How to Care for a Hang Nail

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A hangnail is a small piece of skin that has separated from the cuticle and is growing away from the nail bed. Hangnails typically occur on the side of the fingernail and they can be red and tender. Hangnails can be a minor annoyance, but they can also become infected if they are not cared for properly. Most health organizations, like the Mayo Clinic, recommend trimming hangnails with a clean pair of nail scissors as soon as they are spotted. Never pull, pick or bite at a hangnail--this is a surefire way to bring about a nail infection. As you are caring for your hangnail, be sure to wash your hands regularly to reduce your risk of infection.

Things You'll Need

  • Hand soap
  • Towel
  • Small bowl
  • Body oil
  • Nail or cuticle scissors
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Band-Aid
  • Hand cream

Do not pull off a hangnail. Doing so can tear the skin underneath the nail and will dramatically increase your risk for developing an infection in your nail. This is probably the most important thing to remember about caring for a hangnail.

Wash your hands with hot soap and water, and dry your hands with a towel. Fill a small bowl with warm water and a few drops of body oil. Soak the affected finger in the water for approximately five minutes. Dry the finger and nail with a towel.

Trim the hangnail off with a small pair of clean nail or cuticle scissors. Trim the hangnail as close as possible to the nail bed, but do not attempt to remove any skin underneath the nail bed.

Apply a small dab of antibiotic ointment--like Neosporin or Polysporin--to the hangnail after trimming. Rub the ointment into the area and cover your nail with a sterile bandage or band-aid. The antibiotic will help reduce your risk of developing an infection.

Visit your doctor if your hangnail does not heal, or if the area becomes red, swollen or especially painful. This may be a sign of an infection and will require treatment by a doctor.

Moisturize your hands, nails and cuticles often with a generic body moisturizer, hand cream or body oil. This can help prevent new hangnails from forming, and will keep your hands and nails soft.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you get regular manicures, ask your manicurist not to trim your cuticles. This can increase your risk for developing hang nails and other nail infections. Always make sure your manicurist uses clean, sterile equipment to perform your manicure.

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