Why You Should Never, Ever Rip Off Your Hangnail
Health & Beauty / /
Even though they’re so small and unnoticeable until fully developed, hangnails can hurt like hell. They happen to everyone, particularly during the winter months. But here’s how to prevent them from happening and treat them ones they occur.
WHAT ARE HANGNAILS?
Hangnails aren’t part of your nails; they’re actually skin cells that form small tags near the nail. They occur as the skin separates from the surface, but still remains anchored at the base, explains Dawn Davis, M.D., dermatologist at the Mayo Clinic.
People that have dry skin are keen to get them more frequently. The reason for this is that the skin is more vulnerable to damage from cold weather or water if it is dry, which can be an ideal condition for skin separation.
Hangnails can also be reason for inflammation that cause redness and swelling, which can press on the nerve endings and irritate them, leading to pain that we have all experienced. The bad pain than comes down simply to their location.
"Hangnails are usually at the end of a digit near the nail. There are many nerve endings and blood vessels in this area," says Dr. Davis.
HOW TO TREAT HANGNAILS?
As much as it is hart, try to avoid ripping them off with your teeth. Not only that the inflamed tissue hurts bad, but you can also expose your fingers to infections, plus your mouth will be full of all the germs that live on your fingers and by that you are putting yourself at a much higher risk of infection.
"When you pull them off, you typically tear some of the normal surface skin that keeps out bacteria," says Dr. Jacobs. "When you pull off a hangnail, you can develop an infection of the surrounding skin."
Instead, if you do notice a hangnail, follow these steps to take care of it.
First, wash your hands with warm water to soften the skin. Sanitize a fingernail clipper with rubbing alcohol, and then cut the hangnail off close to the normal skin level, suggests Dr. Jacobs.
"Apply a lotion with low alcohol and water content, as these will dry the skin out more," he says. It is good to moisturize the area because it protects your skin from drying out and by that lowers the likelihood of hangnails occurring.
If your hangnail is already inflamed you need to know that an inflamed hangnail isn’t necessarily infected, but you’ll need to be careful during treating it.
“In this case, treat inflamed hangnails with ice and over the counter pain medication to help with the symptoms, and topical antibiotic ointment," says Dr. Jacobs.” An antibiotic ointment can help prevent an infection from developing.”
HOW TO PREVENT HANGNAILS?
There are some things you can do to protect your fingers from getting hangnails.The most important thing is to keep your skin hydrated to prevent it from drying out, which leaves you more susceptible to hangnails.
"Using topical hand lotion on a regular basis will help keep the skin softer and avoid dryness. Particularly in winter months when everything is trying to dry your skin, apply lotion regularly, like after showering and after hand washing," says Dr. Jacobs.
And don’t forget the gloves—both when you’re outside in the cold air, and when you’re washing dishes, since the soap and the hot water can be reasons four our skin getting drying. "People who work in the cold and people with chemical contact or prolonged water exposure are more susceptible to hangnails," says Dr. Jacobs.