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Hangnails: What Are They and How to Manage Them

Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / niekverlaan

Hangnails are very common, and while many people are unbothered by them, others can find them a nuisance. Below, we'll look at what hangnails are and how to manage them.

A hangnail can be identified as a small piece of torn or jutted skin near the root of your nail. They usually develop via skin cells forming small ‘tag-like’ projections near the side of your nail, as the skin separates from the surface. However, the skin remains anchored at the base of your nail, forming a ‘hangnail’.

Despite having the name ‘hangnail’, these small pieces of skin are not actually made of nail. They’re actually formed from cuticle skin. While they are extremely common, some people can find them particularly annoying. They are usually caused by dry skin, the frequent washing of hands, harsh chemicals, and winter weather, as well as working jobs that require excessive use of hands. Picking at your nails a lot can also lead to hangnails.     

If you often find yourself with hangnails, there are plenty of ways that you can take care of them and restore your nails back to their former beauty. You should find that they go away after a few days, as long as you let them heal. 

How to Take Care of Your Hangnails

A pair of sterile cuticle scissors are useful for removing hangnails.
A pair of sterile cuticle scissors are useful for removing hangnails.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / Hans)

If you find yourself with a hangnail and would like to remove it, there are plenty of easy ways to treat them. Although it may be tempting, you should resist the urge to bite off or pick at hangnails, as it could cause bleeding and leave you in more pain. It could also leave the area slightly red and inflamed. Likewise, pulling on additional skin may heighten the risk of infection, as it opens up inner skin layers to bacteria.   

Below, we’ve enlisted some tips to help you care for your hangnails. If you follow these tips, your nails should be good as new in no time. 

Cutting off a hangnail:

  1. Start by washing your hands in clean soapy water and moisturize the affected area. 
  2. Using a pair of sterile nail clippers or scissors, carefully cut away the hangnail. Be as gentle as possible.
  3. Apply some homemade lotion. You could also use an antibiotic cream to protect the area from infection. 
  4. Leave it to heal. 


  • Dab rubbing alcohol onto the hangnail area before cutting it
  • Wash your hands before touching or interacting with your hangnail 
  • Do not pick or bite it
  • Look out for signs of infection, such as pus surrounding the nail bed or hangnail area, red, puffy skin surrounding the injury, fever, and chills, as well as increased pain and throbbing in your finger. 

If you follow these tips, you should be able to safely remove your hangnail. However, if you find that the area bleeds when you try to remove the hangnail, you should rinse it with water and apply a layer of antibacterial ointment. If you wish, you can also apply a small bandage on your finger until it is completely healed as this will aid the healing process.   


How to Prevent Hangnails

Thoroughly moisturizing your hands regularly can help to prevent hangnails.
Thoroughly moisturizing your hands regularly can help to prevent hangnails.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / AdoreBeautyNZ)

If you find that hangnails are becoming a regular occurrence for you, then you may feel frustrated. However, there are several tips that you can practice to help to prevent hangnails from sprouting

  • Regularly apply cuticle oil or lotion on your hands and nails
  • Moisturize your hands regularly 
  • Don’t cut your cuticles 
  • Avoid using products with acetone in them (it can be dehydrating for your nails)
  • Wear gloves when you wash the dishes 
  • Wear gloves in winter months 
  • Don’t bite your nails 
  • Use gloves when doing labor-intensive jobs such as gardening and household cleaning

If you find yourself needing to cut your cuticles, you should soak them in warm water and then push them back gently with a cuticle stick. When moisturizing, try to apply a thicker coating and rub it into your cuticles. 

If you follow these tips, you should be able to minimize your risk of hangnails occurring. 

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