6 Tips for Treating Hangnails

Learn How To Fix and Prevent Hangnails

Hangnails — those little bits of skin that stick up beside your nail beds — can be very annoying, not to mention painful. If you don’t take good care of your nails and cuticles, you may experience hangnails quite often. When you are not careful, these pieces of skin can get torn off, causing small bleeding wounds that are susceptible to infection.

Follow the tips below to get rid of and prevent hangnails in the first place.

Updated by Hanah Tetro

01
of 06

How to Remove the Hangnails You Already Have (Not With Your Teeth)

Biting nails
Creative RF/JGI/Jamie Grill/GettyImages

It is imperative that you remember to never pull a hangnail — ever! (Especially not with your teeth!) Pulling the hangnail is likely to tear the skin and cause bleeding, which only makes the problem worse.

To get rid of a hangnail, soak your hands in warm water for about ten minutes. Then, taking a nail clipper or nail scissors, carefully trim the hangnail off. Don’t cut the healthy skin, just cut off the dead skin that is sticking up.

Get as close to your healthy skin as you can. If you accidentally cut into the healthy skin, be sure to put an antibiotic ointment on the wound and cover it with a bandage for at least a day.  

02
of 06

Take Care of Your Cuticles Regularly

Pushing cuticles
Creative RF/Mario Castello/Corbis/VCG/GettyImages

If you aren’t really into painting your nails, then chances are you don’t really take care of your cuticles. Taking care of your cuticles is the best way to prevent hangnails from happening.

Every week, you should take a few minutes to push your cuticles back from the nail beds. First, soak your hands in warm water to soften the cuticles. You may need to use a cuticle remover gel if your cuticles are especially stubborn. Then, use an orangewood stick to carefully push your cuticles back.

Don't have time to soak? Do this right after your shower, when your cuticles have been doused with water.  

03
of 06

Don't Chew Your Fingernails

chewing nails
Creative RF/Zohaib Hussain/GettyImages

Many people bite or chew their nails, but this bad habit can actually cause more hangnails. If you can’t break the habit, consider buying a bottle of specially made nail polish that tastes bitter — this is designed to keep you from biting your nails.

Painting your nails with regular nail polish or getting a gel manicure can also help you break the habit. Always trim your fingernails with fingernail clippers to ensure you don’t damage your nails or cause hangnails.  

04
of 06

Use a Cuticle Balm

Moisturizing cuticles
Creative RM/Gianni Diliberto/GettyImages

Your cuticles can sometimes be really hard to take care of, and they can dry out very easily so you need to moisturize them daily. Several companies make solid cuticle balms, conveniently sold in metal tins, that can be massaged into your cuticles as often as needed. Badger Cuticle Care is a great option as well as The Naked Bee Hand & Cuticle Healing Salve or CND Solar Oil.

For best results, you should massage the balm into your cuticles every day, right before bed. This will give the balm plenty of time to moisturize and heal your cuticles while you sleep. Carry the tin or oil with you during the day as well so that you can moisturize as needed even while at work.

05
of 06

Wear Gloves when Washing Dishes

washing dishes
Creative RF/RuslanDashinsky/GettyImages

If you wash dishes daily — or perform other tasks that require your hands to be submerged in water for a long period of time — consider using rubber gloves. Over-exposure to water (especially soapy water) can dry out your skin, mainly around your nails.

Be sure to moisturize your cuticles and hands if you work with water and every time you wash your hands if they are feeling dry. Keeping a lotion at your sink can help you remember to do this.  

06
of 06

If All Else Fails, See a Dermatologist

doctor and patient
Creative RM/BURGER/PHANIE/GettyImages

If you have seriously dry skin and cannot get rid of your hangnails no matter what you do, consider seeing a dermatologist for treatment. A dermatologist may be able to find the underlying cause of your dry skin and hangnail problem and may also be able to give you a prescription cream that can fix the issue.  There is no need to suffer needlessly if you cannot solve this common skin problem on your own.