How to treat an ingrown fingernail

Updated February 21, 2017

An ingrown fingernail is a minor condition in which the edge of the fingernail digs into the surrounding finger flesh and continues to grow. Ingrown fingernails are very easy to treat at home, but they can be quite painful and lead to a more serious infection if left untreated. The most common cause of ingrown fingernails is improper or careless nail trimming. It's important to treat ingrown fingernails as early as possible and keep the area clean and sanitised.

Using nail clippers, trim the nail that is cutting into the skin. This may be very difficult if the nail is deeply embedded in the flesh, but you should at least try. Clip away sharp fingernail corners because these are more likely to dig into the skin.

Soak your finger in warm salt water for 15 to 20 minutes three or four times a day. Doing so will make the nail softer and allow you to trim it properly.

Apply antibacterial ointment to the area often and especially after you've clipped the embedded nail. Fingernails protect the skin underneath from harmful bacteria, and an ingrown fingernail is especially vulnerable to infection.

Insert a small strip of waxed dental floss below the ingrown nail to encourage it to grow properly. This will raise the nail up so that it doesn't protrude into the skin. You can also use a little ball of cotton wool. Repeat this step daily until the fingernail is back to normal.

Take steps to prevent future ingrown fingernails. The most important thing you can do is trim the nails properly. Do not cut your nails too short or allow them to grow too long. Cut each nail in a straight, regular line and file down until they are perfectly smooth and hang just over the skin. Massage and soak your fingers and nails in olive oil for 15 minutes once a week to keep your nails healthy and soft.


Avoid working with strong detergents and soaps. This can irritate the skin around the nail and make it more vulnerable to breakage.


If your ingrown fingernail becomes severely infected and deeply embedded in the skin, consult your doctor right away. This may require surgery.

Things You'll Need

  • Nail clippers
  • Salt water
  • Antibacterial ointment
  • Dental floss
  • Olive oil
  • Nail file
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About the Author

Charlie Higgins is journalist, editor and translator based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He has written for a variety of lifestyle and niche market websites, including International Food Trader, The Olive Oil Times, microDINERO, Sounds and Colours, Connecting Worlds and The Buenos Aires Reader.