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An ingrown toenail occurs when the edge of the toenail begins to grow into the skin. An ingrown toenail can also develop when the skin on either side of a toenail begins to grow over the top of the nail edge. Ingrown toenails are also known by the medical terms onychocryptosis and unguis incarnates.

At the first stage of a mild ingrown toenail, the area around the nail typically feels tender, swollen and hard to the touch. As the ingrown toenail progresses, the affected skin may become infected, appearing red and inflamed. Infected ingrown toenails may also feel hot, ooze pus and give off a foul odor.

Ingrown toenails are common, especially in teenagers and young adults. They occur most frequently on the big toe, but they can develop on other toes as well, including the pinky.


There are a number of factors that can contribute to ingrown toenails, including:

  • Improper toenail trimming — If you cut your toenails too short or if you round the corners when you trim, the nail is more likely to become embedded in the skin.
  • Toe injuries — Physical trauma to the toenail can occur if you stub your toe, if someone steps on your toe or if you drop something heavy on your toe. Injuries to the toe may force the nail to grow into the skin, resulting in an ingrown toenail.
  • Repeated stress — Physical activities such as soccer and ballet that involve continuous or repeated shock to the toes can lead to ingrown toenails.
  • Tight shoes — Wearing tight shoes squeezes the toes against the sides or tips of the shoes. The pressure can cause toenails to grow into the skin, resulting in an ingrown toenail.
  • Heredity — Some people are genetically predisposed to ingrown toenails due to factors affecting toe and nail structure as well as nail growth.
  • Sweaty feet — People who have sweaty feet have a higher chance of getting ingrown toenails because when the skin becomes wet, it softens, making it easier for a nail to embed itself in the skin.
  • Excess weight — People who are overweight exert more pressure on the feet, including the toes. This can cause toenails to penetrate the skin.
  • Certain medical conditions — Diabetes and other conditions that affect circulation can increase the possibility of ingrown toenails. This is because poor circulation can have a negative impact on nail growth.


f you have an ingrown toenail that’s infected or if it’s causing severe pain, see your doctor. For milder cases, there are home remedies for ingrown toenails as well as ingrown toenail medicine that can help provide relief.

  • Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen can help reduce pain associated with ingrown toenails.
  • Foot soaks can help alleviate discomfort from ingrown toenails. Soak the affected foot in warm soapy water or an Epsom salt foot bath for 10 to 20 minutes. Once the surrounding skin is soft from the warm soak, you can gently lift the nail away from the skin.
  • Over-the-counter topical pain relievers can help minimize discomfort while treating ingrown toenails. Dr. Scholl’s®Ingrown Toenail Pain Reliever contains an effective pain-relieving gel for fast relief. The gel also softens the nail so that cutting the ingrown toenail is easier. The package includes protective cushion rings and bandages.

There are some simple steps that you can take to help prevent ingrown toenails.

  • When trimming your toenails, cut the nails straight across. Avoid cutting nails too short or creating rounded corners. If you get pedicures, make the sure the pedicurist knows how to cut nails properly.
  • Wear protective shoes during sports and other physical activities that pose a risk of toe injury.
  • Choose well-fitted shoes that have plenty of room in the toe box. Avoid wearing tight shoes that crowd your toes.
  • Wear well-ventilated shoes when you play sports and let your feet air out as often as you can.

Serious and recurring ingrown toenails may require medical treatment, including full or partial removal of the nail.

See your doctor right away if you have diabetes and suspect you have an infection.



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Frequently Asked Questions

How to fix an ingrown toenail

It’s often possible to deal with ingrown toenails at home. Follow these steps to treat an ingrown toenail:

  • Soak the feet in warm water for about 15 minutes in order to soften the skin and nail.
  • Gently push the nail up and away from the skin. A small bit of waxed dental floss or cotton can be placed under the nail. Once the nail is away from the skin, it can be trimmed.
  • To heal an ingrown toenail, apply an antibiotic ointment and a sterile bandage to protect the toe and reduce the risk of infection. To ease discomfort, apply an over-the-counter topical ingrown toenail pain relief product.
  • To take care of an ingrown toenail while it heals, wear loose-fitting or open toed shoes. You can also wear a toe protector.

To help an ingrown toenail that doesn’t heal despite efforts to resolve the issue at home, see a doctor. This is especially important if there is severe pain or infection

How to get rid of an ingrown toenail

  • Nail lifting involves raising the nail and placing some sort of material such as cotton underneath the nail so that it no longer grows into the skin.
  • Partial removal of the nail may be required if the ingrown nail is more severe.
  • Total removal of the nail and nail bed may be necessary if ingrown nails continue to occur despite treatment and prevention efforts.

How to remove an ingrown toenail

Infection from an ingrown toenail may be treatable with antibiotic ointment. In other cases, oral antibiotics may be prescribed to get rid of an infected ingrown toenail. Your doctor can also determine how to take out an ingrown toenail if necessary, either by removing part of the nail or by removing the entire nail and nail bed. Ingrown toenails should only be removed by a healthcare professional.

What does an ingrown toenail look like?

When a toenail is ingrown, the edge of the nail is embedded in the skin rather than resting above or alongside of the skin. In many cases, the skin will appear swollen and red.

How do you know if you have an ingrown toenail?

It’s not always easy to know if you have an ingrown toenail but there are common symptoms. There is often pain and tenderness along the side of the nail. The area may be red and inflamed around the nail, and in some cases, there may be pus. It might be necessary to consult with a healthcare provider in order to confirm an ingrown toenail.

How to prevent ingrown toenails

There are several ways to stop ingrown toenails:

  • Trim toenails straight across rather than at an angle.
  • Avoid trimming nails too short.
  • Wear shoes that fit properly. Stay away from shoes that are too tight and press against the tips of the toes since the constant pressure of tight shoes can cause nails to grow into the skin.
  • Wear protective closed toed shoes when there’s a potential for injury.

How to cure an ingrown toenail

While ingrown toenails can often be treated at home, recurring ingrown toenails may require permanent removal of the nail and nail bed by a healthcare provider. This is the only way to fix ingrown toenails permanently.

How to cut an ingrown toenail

For minor ingrown toenails, soak the feet in warm water for about 15 minutes. This can help to get an ingrown toenail out. Gently lift the nail away from the skin. A small bit of cotton or dental floss can be placed under the nail to separate it from the skin. Once the edge of the nail is exposed, use a clean pair of nail clippers to cut the nail.

How do you get an ingrown toenail?

Ingrown toenails occur when the edge of the nail grows into the skin. Some people have curved nails that are especially prone to the problem. Trimming nails too short or at an angle, wearing tight shoes and toe injuries can also increase the risk of ingrown toenails.

How to fix an ingrown toenail with dental floss

In order to treat an ingrown toenail at home using dental floss, soak the foot for 15 minutes in warm water first. Then gently lift up the corner of the nail that’s become ingrown and place a small piece of waxed dental floss underneath the edge of the nail. This can help prevent the nail from growing into the skin and encourage the nail to grow over the skin instead. Once the edge of the nail is exposed, it can be trimmed using nail clippers.