They’re no big deal until you catch them on something! Trouble is, you catch them on everything. Your hair, your clothes, the newspaper and even your cat probably! Everytime you use your hands, little jabs of pain remind you of their presence.
Where do hangnails come from? Those annoying little triangular splits of skin around the fingernails are nothing more than dead skin. The skin in that area, which does not contain a good supply of oil to begin with, simply dries out.
They are particularly common among women who have their hands in water a lot or who bite their nails. The worst cases of hangnails as well as chapped hands and hand eczema occur in letter sorters. People who work with paper all the time get terribly dry hands because of the paper actually absorbs oil from their hands. Often they think they’re allergic to ink on the paper; but it’s just the physical effect of oil being removed from the skin.
If your hangnails are giving you nightmares, try these tips:
Get a clip job
Clip it short and clip it early. That’ll keep it from getting worse. Don’t do major surgery on yourself; just clip off the little tags of skin with small, sharp sterilized scissors. Before you clip the hangnail, soak it in a little water or a water and oil solution to soften it. A lot of people make the mistake of clipping a hangnail when it’s still hard and end up ripping the skin more.
Take Mom’s Advice
Don’t bite hangnails. If you bite them, you end up with fairly deep cuts around your fingers. And those can get infected.
Wrap up the problem
If you’re having a lot of problems with hangnails, rub and emollient cream or ointment on the affected finger at bedtime and wrap it in a piece of plastic wrap. Secure the end with a bit of tape. The plastic will keep the moisture in overnight. Just be sure to remove the plastic in the morning. You wouldn’t want to keep it on too long.
Don’t pick on yourself
If you have a tendency to pick at hangnails when you’re nervous, be sure to wear clothes with pockets. Put one hand in each pocket and leave them there until urge passes
Make moisturizing habit
To prevent hangnails in the first place, moisturize your cuticles everyday. Make it a habit, not something you do just when you get a manicure. Rub hand lotion into the flesh surrounding of your nails to keep the area soft. For more soothing feeling, warm the moisturizer over a pan of warm water, using a double boiler. Every time you apply moisturizer to your hands, take extra time to rub some into the cuticles.
Because the hangnails often form around the cuticle, many people try to avoid them by using cuticle-removing solutions. That’s not a good idea! Many of these products, which are designed to tame excess or ragged cuticles, contain sodium hydroxide. This caustic chemical can destroy skin tissue, so products containing it can cause irritation if left on too long. Use such products sparingly and always follow package instructions carefully. It’s the cuticle, after all, that provides the vital function of protecting your nails from harmful bacteria and fungi.
Hangnails sound very innocent, but if they get infected they can lead to serious inflammation of the cuticles and other tissues surrounding the nails.