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This Popular Ingrown Toenail Hack Could Actually Make Things Worse

You may have seen a trendy hack going around to fix ingrown toenails with dental floss. At-home “lifehacks” always sound great at first mention, but does them one actually work? The short answer is yes — but it could also make things worse.

Before we dive into the specifics, we should review ingrown toenails, and take a look at how we can promote optimal foot health to avoid them in the first place.

Ingrown nails are when the nail grows into the skin surrounding it (usually the sides of the nail are pushing into the sides of the toe). This can often cause the skin to break and sometimes leads to infection if bacteria gets into the wound. Redness, irritation, and swelling of the area usually follow, and the entire experience can be quite painful. 

What causes ingrown toenails?

One of the biggest causes of ingrown toenails is improperly sized footwear. If you’re wearing shoes that are cramping your toes, you’re more likely to grow an ingrown toenail because of the constant pressure of the shoe rubbing against your toes, which causes friction.

Another major cause of ingrown toenails is improper trimming. Cutting nails too short, or curving them in a way that causes them to grow back into the skin can both cause inflammation. This combination can be the perfect breeding ground for ingrown toenails to thrive. 

So how can dental floss fix an ingrown toenail?

The ingrown toenail hack involves using dental floss to gently separate the nail from the skin — the thought being that the nail will grow more straight with a quick realignment. This hack can work, yes, but it’s probably not worth it because it actually can make things worse.

By squeezing a piece of floss between the nail and the skin underneath, you could potentially leave behind fibers from the floss, and that can cause an infection. You can also inadvertently pierce the skin since it is probably already tender. Simply put, podiatrists (foot doctors) don’t recommend using this trick to help with ingrown toenails because the potential for harm is greater than the potential benefit. 

Here’s what to do with an ingrown toenail, instead

Podiatrists recommend soaking your foot in warm water and gently rubbing the area that is impacted. Also try to walk barefoot as much as possible until healing begins. If swelling or pain persists, you may want to visit a podiatrist to resolve the problem instead of waiting for it to get worse. 

The best way to deal with ingrown toenails is to prevent them

Proper nail maintenance is important to help prevent ingrown toenails. When you cut your toenails, cut them straight across, and never cut the corners. This can help prevent nails from growing into the sides of the skin.

And in terms of toe crowding, look for footwear (including shoes and socks) that is not tight or restricting. Shoes that are made to be foot-shaped are the best options for overall foot health and can help deter ingrown toenails.

Surprisingly, most shoes are not actually “foot-shaped” and thus force our feet into unnatural positions. Pointy shoes, super narrow toe beds, tight or unbreathable designs, or basically anything that sounds uncomfortable is not a good option for your feet, especially if you’re prone to ingrown toenails. Here are some great options for foot-shaped footwear that won’t cramp your toes and are still good-looking (no toe socks or toe shoes in here). 

What do you think?


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