Hangnails: Causes, Remedies, Preventive Tips, Treatment & FAQs Answered

Also known as stepmother’s blessing and agnail, a hangnail is a small, torn piece of skin at the root of a fingernail or toenail. Although the name implies the nail’s involvement, a hangnail is not part of the nail itself. Typically, hangnails will mean dry skin at the nail’s side or cuticle. Occasionally, however, a thin strip of nail can break apart, remaining attached only at the base and proving extremely painful. Although they emerge as pretty harmless, hangnails can eventually become extra problematic once they start catching in your hair or clothes or you start picking them.

What Causes Hangnails?

Hangnails are more noticeable during the winter months when your skin tends to dry out really fast. There you have it, the first reason. When our skin loses its natural oils, either naturally or due to the harsh surroundings, it begins to peel off and can at times also bleed. This is especially true for women who work with dry paper or have their hands in water at most times.

Another reason why hangnails develop is nail biting. Besides it being harmful for your teeth, nail biting can also damage your nail bed, the skin beneath the actual fingernail. A weak nail bed will often cause the skin to flake away. Other reasons may include a manicure gone wrong, frequent or careless cutting of the cuticles with nail clippers or recurrent contact with harsh chemicals.


Besides marring the beauty of your nails, hangnails can be a big nuisance, painful and can even result in bacterial or fungal infections, causing redness and swelling, and further complicating matters. Following are the top 10 remedies to help you treat hangnails:

1. Vitamin E Oil

One of the most reliable and efficient remedies for hangnails is Vitamin E oil since it moisturizes the nail beds and heals damaged skin. Simply apply the oil on the affected area and let it sit for some time until it is fully absorbed. Reapply the oil 3 to four times a day until the hangnails are fully treated. You can also combine the oil with other types of oils, like olive, castor, and jojoba oil.

2. Honey

Since honey is a natural humectant, it attracts and traps moisture. Plus, it also has a number of anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties which assist in fighting off infection while reducing redness and inflammation. Use raw honey on the problematic area and leave it on for a couple of hours.

3. Avocado

Avocado is packed with vitamin E, healthy fats and other various minerals that are useful in keeping the skin healthy and nourished. Like honey, avocado also acts as a humectant for the skin. Scoop out the pulp of half an avocado and thoroughly mash it. In the paste, add 2 tablespoons of coconut oil and apply it on to your nails. Leave it on for the night and rinse in the morning. Repeat the procedure everyday or 4 to 5 times in a week.

4. White Clay

White clay is a great source of essential minerals for treating the skin in order to prevent hangnails. Add a teaspoon of olive oil and a few drops of lavender oil with white clay to produce a soft paste. Rub this paste on your nail beds and let it sit for around 15 to 20 minutes and then rinse it off. Do this at least 4 times a week.

5.  Yogurt

Yogurt is an easily available cure for painful hangnails. It is an effective moisturizer and also loaded with probiotics that contain various anti-inflammatory qualities. Apply plain yogurt on the nail beds and leave it on for a few hours. Repeat this process every day until you finally start seeing results.

6. Almond Hand Mask

Besides their rich content of vitamin E oil, almonds also contain fatty acids that reduce swelling and inflammation. Soak a few almonds in water overnight. Peel off the almond skin the next day and grind it. Add to it a dash of honey and one whisked egg yolk. Apply the mixture on the affected area before going to sleep and make sure you cover your nails with cotton gloves. Let it sit overnight and rinse off the next day. Repeat a few times on a weekly basis.

7.  Anti-Bacterial Ointment

Applying anti-bacterial ointment will help you get rid of any bacteria sitting in the hangnail area while also speeding up the healing process. If you have a deep hangnail, apply the ointment and cover it with a bandage to prevent the infection from spreading.

8.  Petroleum Jelly

This intense skin moisturizer is greatly beneficial for curing hangnail condition since it contains useful fats that are absorbed into the dermis and thoroughly keep the nail bed and the surrounding skin moisturized. You can also add a teaspoon of sesame oil mixed with a spoonful of petroleum jelly and apply it on the affected area every night before going to sleep. To prevent the oil from spoiling your sheets and causing wastage, you can wear cotton gloves.

9. Aloe Vera

This wonder of nature has a myriad of healing, soothing and moisturizing properties that assist in healing hangnails. Combine aloe Vera gel with turmeric powder and leave it on the affected area for as long as possible.

10. Salt Water

Fill up a bowl with 1 tablespoon of salt and one cup of filtered water. Soak your fingernails in the solution at an interval of every two hours to avoid any infection.

Hangnails: How to Prevent Them In The First Place

Why go through all the hassle of hangnail treatment when you can prevent them before they become a big nuisance? Check out the best 5 preventative tips below that are extremely easy to follow and are highly effective:

1. Keep Your Hands Moisturized

As we learned earlier, hangnails are often the result of dryness. So, if you do not use a hand cream already, right now is the time to start. Invest in a good moisturizer and keep it handy at all times for easy application. Applying at night is a must to allow the cream to work undisturbed.

2. Use Cuticle Oil

If you have ever had a professional manicure, you will know what this product is. Cuticle oil increases blood circulation in the nail bed and also stimulates nail growth while getting rid of any surrounding dry and chapped areas. It moisturizes the area deeply and provides quick protection and repair. You only need to apply a small quantity of the oil and let it work wonders for your nails.

3. Protect Your Hands

When doing simple household chores, such as washing dishes or bleaching the counters, make it a point to wear gloves. Not only will this prevent your nails from becoming brittle and dry but also your hands from losing their charm.

4. Use a Gentle Soap

Your regular hand-washing soap could be causing a lot of damage to your hands in a day. Choose a soap that is moisturizing and free of drying chemicals.

5. Avoid Acetone Nail Polish Remover

Although highly effective, acetone nail polish remover can seriously dehydrate your nails and hands, causing the dried out skin to become flaky and peel off. Instead, go for less drying nail polish strippers, such as propylene carbonate, isopropyl alcohol, and ethyl acetate, or ones that have added conditioners, like soy and glycerin.

hangnail treatment

Hangnail Treatment: Your Questions Answered

Many people who have or are experiencing hangnails will have plenty of questions regarding its treatment. Read below for some FAQs as answered by experts.

Is It Safe To Clip Hangnails?

Yes, as long as you are using sharp and clean clippers to cut off the skin. Try going as close to the base of the hangnail as possible to avoid chances of it getting stuck in clothing and hair, which can cause bleeding. Do not go overboard with this as you can cut your skin, and cause it to become infected.

What Can You Use Instead Of Creams For Hangnail Treatment?

Typically, hangnails respond well to creams and antibiotics. However, these treatments do not always work or are not available. In that case, fortunately, you can easily treat them in the comfort of your home. The best thing you can try is soaking the affected areas in hot water (not too much) mixed with one tablespoon of white vinegar and a cup of Epson salt for about 20 to 30 minutes.

What to Do If Neosporin Is Ineffective In Treating a Hangnail?

In such an instance, an antibiotic or a visit to the doctor is a must. As for home-based treatments, remember to keep the area clean either with the help of hydrogen peroxide or alcohol and then try any of the above-mentioned remedies.

So, there you have it, a complete guide to treating and preventing the much annoying skin condition using ingredients and products that you probably already have in your home.

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