Ah, ingrown toenails—possibly the most painful (and unsightly) consequence of our love-affair with stilettos. How exactly do we get rid these disgusting little guys without totally damaging our nail, and, just as importantly, how do we prevent them from sneaking up on us again? Podiatrist Hillary Brenner D.P.M gave offers her best pro advice for doing just that.
Why do we get them in the first place?
Ingrown toenails usually only affect the big toe, and the fit of your shoes is often to blame. When a pair is too tight (or pointy) compression of the foot as you walk can push the nail border into the skin. "Friction between the ground and side of toe causes pressure on the nail, causing it to get trapped," Brenner tells InStyle. Your foot type is another factor: "If you have a flat foot, the arch collapses and [the] big toe hits the ground more."
How to Heal an Ingrown Toenail
Follow the strategies below to care your ingrown—but, cautions Brenner, "if after two or three days there are no signs of healing, it's time to go see a doctor."
Step 1: Soak the Foot
Take the situation as the perfect excuse for a Netflix break, and spend 20 minutes per night soaking your foot in warm epsom-salt bath. We like Dr. Brenner's Rx Rejuvenating Foot Soak ($29; drbrennersrx.com) or Dr. Teal's Epsom Salt Foot Soak ($4; drugstore.com). Doing so will prep the toenail for the next step.
2. Remove the Nail
Once you've allowed the foot to soak, the moment you've anxiously been waiting for has finally arrived: the removal. Take baby steps by first trying to file away the outer corner of the ingrown's edge using an emery board or a tool custom-designed for the job, like Tweezerman's Ingrown Toenail File ($14; tweezerman.com). If that doesn't suffice, suggests Brenner, "very gently cut a little edge of just the corner of the nail," using a sterilized straight-edge clipper such as Sally Hansen Ingrown Be Gone ($14; target.com) or Tweezerman's version ($3; sallybeauty.com).
3. Protect the Wound
After the ingrown toenail is filed or clipped back, apply Neosporin Pain Relief Antibiotic Cream ($7; drugstore.com) and a bandage to ease pain and prevent further infection. Another trick: Slip on a cushioning toe separator like Pedifix Tubular-Foam Toe Bandages ($5; walmart.com) or Dr. Scholl's Ingrown Toenail Relief ($9; walmart.com).
4. Ingrown Toenail Prevention
The first step in preventing another ingrown toenail? Wear shoes that fit properly. Brenner also recommends routinely applying a heavy moisturizing cream to help keep nails soft and less likely to cut into the skin of the toe. Try shea-rich Gold Bond Ultimate Softening Foot Cream ($7; target.com). If the recurrences become regular, Brenner advises trying orthotic shoe inserts to correct the way you walk. See a podiatrist for a custom fit, or slip a pair of Superfeet Insoles ($50; superfeet.com) into your favorite shoes.
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