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Nail Issues: hangnails

Hangnails are not really nails; neither are they ingrown nails.   They are the dry, often brittle skin-flaps that appear hanging around the perimeter of your fingernails. If they get caught on something, they can be torn off and leave you with a break in your skin, exposed to potential infection.

Hangnails can have any of a number of causes, including skin irritation due to exposure to chemicals or allergens; damage from nail-biting; prolonged or frequent immersion in water, cutting or picking of the cuticles, or minor injuries. During cold weather, your skin is likely to be drier and more prone to developing hangnails.

Usually, you can fix them by simply clipping them off. Hangnails that are not looked after correctly can be a problem however, and they may lead to more serious consequences, such as bacterial, fungal or yeast infections in the skin surrounding the nail. Symptoms of infection usually include redness, swelling and soreness.

Preventing hangnails

As a safeguard against the formation of hangnails. moisturize your hands regularly. If you bite your nails, make an effort to stop. Maintain neat and tidy nails as explained in the section ‘Keep Nails Trimmed’, page 159 in ‘Beauty: The Ultimate Cosmetic Makeover Guide. Book 2: Body, Teeth & Hair‘.

Treating Hangnails

If you have a hangnail, soften it by soaking your finger (or toe) in warm water for a few minutes. Next, snip it off cleanly with a sharp pair of nail scissor or cutters. Apply a gently antiseptic or antibacterial cream and massage it into the nail bed.
If the wound from removing the hangnail is large or deep, cover it with a bandage until it has healed.

Treating hangnail infections

Any redness, swelling, pus or soreness around the site of a hangnail probably indicates an infection. If antiseptic lotions and creams do not provide improvement, see your doctor.

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