Ingrown toenails occur when your large toenail begins to grow sideways into the skin, usually causing a painful, inflamed patch of skin that needs to be taken care of surgically. While you should never try to treat or cut an ingrown toenail at home, if you notice that your toenail is growing abnormally, you can try to stop an ingrown toenail before it becomes a big problem. With the right techniques and care, you can stop your toenail from becoming a painful and expensive mess.
Wear comfortable shoes that fit properly, suggests the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society. Wearing shoes that are too tight or that crowd the toes can lead to your toenail growing abnormally. If you must wear heels or other small shoes, consider keeping a pair of comfortable shoes with you for commuting or walking around and changing when you arrive to your destination to protect your feet and avoid ingrown toenails.
Trim your nails straight across, suggests MayoClinic.com. While it may be more stylish to cut your toenails so that the ends curve downward, you could be putting yourself at risk for ingrown toenails, since the edges of the toenail may grow into the skin. Try cutting straight across and then using a nail file to give your toenails a slight curve by sanding down the sharp corners.
Cut your toenails to a moderate length, and avoid cutting too often or too short. Shorter nails are more prone to becoming ingrown toenails, as they have more room to grow into the side of the skin. Never cut your nails lower than the top of your toe.
Soak your toe in Epsom salts and water if your notice that your toenail is growing abnormally. Then, wet a piece of cotton and slide it between your toenail and the skin underneath to properly separate the nail from the skin and correct its growing pattern, suggests Medline Plus. You can do the same treatment with a small piece of floss or gauze to lift the growing nail away from the skin to stop an almost inevitable ingrown toenail.
Schedule an appointment with your doctor if you notice that the toenail is growing into the skin and is painful to the touch. Never attempt to remove the toenail yourself, as it could lead to infection and injury. Only your doctor can decide if the toenail will need to be removed, and he or an orthopedic surgeon can perform the surgery.