6 Effective Home Remedies to Treat Ingrown Toenails and Keep Them From Coming Back

August 16, 2019 Updated: August 16, 2019

There are few minor health conditions in life that are quite so painful and unappealing as ingrown toe nails. They are also very common. About 20 percent of all foot problems reported to doctors in the United States are suffering from this condition according to the National Institutes of Health.

An ingrown toe nail results from the nail (most often on the big toe) going back inside the skin rather than growing out on top of it. This results in swelling and can lead to infection. Toes become red, pussy, and can even bleed. And of course, stabbing pain in your feet isn’t a lot of fun!

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If the infection goes too far, you might even need to take antibiotics, which can devastate your stomach, or have surgery. But rather than going down these avenues, why not try some tried and true home remedies to keep the problem away?


It’s often said that prevention is better than a cure. It’s certainly the case with ingrown toenails that it’s easier to stop them happening rather than try treating them once they’ve gone inside the skin or gotten infected.

To start, let’s look at some cheap and excellent methods for stopping them before they start.

1. Check Your Shoes!

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One of the major contributing factors to ingrown toe nails can come from shoes that are too tight and don’t allow the feet to breathe. The shape of the shoes can push the nails into skin, especially during jogging or other sports that involve lots of running and pounding on the feet.

The other problem is air. If shoes don’t have enough room for feet to get some oxygen, they tend to get very sweaty. This leads to the skin being overly soft and more susceptible to being punctured by nails.

Wearing better-fitting shoes as well as alternating wearing open-toed shoes will work like a charm!

2. Use Cotton Balls

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If you’re starting to feel some discomfort and worrying that the toe might be growing in, a great way to head it off involves cotton balls.

According to the University of Michigan Children’s Hospital, you can simply “wedge a small piece of wet cotton, such as part of a cotton ball, under the corner of your ingrown nail. This will help lift the nail off the skin.” To make this even easier, put a drop of olive or coconut oil on the skin. It will help you separate it from the nail.

3. Dental Floss

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Similar to the cotton ball technique, you can use dental floss to help stop slightly ingrown nails from getting any worse. First, you’ll need to soak the foot in warm water, which helps soften up the nail and help rinse out bacteria.

Then take some waxed dental floss and use it to lift the edge of the nail up and away from the skin. This should prevent it from growing in any further.

4. Cut Your Nails Straight Across

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Some people recommend cutting the nails into an upside down V shape, claiming that it will prevent the sides of your nails from growing into the toes. Unfortunately, according to the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, this is a complete myth!

“Cutting a ‘V’ does not affect the growth of the toenail. New nail growth will continue to curve downward.” Rather than anything fancy, they prescribe cutting nails “in a fairly straight line” and not cutting them too short. The rule is simple: “you should be able to get your fingernail under the sides and end of the toe nail” that you’ve just trimmed.

5. Essential Oils

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Two kinds of essential oils can be particularly useful for fighting ingrown toenails. The first is tea tree oil, which is renowned for its antiseptic and anti-fungal properties.

According to Natural Remedies, to use it effectively, “combine one cup of Epsom salts and five drops of tea tree essential oil into warm water. Soak the feet in the solution for at least 20 minutes.” This will help reduce inflammation and ease any pain.

Oil of Oregano can be used in a similar way, though it needs a carrier oil to dilute its potency, such as coconut oil, or else it can irritate the skin.

6. Taping Method

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According to the Best Practice Advocacy Center in New Zealand, “this technique is the least invasive of all the conservative non-surgical treatments.” You use a strip of tape “to pull the lateral nail fold away from the ingrown toenail.” Then you wrap the tape around the bottom of the toe to hold it in place. You’ll need to re-tape the toe a couple of times a week.

Now you know what to do to keep your toenails from getting ingrown, helping avoid costly medication and invasive surgeries, not to mention the embarrassment of showing your infected feet at the pool this summer!