Why Are Hangnails So Painful?

Reviewed on 2/25/2021
Hangnails are often seen at the end of a digit near the nail.
Hangnails are often seen at the end of a digit near the nail.

Despite the name, hangnails aren’t part of your nails, but they are a jagged piece of the skin at the edge of the nail.

Hangnails are often seen at the end of a digit near the nail. There are many blood vessels and nerve endings in this part of the nail. Hangnails also cause inflammation and swelling that may press on the nerve endings. As a result, it can lead to more pain and irritation. Additionally, you may also notice redness and swelling.

What are hangnails?

Hangnails are a small piece of dead skin at the side or base of your fingernail, slightly detached from the skin. The leading causes of hangnail include:

  • Dry skin
  • Excessive hand washing
  • Picking your nails
  • Protein deficiency
  • Winter season
  • Nail clipping
  • Manicure
  • Hand sucking
  • Cuticle trimming

Hangnails occur when the skin around the nails dries up, especially during the winter season. Most people don’t realize they have hangnails until they feel some sort of roughness or pain around the side of their nails.

What is the safest way to remove hangnails?

It is essential not to give in to the temptation to rip the hangnails. Tearing off can worsen the symptoms rather than improving them. Moreover, these habits may also increase the risk of infection. The safest way to remove hangnails follows these steps:

  • Wash your hands with an antibacterial soap.
  • Soak your hands in warm, soapy water to soften the nails and pat them dry. You can also apply mineral oil or petroleum jelly to the area to soften the hangnails.
  • You can clip the hangnails with the help of a sanitized nail clipper. You can also ask for someone’s assistance if you are unable to cut it yourself.
  • If you accidentally cut the skin beneath and if it starts to bleed,
    • Rinse with water.
    • Coat with antibacterial.
    • Bandage the area until completely healed.

If you have diabetes, you may need to show it to your doctor and start medications to avoid pus formation.

How can you care for your nails?

To keep your nails healthy and protect them from infections, you should follow these steps:

  • Avoid trimming your cuticles to keep infections at bay.
  • Avoid ripping any hangnails. Use sanitized clippers to clip the hangnails.
  • Regularly moisturize the nails with petroleum jelly or any other regular moisturizers.
  • Avoid untrained or rough manicurists who may vigorously push the cuticles back.
  • Keep your hands out of your mouth because the saliva in the mouth breaks down the skin.
  • Limit your use of harsh nail care products, such as frequent use of nail polish remover or drying agents such as dishwasher liquid.
  • Avoid biting your fingernails or picking your cuticle because these habits can damage the nail bed.
  • Wear cotton-lined rubber gloves while washing dishes, gardening, and cleaning or using harsh chemicals.
  • Practice good nail hygiene by trimming your nails and rounding the tips in a gentle curve.


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