How To Treat An Ingrown Fingernail

a woman having her fingernails trimmed properly to avoid ingrown fingernail

Out of the numerous ailments and diseases that the human body can suffer from, nail diseases and infections are some of the most inconvenient and painful ones. Although nails cover less surface area, they are a crucial part when it comes to our daily activities. This is because the first contact our body has with anything is, often times, through the fingers and nails. Ingrown toenails are more common than ingrown fingernails because toes are generally covered more often than fingernails. However, an ingrown fingernail can be just as bad. Ingrown fingernails can really be uncomfortable, but with daily care and certain home remedies, they can be prevented and treated.

What Is an Ingrown Fingernail?

woman's feet with red nail polish and without ingrown fingernail

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An ingrown fingernail is a condition in which a fingernail grows into one or both sides of the nail bed. This can be extremely painful and sensitive and will leave you unable to touch anything with the affected finger.


​An ingrown fingernail often leads to paronychia, which is a bacterial or fungal infection that occurs on the side of a nail where it meets the skin. Trauma to the nail cuticle due to biting can lead to infections.


​An ingrown fingernail needs to be treated quickly for it can grow into a serious infection of the bone. When bacteria or fungi from a nail infection invade the bone, it results in osteomyelitis that causes redness, pain, swelling, fever or difficulty bending your fingers.


​Symptoms of an ingrown fingernail include pain and sensitivity to pressure. As the nail punctures the skin tissue, infection sets in and causes redness, swelling, abscess, and discharge of blood or water.


Damp and dirty nails can be a common cause of ingrowth. Just as toes suffer from this more often because they are covered or tightly fitted into shoes, fingernails that are often covered in gloves can be problematic. Sometimes we just cannot help this, as several jobs require gloves as safety equipment.

Improper cutting of nails is a major cause of ingrowth too. The edges of a rough or badly cut nail can dig into the folds of skin on either side of the nail. People who sport long nails risk nail breaking while doing any activity that puts pressure on the nail. The nail can break at the tip or even deep and at an awkward angle. This causes a lot of trauma to the nail bed.

Genetic issues like nail deformities, abnormally formed nail beds or nail diseases can also lead to ingrown nails.

​Is There a Need for Medical Intervention to Treat an Ingrown Fingernail?

well-groomed feet without ingrown fingernail

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​Generally, it is easy to detect nail ingrowth as soon as it begins or causes discomfort. An ingrown fingernail can be treated at home in just a few days, using certain ointments or methods like soaking and applying ointments.But if the condition persists for more than a few days, or if you begin to show symptoms of an infection, it is best to get the ingrown fingernail treated by a medical professional. If you are a diabetic, you must especially seek medical care before any kind of infection sets in.

​Draining an Abscess

​If your ingrown fingernail has resulted in an abscess, a doctor will give you local anesthesia, make an incision at the site of infection, and drain it. Never try piercing the pus site at home.

​Nail Avulsion

​Another medical treatment option is to remove surgically the part of the nail that is cutting into the skin. This procedure is known as nail avulsion and is also done using local anesthesia.

​How to Safely Remove an Ingrown Fingernail?

old man trying to remove the ingrown fingernail in his right foot

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In most cases, you will be able to treat an ingrown fingernail right in the comfort of your own home and the wound will heal in about a week. Following certain home remedies at the first sign of distress can help prevent an all-out infection. The following are some remedies you can try.

​Soaking the Nail in Warm Water

​Soaking the affected finger in warm water can bring upon relief. Do this for 15 minutes, two or three times a day. Do not subject your finger to hot water as this may cause pain. Always remember to dry your finger properly after every soak. This is essential, because leaving your finger wet may cause the nail digging in more deeply.

​Soaking in Hydrogen Peroxide

​Hydrogen peroxide is a disinfectant and can heal an ingrown nail by softening the skin around the nail and reducing infection. Dilute two to three tablespoons of food grade hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) in half a bucket of water and soak your finger in it for 15 minutes.

