How to treat Ingrown Toenails

foot pain

An ingrown toenail can be painful and uncomfortable. However, there are several things you can do to keep your toenail from growing into your skin. It might even save you from having to undergo surgery to remove the ingrown toenail! Just make sure by checking for warmth, pus, redness, and swelling. If you notice any of these signs of inflammation, see a doctor.

Reline an ingrown toenail

Check with your doctor or podiatrist first if you are diabetic.

If you’re diabetic, it’s important to keep your feet clean and watch out for problems like ingrown toenails. However, for safety reasons, your doctor may prefer that you not attempt to treat an ingrown toenail yourself. Call your doctor and ask before trying any home treatments.

Soak your foot in a mixture of cold to warm water and Epsom salts.

Hot water will cause the area around the ingrown toenail to swell. So don’t use hot water. Do this for 15-30 minutes, at least twice a day. This aims to achieve two goals: to soften the toenail and to prevent the ingrown nail from becoming infected.

Gather your instruments and get ready.

Prepare a cotton ball or some sort of unflavored unwaxed dental floss, sanitized tweezers, and a toenail lifter.

Pad your toenail.

If you use a sanitized instrument to place a small piece of cotton or unflavored dental floss between the toenail and the skin, the ingrown toenail should not grow back. If you’re using a cotton ball, rip off a small piece of it with the tweezers. If you’re using unflavored floss, cut 6 inches off it. Lift the corner of the ingrown toenail with the sanitized tweezers and gently push the cotton or dental floss under the nail. You can also apply an antiseptic ointment like Nebacetin® to the cotton or dental floss before sliding it under the nail. Don’t try to put cotton or dental floss under the nail if the nail bed looks swollen or red. Remove the cotton or floss daily, clean the area, and replace it with new cotton or floss to reduce the risk of infection.

Give your toes some air!

Don’t wear socks or shoes when you’re home.

Look at the nail again.

If you keep the cotton correctly placed and treat your footwell, the ingrown toenail should grow out within a few weeks. Change the cotton every day to prevent infection. If this process is too painful, you should change the cotton at least every other day and check the nail daily for inflammation.

Ask your doctor about taping.

If your nail is still digging into the skin, you should try taping. Taping means putting a band-aid on the underside of the affected toe and pulling the skin away from the area where the nail cuts into the nail bed. The trick is to use a band-aid to hold the skin away from the ingrown nail. When done correctly, it will result in relieving pressure in the area and promoting drainage and drying of the nail. You might want to ask your doctor how to do this properly, though, as it’s not that easy to master.

Try untested home remedies

Soak your foot in warm water that has been previously mixed with a povidone-iodine solution.

Add 1-2 teaspoons of povidone-iodine to a cold foot bath instead of Epsom salts. Povidone-iodine is an effective antiseptic. Note that this will not treat an ingrown toenail. However, it can help prevent infection.

Place a slice of lemon on the toe and bandage it overnight.

Apply fresh lemon juice and honey or manuka honey to the toe. Bandage it with gauze and leave it on overnight. The lemon and honey combo can help fight inflammation overnight. Lemon has antibacterial properties, but it won’t get rid of an ingrown nail.

Use oils to soften the skin around the toenail.

Applying oils directly to the toenail helps in moisturizing the skin sufficiently and making it more supple. This reduces the pressure on the toenail when wearing shoes. For a quick fix, try these oils: Tea Tree Oil: This essential oil has both antibacterial and antifungal properties, and it also smells great. Baby Oil: A fragrant mineral oil, but without the antimicrobial properties of tea tree oil. It is good for making the skin more supple.

Prevent ingrown toenails

Keep your toenails reasonably short and trim them straight.

Rounded nails grow into the skin more easily, causing problems. Use toenail clippers or good-quality nail scissors to trim your toenails. Regular clippers are undersized and tend to leave sharp or pointed edges at the corners. It is optimal to trim the toenails about every two to three weeks. That way they don’t have a chance to grow in unless your toenails grow back extremely quickly.

You should avoid pedicures until the ingrown toenail has healed.

Pedicures can irritate the skin underneath the nail. In addition, pedicure instruments are often not optimally disinfected, which can trigger or worsen inflammation.

Wear the correct shoe size.

Shoes that are too small put pressure on the toes and cause the nail to grow into the skin. Choose roomier, larger shoes instead of smaller and more uncomfortable ones. Try to wear open-toed shoes to avoid pressure on your toes. Since your toes should also be covered, wear bandages or socks with your sandals. It’s not exactly fancy, but it’s still better than surgery.

Be wary if you regularly suffer from ingrown toenails.

If you get an ingrown toenail and don’t treat it properly, you’re more likely to have it again. However, you can take steps to prevent this from happening.

Apply antibiotic ointment to your feet twice a day.

Apply an antibiotic cream to your ingrown nail and the surrounding area after your morning shower and before you go to bed. This reduces the risk of inflammation, which can cause complications and greater pain.

Soak your feet in cool to warm, soapy water for 15 to 30 minutes.

Rinse them well after the foot bath so that no soap residue remains. Then dry them properly with a clean towel. You could also apply some Nebacetin® and a band-aid to protect the area around the ingrown nail.


Avoid painting ingrown toenails. Unnecessary chemicals in close proximity to the affected area can cause infection. Also, if the polish is hiding redness or discoloration, you may not notice the signs of inflammation. Focus on getting rid of the ingrown toenail instead of waiting and watching it get even more painful. If the remedies you’ve tried don’t work, then consult your doctor. You may need help from him to cut or remove the nail. You may also need antibiotics if the toenail is infected. Check our review for Top-Rated Ingrown Toenail Tools.


Your ingrown toenail is very susceptible to infection. Therefore, try to keep the toenail covered and clean to avoid serious consequences. If your ingrown toenail is very swollen or has pus appearing around it, it is most likely infected. Ask your doctor about antibiotics before putting cotton or dental floss under the nail. Be aware that antibiotics will only reduce the infection, they won’t make the nail grow back out. The cotton or dental floss can therefore be used along with antibiotics if your doctor approves of this method. If the cotton ball method doesn’t work with antibiotics, consult your doctor or podiatrist as you may need to have the nail surgically removed.


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