Tips and techniques to prevent painful ingrown toenails Nicely groomed toenails are part of your overall appearance, and it all starts with the correct maintenance. But aesthetics is only part of the story. When toenails get too long, they start to look unsightly. Edges that protrude beyond the nail bed can push against shoes, causing discomfort. As your toenails arch across, they can grow into the skin, resulting in pain and possible infection that may need professional treatment. Ingrown toenails are a common problem that can go untreated for weeks and months. Chiropodists come across them all the time, particularly on the big toe. Podiatrists, Sussex Foot Centre explains: “Ingrown toenails present in a variety of ways depending on their severity and duration, and they can become infected requiring antibiotics. We try and take the pressure off the side of the skin by cutting down the side of the nail in a controlled way. When conservative therapy fails for initial management of ingrown toenails, surgical treatment may be appropriate.” We’re probably all guilty of not taking enough care of our feet and toes. Sometimes, it’s only when there’s a problem that you really start to appreciate what you’ve got – and yet it’s quite easy to make sure that this doesn’t happen. Know your toenails Did you know that human fingernails and toenails are made from the protein ‘keratin’, and that nail growth is mainly affected by a person’s age and health? Illness and some drugs can slow it down and in extreme cases even cause them to fall out. Pregnancy has the opposite effect ; the hormones at work to boost your circulation and metabolism will also lead to faster nail growth. Interestingly, toenails grow much more slowly than fingernails. You can expect your toenails to grow around 1-2mm per month, and to grow out an entire toenail from cuticle to tip will probably take you more than a year. Cut them regularly You should check your toenails every 6-8 weeks to keep them at the recommended length of no more than 1-2mm beyond the edge of the nail plate. This is important, not just because it looks nice but because nails that are too short or too long can lead to problems. Nails that are too short can increase the risk of getting ingrown toenails. Nails that are too long run the risk of snagging on something and tear, leading to injury. The combination of overly long toenails and tight shoes or hosiery is particularly unfavourable, especially for physically active people and professional sportsmen. Nails can suffer repeated trauma and thicken as a result, which can have long-term consequences. Use the right tools If you’ve ever attempted to cut your toenails with regular nail scissors, you will have realised very quickly that these precision instruments are usually far too delicate to do the job properly. The nails on your toes tend to be thicker and broader than your fingernails, so get yourself a sturdy pair of nail clippers . Better still, get two different pairs of nail clippers – one for fingernails, one for toenails. This should reduce the risk of transferring any fungal or bacterial infections from fingers to toes and vice versa. It should go without saying that no other sharp cutting tools you may have in your home – kitchen scissors, razor blades, knives etc – should ever be used for cutting toenails. They’re simply not designed for the job, and the risk of slipping and injuring the nail and delicate surrounding skin just doesn’t bear thinking about. Employ the best technique Prepare your toenails for cutting by thoroughly washing and drying them first. Dry toenails won’t bend or tear as easily as wet ones, so it’s easier to achieve a nice clean cut without the risk of snagging or causing injury. However, if you’re struggling to cut very thick toenails, you may like to soak your toes in hot water first, making the nails easier to manage. When it comes to using the correct cutting technique, the NHS recommends that you use nail clippers and trim the nail straight across. Rounding the toenail corners or cutting the sides at an angle is a total no-no, since it encourages the corners to grow downwards, causing ingrown toenails. You may find it easier to get a straight cut by using a two-step approach: First, cut across the nail slightly off to the side to get a straight edge, then follow through by cutting the rest of the nail. When you’ve finished, file down any jagged edges with an emery board for a smooth toenail that won’t snag or tear. About the Author: Annie Button is a Portsmouth based writer and English Literature graduate. Annie likes to share her experiences and knowledge through her blog posts and has written for various online and print publications. When she’s not writing Annie likes cooking healthy new recipes and relaxing with a good book'. Twitter: Annie Button