The first thing to know about hangnail treatment is also the hardest: Don’t pick! I would know, because I seem to always have a hangnail. And even though I am armed with the know-how and the products to prevent hangnails in the first place, I still manage to overwash my hands, or head outside in the bitter cold without gloves. And I pick.
That’s why, today, I’m giving the floor to dermatologist James Collyer, MD, of Modern Dermatology in Seattle. Since I can’t seem to follow my own advice on hangnails, I’m going to entrust him with educating us all on the topic. He gave me some handy advice on how to heal hangnails—as well as prevent them so that we never have to suffer again.
But first things first: How the hell do hangnails happen, in the first place? “Hangnails occur when small portions of skin get a tear near the cuticle,” Collyer says. “They can result from a variety of things, like biting your nails, a bad manicure, dry skin, using harsh soap and detergents, cold temperatures, and ‘waterlogged’ hands.” (Like when you’re in the pool too long.) “Any of these things makes the skin fragile and susceptible to cracks.”
One more imperative question before we dive into the remedies: Why the hell do hangnails hurt so much? “Simple: Because there are a lot of nerve endings in the fingertips,” Collyer says.
How to Avoid Hangnails in the First Place
Preventing hangnails starts with clipping your nails properly.
“Do not clip too close to the cuticle when trimming your nails,” Collyer says. If you have overgrown cuticles and want to push them back and clip the excess, then start by softening the cuticles in warm water. Then you can push them back using the extension on your nail clippers (it’s designed to lift and loosen the cuticle). Clip slowly, or if you’re deft with pointy-tipped manicure scissors—and somewhat ambidextrous—then use those to snip away at the excess skin. That, or buy the specialized, angled cuticle clippers that handle the task.
BlueOrchid cuticle clippers
Or just treat yourself to a manicure, man.
Secondly, you need to keep your mitts moisturized, while also…