How to Prevent Ingrown Toenails (and treat them!)

Ingrown toenails start out small, but in a short time they can turn into a big (and painful) problem. If you have suffered with an ingrown toenail, you already know that the best way to handle them is to avoid them in the first place. But how?! That pesky toenail always seems to grow back in the same way, making controlling the problem a frustrating task.

How To Prevent Ingrown Toenails

It is always best to prevent pain and infection before it starts. Avoid the tricky healing process of ingrown toenails with these three preventative tips.

1. Keep Feet Clean and Dry

Ingrown toenails are very common, and once infected, they can become serious enough to require surgery. Avoid infections that can develop in moist, dirty conditions, and always practice good hygiene with your feet. Keep them clean and dry at all times, and using baking soda inside closed-toed shoes to reduce excess moisture.

2. Separate the Growth

Ingrown toenails can rapidly worsen if ignored. Prevent the growth of a poorly shaped nail by first soaking your feet in lukewarm water, then gently pulling the skin away from the affected area. Using a small piece of gauze, separate the skin and the nail, and then place a piece of a bandage between the nail and skin. This may help to prevent the growth of the nail into your foot.

3. Wear Open Shoes

Avoid wearing improperly fitted shoes to prevent curvature of the toes – a main cause of ingrown toenails.

Can I Heal an Ingrown Toenail?

Even it’s already too late to prevent the annoyance, there is hope! Here are five of the best at-home solutions:

1. Footbath

A 15-minute footbath can relieve the sharp pain of an ingrown toenail and hydrate the tough skin around the affected area. This helps to soften the skin enough to remove any sharp pieces of toenail from the skin, and allows for reshaping the nail in the surrounding area to prevent infection.

2. Epsom Salts

A regular lukewarm footbath is enough to relieve pain and allow you to re-shape the nail and surrounding skin. However, if you want to reduce the swelling caused by a painful ingrown nail, add ½ cup of plain Epsom salts to each gallon of your foot bath. The minerals help reduce swelling and draw out any infection-causing bacteria.

3. Essential Oils

These are fragrant, potent, plant-derived oils. Also known as “plant essences,” essential oils contain the phytochemicals of medicinal plants known to reduce the pain, swelling, and inflammation of ingrown toenails. Many essential oils also provide natural antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antifungal properties to reduce the risk of infection. The best essential oils to use in your footbath for an ingrown nail include lavender, tea tree, and oil of oregano.

Warning: Essential oils are very powerful. Use caution when applying to broken skin.

4. Hydrogen Peroxide

The power of peroxide is real. When applied to an infected area, the fizzing bubbles penetrate into swollen, irritated areas that cannot be reached any other way. Hydrogen peroxide is an antiseptic able to kill a host of bacteria!

5. Trichloroacetic Acid

This is a medical-grade compound found in skincare formulas, and often used in chemical peels. Trichloroacetic acid can also be prescribed by your doctor in a concentrated solution. It is clinically shown to be an effective, quick, and easy method for fast recovery from the pain and trouble of ingrown toenails.1

The Truth About Ingrown Toenails

There are many different causes of ingrown toenails. Once they form, it can be difficult and painful to heal them. Avoid these main causes at all costs: poorly fitting shoes, toe injuries, damaged or misshapen nails, and poor hygiene. Otherwise, use the DIY remedies above to get those toes healthy again!


1. Hugo Barreiros, Diogo Matos. Using 80% trichloroacetic acid in the treatment of ingrown toenails. An Bras Dermatol. 2013 Nov-Dec; 88(6): 889–893.