How you care for your feet is one of the most important factors in preventing an ingrown toenail. If you're experiencing the symptoms of an ingrown toenail for the first time you may have a chance to prevent the permanent formation of an ingrown toenail. Eliminate outside pressure on the toe by wearing sandals or loose fitting shoes for several days. Making simple changes to your footwear may allow you to resume normal walking immediately. You should cut back on athletic activities that require pressure to be placed on the toes for several weeks to allow the inflammation and pain to diminish. The practice of trimming the corner of the toenail off should be stopped. This leads to a condition where the toenail develops a hook deformity on each side. Allow the toenail to grow beyond the nail groove. Once the condition has been resolved, shoes should be found that leave plenty of room for the toes.
Wear open-toe shoes or at least wear shoes that that fit properly. Your shoes should allow plenty of room for your toes to move. Socks should fit more loosely such that your toes aren't pulled together.
When trimming your toenail, cut the edge straight across. Do not round the corners. Also, keep your toenails at just the right length - not too long and not too short. Leaving the nail too long could induce breakage, while cutting the nail too short makes the skin easily grow over the corners. Make sure that the corners of the nail are still visible above the skin.
If you notice any sharp edges after trimming the toenail, smooth these areas with a nail file to keep them from puncturing the skin.
Use comfortable footwear, preferably those that allow some ventilation. When choosing socks, opt for those made from cotton as these are more breathable.
Pay attention to proper foot hygiene. Clean and wash your feet daily, especially after a day in footwear that promotes perspiration. Moisture equates to microbial growth, which increases your chances of unhealthy nails and skin infections.
Opt for protective footwear if you often injure your toes or toenails, or if work setting keeps you at risk for toe injuries.
Schedule a visit with a podiatrist if you need special attention with regard to foot care. Diabetic patients and those dealing with diseases involving lack of circulation and loss of sensation, for example, should regularly see a podiatrist if they cannot tend to their own toenails.
Do not use shoes or socks that are too tight or that tend to push the toes tightly together. Again, these cause unnecessary pressure to your toenails, making them curve inward more easily.
Do not leave your feet moist and warm for long periods of time. If this cannot be avoided, you can use medical powders that help absorb sweat and keep odor at bay.
Do not cut your nails too short when trimming, as well as round the corners. This increases the chance that they grow into the surrounding flesh.
Do not ignore signs or symptoms of poor hygiene or a fungal infection. See a doctor or podiatrist immediately if you suspect any infection, especially if you have conditions that affect blood circulation and nerve function in your lower extremities.
Do not tear or peel the nails. Instead, trimming them with a good nail clipper designed for toenails.
Trim your toenails regularly. Keeping them at the proper length and shape, with the corners visible above the skin.
Maintain proper foot hygiene by keeping your feet clean and dry.
Opt for open footwear, or comfortable shoes that allow air to circulate through your foot. Air out your feet as often as you can.
During pedicures, avoid cutting or pushing back the cuticle. Also, make sure you use your own equipment, or ensure that all equipment used is sterilized before they are used on you. This helps prevent transmission of infection.
Do not pick or dig through the sides of your toenails as this can damage the integrity of the protective barriers.
Use a nail file to smooth out any pointed edges around the nail. Jagged edges can allow the nail to easily puncture the skin once the nail grows.
Ensuring proper circulation. When sitting or standing too long, move your feet, legs and toes to keep the blood flowing. Rotate your foot, wiggle your toes, and raise your legs every once in a while when sitting for long periods.
Learning how to select shoes that fit properly is the most important thing you can do to prevent an ingrown toenail. This is how 40% of ingrown toenail sufferers develop ingrown toenails. You must allow your toes room to move within your shoes. Restrictive footwear applies pressure to your toenails and toes that eventually cause permanent deformities such as ingrown toenails. When you take a step the act of bending your foot takes up more space within your shoe. There must be space available in the toe area to prevent the toes from binding. As a general rule, shoes that fit properly will have 3/8 to 1/2 inch space in front of your longest toe and the inside of your shoe.
