There are few things more annoying than hangnails. They hurt, they're distracting, and they lead to infections and subsequent swollen fingers (and stinging any time you even look at a lemon). Once you have them, it's hard not to fixate on them, and despite our best efforts, it's difficult to resist picking at them and exacerbating the pesky situation.
"Hangnails occur when small portions of skin get a tear near the cuticle," says Deborah Lippmann. "They can result from a variety of things, like biting your nails, a bad manicure, dry skin, using harsh soap and detergents, cold temperatures, and 'waterlogged' hands" (that result when you're in the pool for hours).
Meet the Expert
Deborah Lippmann is a world famous celebrity manicurist and the founder of her eponymous nail care brand.
The one upside of hangnails is that they're preventable. A little TLC for your hands and nails can go a long way. Simple steps such as moisturizing and snipping (the right way) can safely and painlessly make a hangnail exist stage left. So if you're wondering how to get rid of hangnails, you've come to the right place. We've put together the top tips for hangnail prevention, as well as the products to assist.
Head below to study up on how to get rid of hangnails painlessly (and prevent them before they even pop up).
The three principles of hangnail prevention, according to Lippmann, are "hydrate, moisturize and wear gloves." Just as moisturizing is essential for beautiful, healthy skin, it's a key factor in keeping hangnails at bay. "Think about your face: You probably wouldn't wash your face and not moisturize after," Lippmann also told Prevention. "We always wonder why our hands and cuticles are dry, but it's because we're not treating them properly."
Don't Cut Your Cuticles, Just Push Them Back
While manicurists may snip away at your cuticles, you should avoid cutting them yourself. Instead, apply a cuticle-removing cream and gently push them back with a cuticle pusher. This will keep nails looking clean while avoiding irritation and eventual hangnails. "The cuticle function is to protect new nails from bacteria when they grow out from the nail root," says Lippmann. "The area around the cuticle is delicate. It can get dry, damaged, and infected."
When hangnails do spring up, you can carefully snip them off. Be sure to only remove dead pieces of skin. Cutting too close to the flesh can worsen the problem and even lead to infections, if not just deep, painful hangnails. "Be certain when you use your cuticle nipper to place the tool right near the base of the hangnail and open and close it without pulling. We tend to close the nipper and PULL the skin which creates larger problems," cautions Lippmann.
Try a Nail Soak
Give your hands the spa treatment with an at-home nail soak using coconut oil. This will deeply moisturize your skin while softening cuticles. Wrap hands in hot towels after, then be sure to moisturize with lotion or cream. "My cuticle cream, The Cure, includes patented Raspberry Stem Cell Extract, Red Algae, Shea Butter, Sodium Hyaluronate and Vitamins A, C and E. This luxurious cream instantly relieves dry cuticles as it repairs and protects. Apply as often as needed," says Lippmann.
For an extra dose of healing hydration, apply argan oil or an oil rich in vitamin E directly to the cuticles before sleep to soften and hydrate nail beds. You can also re-apply throughout the day when hands are feeling dry or you feel a hangnail beginning to rear its ugly head. Once the hangnail has softened, you can carefully snip away, again being sure not to cut too close to the skin. During the day when you don't want oil all over your fingers (and keyboard), try this non-greasy, pocket cuticle serum from Olive & June.