Home Remedies For Painful Ingrown Toe Nail

Many suggestions for how to treat or fix ingrown toenails at home abound.  Some are questionable like the idea of cutting a “V” in the nail and some tend to make the problem worse in the long run such as poorly executed “bathroom surgery” as doctors call it.  However, there are a couple tried and true techniques you can use immediately to treat your ingrown nail symptoms at home:

  • Soaking in Epsom Salts, and
  • The cotton bevel.

If after trying these, you still really want to know how to remove the ingrown toenail yourself, you can find many instructional videos on YouTube but we will not encourage this approach due to the risks of causing or spreading infection in your toe.

Soaking in Epsom Salts

Although the science behind Epsom Salts baths is not clear, it has long been widely accepted (even by many doctors) that soaking in Epsom Salts reduces pain and inflammation.

  • Add Epsom Salts to warm water.  Exact measurements are not needed:  1 cup for a few inches of water in a regular bathtub is sufficient.  Make the water as warm as is comfortable.
  • Soak feet for 30 minutes 2-4 times daily.
  • While feet are submerged in the water, gently massage the sore area.

The Cotton Bevel Approach

Cotton Bevel For Ingrown Toenail

Cotton bevel lifts ingrown toenail.

For many ingrown toenails, lifting the corner of the nail away from the punctured or sore skin will provide immediate relief.  Using a cotton or gauze bevel under the nail will achieve this while you correct the underlying cause of the ingrowing nail.  (If the only cause of the ingrown nail is improper trimming, this may be the only treatment you need.

Note that if the nail has punctured the skin or is embedded in the skin, this procedure may take a few attempts to complete.

  1. Soak feet for 15-30 minutes in warm water with Epsom Salt.  If you don’t have Epsom Salt on hand, don’t worry, just warm water will also work for what we are doing.  Epsom Salt helps soften the nail and relieve the tenderness a bit more than water alone but waiting until you can go to the store is likely not desirable.
  2. If the skin is covering the corner/edge of the nail, use one hand to lightly pull the skin away from the nail.  Slide a disinfected toenail lifter or pointed file under the free edge of the nail and move it toward the ingrown part of the nail.  Use the lifter or file to gently lift the corner of the nail above the skin.  Disinfecting the lifter/file prior to use is especially important if the nail has punctured the skin to avoid introducing bacteria.
  3. Rinse the area with peroxide, alcohol, or other disinfectant to prevent or treat infection.
  4. Use the toenail lifter/file to push cotton or gauze under the nail, packing as tightly as is tolerable, until the edge/corner of the nail is no longer in contact with the irritated skin.  Gauze is preferred if you have it as cotton is more likely to leave remnants under the nail when removed.
  5. Apply antibiotic ointment to the surrounding skin.  Some antibiotic ointments contain Lidocaine, a topical analgesic (pain reliever) which will help ease any soreness in the surrounding skin.
  6. Finally, a toe sleeve can keep socks, shoes, or other toes from coming in contact with the sore nail.  You can buy one at any drugstore or Wal-Mart or fashion one yourself by simply wrapping enough gauze loosely around the toe to slightly separate it from the adjacent toe.

If the nail is too hard or the area is too tender to complete Step 3, disinfect the area and repeat the soaking process every two hours until you can successfully lift the offending corner/edge of the nail.  You can also apply a topical analgesic containing Lidocaine and/or use Ibuprofen to relieve some of the tenderness until you are able to successfully insert the cotton or gauze bevel.

Note:  Repeat this process at least daily until the nail has grown out or other treatment is applied.  Failure to thoroughly cleanse the area and change the cotton or gauze daily may lead to infection.


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