The constant dampness created by wearing shoes with poor ventilation can cause curvature of the toenails. Curvature increases pressure on the skin from the side of the toenail.
If shoes are not absolutely necessary, give your feet a break. Work, sports and cold temperatures may require footwear but you should remain barefooted as much as possible. You wouldn't wear gloves on your hands all the time, why should your feet be any different?
How you trim your toenail is also critically important if you want to prevent ingrown toenails. You must never round the corners of your toenail or cut them too short. Both corners of your toenail must be left long enough that they extend beyond the nail groove (the skin surrounding each side of your toenail). In other words, the corners of your toenail must be exposed and left protruding past the skin, not cut back as many do to eliminate ingrown toenail pain. The toenail is better left too long than too short.
Use correct toenail clippers. Clippers with curved jaws are more suited to cutting fingernails. For toenails use a clipper that cuts in a straight line. You may need to make 2-3 cuts at different angles to get the correct shape.
There are 3 reasons.
If the corner of the toenail is trimmed too short, the skin surrounding the sides of the toenail will form over the corner. As the toenail grows in length, the corner begins to cut into the skin which has formed in front of it.
By rounding the corner of your toenail you focus its pressure against the skin into a smaller area, increasing irritation.
Repeatedly trimming toenails this way causes the toenail to deform and grow increasingly curved, further adding to the pressure exerted by the side of the toenail.
For a variety of reasons toenails can become hard, brittle, thick and difficult to cut. By soaking your toes in warm water for 3-5 minutes you'll make them much easier to cut and achieve a more smooth edge. Do not trim the entire width of your toenail in one cut. By doing this you risk splitting your toenail from the force of the clipper. Cut one side to the correct length, then the other side, then the center of the toenail.
Diet may not play a large role in preventing ingrown toenails since the condition is not primarily brought about by nutrient deficiencies, however there are some nutrients that you may want to ensure you are getting enough of to help maintain healthy nails and skin. Also, a proper diet can strengthen immunity and help in the prevention of infection.
Protein - The building block for nails. It is required for healthy and rapid toenail growth. Toenails require 8 to 12 months to renew themselves (growth from the germinal matrix to the end of the toe). Low protein intake may cause white nail beds and slow toenail growth. Dietary sources of protein include eggs, milk, cheese, meat and beans.
Biotin - Essential for healthy nail structure. Reduces nail brittleness and improves flexibility. Liver, nuts, and fish are great sources of biotin.
Iron - Iron-deficiency anemia can lead to a pale color, a brittle, ridged texture and cause the toenails to become flat or concave, rather than convex. Iron can be found in animal sources, such as meat, fish, and poultry, and can also be found in fruits, vegetables, dried beans, nuts, and grain products.
Vitamin C and folic acid - Lack of vitamin C and folic acid combined with protein deficiencies produce “hangnails”. Vitamin C aids in the absorption of iron in the body, as well as aids in various tissue functions.
Vitamin A, D and calcium - Lack of vitamin A, vitamin D, and calcium can cause toenails to become dry and brittle. Sources of these vitamins include milk, cereal, juices, salt-water fish, fish-liver oils, and some vegetables.
Vitamin B12 - Lack of vitamin B12 can lead to excessive dryness, darkened toenails, and rounded or curved toenails. Vitamin B12 can only be found in animal sources such as liver and kidneys, fish, chicken, and dairy products.
Omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids - Essential fatty acids play a large role in healthy toenails just as they do for skin. Splitting and flaking of toenails may be due to a lack of omega 6. Essential fatty acids can be obtained through consumption of fish, flax seed, canola oil, seeds, leafy vegetables, and nuts.
Zinc - This mineral has been found to strengthen nails as well as boost the immune system. Zinc-rich foods like oysters, beef, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds are great additions to your diet. You can also opt for a supplement that contains zinc.
Water - When the body is dehydrated, it shows in the skin and nails. Inadequate water consumption can lead to drying up of the cuticles, thus weakening the protective barrier against infections.
If you have diabetes, blood circulation or nerve problems, you will need to set regular appointments with your podiatrist to ensure that problems with your toes or toenails can be detected and treated early.