I think we can all agree that hangnails are pure evil. If you have ever had one, you know that I am accurate.
These tiny little flaps of skin that you can't really help but remove always seem to end up hurting more than they have the right too. If they get infected, oh boy, you've got days of pain ahead of you.
Speaking from experience, I can attest to the fact that hangnails are one of life's most annoying small problems. Sure, it's not really all that dangerous, but especially when you work on a computer and have a finger hurt every single time you hit the keyboard is frustrating.
You'd think that because they are so painful, more of us would know how to deal with them when they happened, but honestly they seem to be one of those things we all forget about until they happen to us.
So don't worry, we've got the help you need. Whether you are currently dealing with the throbbing pain, or preparing for it in the future, here's everything you need to know about hangnails.
What causes hangnails?
Hangnails don't just pop out of nowhere, even though it often feels like it. Dr. Maryann Mikhail explained that there are a few reasons why hangnails may show up on your fingers.
"Nail clipping can lead to hangnails if the nail is trimmed along the lateral aspect of the nail," Mikhail said. She continues by saying, "pushing back or cutting cuticles too aggressively," can also cause the problem.
Why do hangnails hurt so much?
The biggest problem with hangnails is that they tend to get infected really easily, especially if you accidentally rip off the piece of cuticle that is torn.
Doctors usually advise that you try to soften them by soaking in warm water for five minutes and then use cuticle clippers to cut it in a clean line at the edge. If you are like me, you have accidentally ripped them off before, and it always ends up so much worse.
But why does ripping it cause it to hurt so much? Well, it's gross, but it's because of bacteria.
"[Ripping a hangnail] can leave an open wound and introduce bacteria, which can result in an infection called paronychia," Mikhail said. That makes it feel, raw, swollen, and tender.
How do you know if your hangnail is infected?
You can usually tell if your finger is infected just by the feel of it. It will often hurt to touch, or even just sitting there.
Paronychia is often accompanied by visible redness, swelling, and being warm to the touch. Not only is it painful, but the infection can also cause a pus-filled blister to appear in the area.
So how do you actually treat those annoying infected hangnails?
Okay, so you've gotten stuck with an infected hangnail, what do you do? A mild to moderate infection can be treated from home using these steps.
- Soak the nail in warm water twice a day for 20 minutes. Soaking it will help soften the skin, and make it easier to remove the hangnail.
- Remove the rough edge of the hangnail carefully. Use proper cuticle clippers to cut the hangnail off of your finger to reduce any chance of further infection from it being torn off.
- Antibiotic creams are a requirement. After removing the nail, apply an antibiotic cream to the area so it helps clean out the infection. Put a band-aid over it to try to keep any germs out, but keep an eye on it when you take off the bandage to soak it daily.
If the infection gets worse, lasts longer than a week, or starts to have an excess of pus, then it's time to consult a doctor.
How do you prevent hangnails from happening?
Obviously the best way to deal with a hangnail is to prevent it from happening in the first place. So how do stop them from happening?
Well, Mikhail says that your best bet is to keep your cuticles moisturized using cuticle oils. You want to keep the cuticle healthy, because it is what protects your nail from bacteria and viruses.