Ingrown toenails can be painful, and improperly cutting them can only exacerbate the problem. If the nail isn't cut straight across or is chopped too short, it can grow in a slanted direction directly into your skin. This can cause your toe to become red, swollen, infected and increasingly painful. The American Podiatric Medical Association suggests that cutting out an ingrown toenail should be done by a physician. That, however, isn't always an option.
Soak your foot. Whether or not you're seeing a doctor, you need to rid the area of infection and inflammation. When soaking your foot, put a few tablespoons of salt or antibacterial soap in the water. Do this for a few days, or until the inflammation decreases.
Insert cotton. The inflammation is caused by your toenail forcing its way into the skin. Soak a small piece of cotton in antiseptic and insert it under the part of the nail that is causing the problem. This will force it to grow out and away from the skin.
Wrap your toe. After soaking your foot, apply an antibacterial ointment to the infected area and wrap it with an adhesive band. This will keep the area clean while it is healing.
Grow your nail out before cutting it. This will prevent the problem from becoming worse. The nail's length should be longer than the tip of your toe, and you should be able to see the corner of the nail.
Clean your clippers. Once your toenail is long enough, cut it straight across using clean nail clippers. Nails should be no shorter than the tip of you toe. Remember, cutting too short or curving the toenail may be what caused it to become ingrown in the first place.