6 Tips for Treating 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 proper care of your nails and cuticles, you might experience these pesky little annoyances quite often. And when you're not careful, these pieces of skin can get torn off, causing small bleeding wounds that are susceptible to infection. Here are a few tips to get rid of hangnails and prevent them in the first place.

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

Biting nails
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This is important: 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 10 minutes. Then, using a nail clipper or nail scissors, carefully trim the hangnail off. Don’t cut the healthy skin; just remove 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 apply an antibiotic ointment to the wound and cover it with a bandage for at least a day. Your hands are exposed to all manner of potentially infectious things, and if you think your run-of-the-mill hangnail is painful, you won't enjoy an infected one.

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Take Care of Your Cuticles Regularly

Pushing cuticles
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If you aren’t really into painting your nails, then chances are you don’t pay any special attention to your cuticles. Taking care of your cuticles is the best way to prevent hangnails from happening, though—and it's easy.

Every week, 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 might 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.  

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Don't Chew Your Fingernails

chewing nails
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Many people bite or chew their nails, but this bad habit can actually cause more hangnails (plus, it's unsanitary). If you can’t break the habit, consider buying a bottle of specially made nail polish that tastes bitter. It's designed to keep you from biting your nails. Painting your nails with regular nail polish or getting a gel manicure also can help you break the habit.

Always trim your fingernails with fingernail clippers to ensure you don’t damage your nails or cause hangnails. 

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Use a Cuticle Balm

Moisturizing cuticles
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Your cuticles can dry out very easily, so you need to moisturize them daily, especially in the dry winter months. Several companies make solid cuticle balms that you can massage into your cuticles as often as needed. Badger Cuticle Care is a great option; The Naked Bee Hand & Cuticle Healing Salve and CND Solar Oil are two others to try.

For best results, massage the balm into your cuticles every night, right before bed. This gives the balm plenty of time to moisturize and heal your cuticles while you sleep. Carry the container with you during the day so that you can moisturize as needed, even while at work. Most balms come in small tins or other convenient containers.

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Wear Gloves When Washing Dishes

washing dishes
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If you wash dishes daily or perform other tasks that require your hands to be submerged in water for long periods, consider using rubber gloves. Overexposure to water (especially soapy water) can dry out your skin fast, especially around your nails.

Be sure to moisturize your cuticles and hands every chance you get—at a minimum, every time you wash your hands. Keeping a lotion by your sink can help you remember to do this.  

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If All Else Fails, See a Dermatologist

doctor and patient
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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 might be able to find the underlying cause of your dry skin and hangnail problem ​and might even have a prescription cream solution that can fix the issue. There's no need to suffer needlessly if you cannot solve this common skin problem on your own.