A hangnail is a small piece of skin that separates from the side of the cuticle, creating a tiny tear. Contrary to its name, a hangnail does not affect the actual nail at all. Rather, hangnails are tears in the skin that are caused by several common scenarios, making them a regular occurrence for the majority of individuals.
Dry skin is the biggest culprit for hangnails, says Dr. Joel Schlessinger.
Cold winter weather can dry out skin, as can harsh chemicals, such as household cleaners, and frequent hand washing. Another common cause is nail biting. Biting at nails can damage the skin underneath the nail bed or actual fingernail and lead to hangnails. Lastly, manicures can lead to hangnails, particularly if cuticles are clipped, a practice dermatologists strongly discourage. Nail clipping with an unsteady hand, whether performed at home or by a nail technician, can lead to nicks, which may split into hangnails.
Dr. Joel Schlessinger shares hangnail care tips.
Hangnails aren’t dangerous and most aren’t painful. However, if not properly cared for, they can become infected with bacteria, yeast and fungi and grow red and swollen. Treat hangnails early, before they become irritated. Start by soaking your finger or fingers in warm water for a few moments. This will help soften the hangnail and stop the tearing. Next, use a clean nail clipper or nail scissors, like Tweezerman Rockhard Cuticle Nipper ½ Jaw, to gently nip off the skin. To finish, massage a little moisturizer or hand cream into the nail bed. With a formula like NIA24 Sun Damage Repair for Decolletage and Hands, you can treat dark spots, fine lines and other signs of aging, all while preventing hangnails. For an intensely hydrating formula, you might like Epionce Medical Barrier Cream.
If the area around a hangnail has grown red and swollen, you likely have an infection. If this is the case, you can follow the above steps, then apply an anti-bacterial ointment and cover the area with a bandage. The infection should heal in one to three days. Be sure to change the bandage twice a day and reapply ointment if needed. To minimize minor irritation, pick up FixMySkin Healing Body Balm Unscented with 1% Hydrocortisone. This convenient balm stick contains soothing shea and cocoa butters, plus 1% hydrocortisone, to heal damaged cells.
Dr. Joel Schlessinger shares tips for preventing hangnails.
The easiest way to prevent hangnails is to keep your hands moisturized. If you’re especially prone to them, you may want to apply a hand cream or lotion two to three times a day. FixMySkin is perfect for moisturizing skin on the go. You can also use a little cuticle oil a few times a week if needed. We like Qtica Solid Gold Cuticle Oil Gel, a nourishing 12-oil blend. If you tend to pick or bite at your nails, it’s time to kick the habit once and for all. Not only will you save yourself the headache of regular hangnails, you’ll also lower your risk of contracting warts and infections, plus communicable illnesses, like the cold and the flu.
When caring for nails at home, be sure not to clip your cuticles. Cut your nails straight across and gently file the edges for a rounded corner. When opting for a professional manicure, choose a clean, reputable salon and be sure that tools are sterilized between uses.
Do you have a question for Dr. Schlessinger about hangnails? Let us know in the comments section.