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How to Safely Get Rid of a Hangnail

Despite its name, a hangnail is not actually part of the nail. Hangnails are small pieces of torn skin that loosely “hang” or sit beside a nail. Most people get hangnails on their fingers, but they can occasionally appear on adjacent to toenails as well. Wherever you get them, we can all agree that hangnails hurt!

What Causes a Hangnail?

  Anyone can get hangnails. The potential causes for hangnails range from vitamin deficiencies, to dry skin, to personal care habits.[1] Several reasons people get hangnails include:

  • Vitamin deficiencies: particularly Vitamins B and C, biotin, folic acid, and zinc.
  • Dry skin: Hangnails are especially common in the winter when the weather is cold.
  • A bad manicure.
  • Biting your nails.
  • Picking your fingers.

Why are Hangnails so Painful?

 Why do hangnails hurt so much? Hangnails are painful due to the increased density of nerves surrounding the nail unit.  Additionally, hangnails cause inflammation which compresses the nerve endings and makes them hurt even more.

Steps for Safely Removing a Hangnail

 Safely removing a hangnail means never using your teeth or other fingers. We get it, they’re painful. It may be tempting to rip out a hangnail but ripping out a hangnail with your other fingers or teeth is the best way to cause an infection, introduce bacteria, and lead to even more pain. Instead, follow these tips for safely removing a hangnail.

  1. Wash your hands and prep the skin area. Cleanse the area by washing your hands thoroughly in lukewarm water with soap. This will provide you with a clean starting point and soften the skin around the hangnail so it is easier to remove. Apply a small amount of iodine solution to the area surrounding the hang nail.
  2. Sanitize your tools. Scrub your tools with an iodine or betadine solution. Did you know that rubbing alcohol is only partially effective at sterilizing?  This is why rubbing alcohol is never used to prep the skin prior to surgery, nor used on instrumentation. 
  3. Gently remove the hangnail. Clip as close to the nail bed as possible without getting extra skin. If the area starts bleeding, apply pressure with a cotton ball or paper towel until it stops.
  4. Moisturize the finger. Apply a high-quality hand cream or petroleum jelly to the area around the hangnail to prevent it from drying out.

If you still have inflammation after you’ve removed the hangnail, try icing the area and applying an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment. Any signs of pus or drainage may indicate an infection and should be examined by a doctor.

Find out more about how to properly care for your hands when you visit the blog at!


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