of vitamin E oil on your nail beds after clipping your nails.
The best way to prevent and treat hangnails is to keep your nail beds moisturized. This will help make sure that the skin around your nails remains supple.
It has been found that honey possesses emollient as well as humectant properties. This means that it works as a great moisturizing agent and helps keep the skin soft and supple. Being a natural humectant, honey attracts and retains moisture in the skin.
Moreover, this ingredient has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial qualities that enable it to fight infection and reduce inflammation. Manuka honey, in particular, has potent antimicrobial properties.
- Dab raw or manuka honey on the affected area and let it sit for a few hours. This will help soften the cuticles. Do this every day until you get rid of the hangnail.
- You can also apply honey on your cuticles on a regular basis in order to prevent hangnails.
4. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera is a natural moisturizer and comes with strong healing properties.
Due to its soothing, healing, and moisturizing benefits, aloe vera can be used to treat hangnails. When combined with turmeric, it helps prevent and treat infected hangnails as both these ingredients are packed with antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Simply apply fresh succulent aloe vera gel extracted from an aloe leaf on your hangnails and leave it on for as long as possible. Use this remedy daily until you get rid of the problem.
- Mix a little turmeric powder in one teaspoon of aloe vera gel and apply the paste on the affected area. Leave it on for at least half an hour before rinsing it off. Repeat daily for a few days.
5. Colloidal Oatmeal
Colloidal oatmeal is rich in skin moisturizing and repairing properties and can be used to fight skin dryness and heal hangnails.
In a 2012 study published in Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, researchers analyzed the benefits of an oatmeal-containing skin care product for dry skin and found it to be safe and effective.
- Take 1–2 tablespoons of colloidal oatmeal.
- Add a little water to make a paste.
- Apply it on your hands.
- Wait for 5 minutes and rub the hands, especially around the cuticle area.
- Then, wash it off with lukewarm water.
- Pat dry and then apply a moisturizing cream to the affected area.
6. Stop Nail Biting
Biting and picking your nails can lead to hangnails. While biting your nails, you may pass harmful microbes from your mouth to your fingers, thus increasing the risk of an infection.
Hence, it is recommended to take effective measures in order to stop nail biting right away.
- Keeping your nails short and trimmed will help you break the habit.
- Another option is to apply nail polish (preferably bitter-tasting ones) to your nails.
- If nothing works, keep your nails covered by wearing gloves to prevent nail biting.
7. Wear Gloves
You are more prone to having hangnails if your hands are in with water most of the time. In addition, the chemicals in dish soaps and laundry detergents can rip off the moisture from your hands.
Wearing gloves, especially when your hands are in water or while doing household chores, will help you prevent hangnails. They will also protect your hands from the adverse effects of harsh weather conditions.
- Include food items that are rich in antioxidants in your diet to improve the health of your skin.
- Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids can help fight skin dryness from within.
- Eat a nutritious diet that is rich in vitamin B, calcium, and iron to promote nail strength.
- Go for regular manicures from a skilled manicurist.
- Don’t try to rip the hangnails as this will hurt more and also increase the risk of an infection.
- Avoid washing your hands excessively.
- Hangnails. Hangnails | American Academy of Dermatology. https://www.aad.org/public/kids/nails/hangnails.
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- Dermatologists share tips to stop nail biting. American Academy of Dermatology. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/09/150908141147.htm. Published September 8, 2015.