How should I treat my ingrown toenails?


Ingrown toenails are a common nail problem. Ingrown toenails occur when the sides or corners of a nail grow into soft tissue instead of growing straight out. The condition can become very painful, especially if infection sets in.

Typically, an ingrown toenail will grow out on its own. For pain relief, the nail can be soaked in warm salt water. Apply a topical antiseptic and bandage the toe. For serious or very painful cases of ingrown toenail, a healthcare provider can remove the ingrown portion of the nail.

Intermountain Healthcare
To treat an ingrown toenail:
  • Soak your foot in warm water for about 15 minutes. Then take your foot out and dry it well.
  • Try to get the nail "unstuck" from the skin. Use a cotton swab (Q-tip) or the dull end of nail file to gently pull the nail away from the reddened skin. You can also try sliding dental floss under the nail.
  • Trim the toenail where it's pushing into your skin, if you can.
  • Wet a small piece of cotton with water, then put it under the nail. The cotton helps keep the nail from pushing into the skin again.
  • Repeat these steps several times a day. You can stop when the nail starts to grow out and the pain goes away.
James P. Ioli, DPM
Podiatric Medicine
You can treat an ingrown toenail at home, unless you have diabetes. If you have diabetes and have an ingrown toenail, you should see your doctor or foot care specialist immediately. Otherwise, if the problem is minor (the toe is irritated and red, but not overwhelmingly painful), soak your feet in warm water to soften the nail, then cut the part of the nail that is pressing against the skin. Trim gently, not aggressively, or you may hurt yourself.

Once that part of the nail is removed, apply an over-the-counter topical antibiotic. Wear open-toed sandals or roomy shoes to reduce pressure on the toe. If your toe isn't better in three to five days, see a foot care specialist. Your toe may be infected, and you may need to start oral antibiotics and have the ingrown portion of the nail removed. Once the problem is successfully treated, allow the nail to grow out to the point where you can trim it straight across, and avoid wearing shoes with narrow toes.
Alec O. Hochstein, DPM
Podiatric Medicine

Ingrown toenails are one of the most common ailments that patients present to podiatry offices with.

An ingrown toenail occurs when the border of the nail becomes embedded in the skin surrounding the nail. Often this becomes a painful condition and may at times become infected. The body reacts to the nail as if it were a foreign body (like a splinter or piece of glass). 

In order to have this treated properly; the offending nail spicule needs to be evacuated from the toe. This is most often achieved by a quick in office procedure, where the toe is anesthetized and a small portion of the nail is excised. 

Pain relief is immediate and in the case of infection, it most often resolves in a few days. Sometimes an antibiotic is prescribed and/or a topical antibiotic cream is applied.

If you would like to see a video on theis procedure follow this link:

Picture of ingrown toenail
Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Medicine

If the nail isn't infected, try placing a cotton ball or some waxed dental floss underneath the nail to separate it from the skin. Soak the nail a few times a day in warm water to keep it clean and to sooth any discomfort. Wear comfortable shoes and allow the nail to grow and heal on its own.

Watch out for ingrown toenails. First, soak your feet in warm water with a few pinches of ordinary table salt. Then gently push the skin away from the nail with a moist washcloth or towel. File the ingrown nails with a clean, new emery board, apply antibiotic ointment, and cover with a bandage. If the ingrown toenail persists, or if it is too painful to treat yourself, consult a physician.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
There are things you can do at home to care for an ingrown toenail. Learn more on this topic in this video of Dr. Oz.

People with diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, or other circulatory problems should see a doctor right away rather than try home treatment. For other people, some ingrown toenails can be treated successfully at home. Soak your toe in warm water, then dry it gently and apply antibiotic cream. If this doesn't work, or if there is pus or the toenail is very painful, see a doctor. You may have an infection that will require antibiotics. The doctor can also take steps to remove the problem portion of the toenail from the skin.

Continue Learning about Ingrown Nails

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.