​Using Epsom Salt

​Epsom salt helps relieve pain and swelling. Another remedy calls for the affected finger to be soaked in water that has Epsom salt added to it.


A few drops of vinegar diluted in water also works as a disinfectant. This ingredient is easily available in everybody’s kitchen and can be your go-to remedy.

[Note: Do not try all these remedies together. You can try diluting different ingredients in water and see what gives you the most relief.]

​Lifting the Nail

bandages you can use to prevent ingrown fingernail

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​Lifting the part of the nail that is biting into the skin can help prevent ingrowth. This can be done at home using a cotton gauge or dental floss. Soak the finger to soften the skin and then place these materials under the nail to separate it from the skin. This can be a little painful but once the nail is lifted, you can put a bandage over it. The pain and swelling should subside soon after.

Using Topical Ointments

Don’t wait for an infection to set in because of an ingrown nail. Start applying a topical antibiotic ointment on your finger. Clean your finger, apply the ointment and then cover your finger with a bandage so the medicine can work its way into the skin. You can do this two or three times a day. Make sure you clean the wound site first and put a new bandage every time.

Taking Painkillers

​Infected and swollen fingertips and nails can be really painful. They cause a lot of discomfort in all our daily activities. Sometimes the skin becomes so sensitive that even the slightest contact of any hard surface or even fabric is painful. You can take over-the-counter pain medication like Tylenol or Advil for some relief. Dosage will depend on the patient’s symptoms and age. Do not take painkillers and ignore the infection, hoping it will go away on its own.

Using Tea Tree Oil

​Tea tree oil has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. Adding a few drops of tea tree oil to water when you are soaking your finger, can keep bacterial and fungal infections at bay. This oil can also be used as an alternative to topical ointments. You can mix a few drops of it along with olive oil and apply on the affected area. This helps soften the skin. If you have lifted the nail, you can put a cotton piece soaked in tea tree oil under it.Some people also use ointments that have menthol and camphor in them. This soothes the pain and gives a cool feeling to the skin as opposed to the itching and throbbing that can occur.


a person washing his hands with soap careful to help prevent infection on fingernails

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​Keep Hands Clean

​Our palms, fingers, and nails collect a lot of dirt and germs each day. Washing and drying your hands regularly can help keep infections away. Cooking, gardening, and other daily activities can send a lot of dirt into our fingernails. Keeping the nails and cuticles clean will ensure that infection risk is minimal.

​Soaking in Hydrogen Peroxide

​Hydrogen peroxide is a disinfectant and can heal an ingrown nail by softening the skin around the nail and reducing infection. Dilute two to three tablespoons of food grade hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) in half a bucket of water and soak your finger in it for 15 minutes.

​Avoid Biting or Chewing Nails or Surrounding Skin

​Many people suffer from bad habits like biting their nails or skin. This is detrimental to skin health as it exposes your sensitive skin to food, cosmetics, bath products, and outdoor germs. Chewing nails or skin is an obsessive disorder for many and can lead to deep injuries and infections. If you are not able to get rid of your habit, seek a doctor to treat the disorder.

​Be Careful While Cutting or Filing Nails

​Have a timely skin care routine. Trim your nails or file them every week or every fortnight, depending on the growth. Keep them short and without any pointed or rough edges. But do not cut them too short. This exposes your fingertips and deep cutting can cause bleeding at times.

​Be Aware of Your Nail Condition

​Keep a watch on the color, texture, and length of your nails. They can tell you a lot about your health. Keep the use of nail cosmetics to the minimum as they can make your nails brittle or discolor them. If you notice any pricking, pain, redness or swelling under or around your nails, treat it immediately.


Having a proper skin care routine is a good way to prevent an ingrown fingernail. But if in case, you still develop one, it can be treated quickly with some home remedies, when taken care of on time. Do not ignore any swelling or pain and seek medical attention if it persists for more than four or five days.

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