You trim your nails perfectly, manicure, and polish them to perfection. And suddenly, you see a tiny bit of thick skin jutting out from the side of the fingernail, isn’t that irritating? That thick, jagged piece of skin is the hangnail. This rarely occurs on the toes, it's more frequent on the fingers. However, contrary to their name, they aren’t a part of the nails, and though small, they cause much discomfort, irritation, and pain to the person.

There are many causes of the occurrence of hangnails. They may occur due to cracked and brittle skin. Hangnails occur more during winters when the skin becomes dry due to cold weather. More significantly, anything that makes the skin of the hand dry causes hangnails to occur. People who have a habit of biting nails and clipping down their cuticles too carefully to the nail bed will also have hangnails.

Why Do We Get Hangnails?

Hangnails are a common occurrence and are caused by several circumstances. Many people experience hangnails due to the cold and dry season which makes the skin drier and prone to breakouts or when the person frequently washes their hands. Hangnails are also caused by trauma like a paper cut or an excessive case of fingerpicking.

Treatment of Hangnails

In the case of treating hangnails, one should never give in to the temptation of biting off or ripping off the hangnail. This will tear the skin and may lead to bleeding and pain. For effectively removing a hangnail, one should follow these steps:

  • Wash hands to stop germs from spreading to the area
  • Soften the irritant hangnail with warm and soapy water. One can also use mineral oil or Vaseline to soften the hangnail.
  • Once it is softened, with the help of a nail clipper or a cuticle scissor, cut off the hangnail. Make sure to chip off the part of the hangnail which is outside the base and not rip off the entire hangnail.
  • If accidentally one chip off too close to the nail-bed and blood oozes out, they should rinse the area with water, apply antibacterial ointment, and adequately cover the area with a bandage.
  • If the hangnail is cut off without it leading to bleeding, make sure to moisturize the area.

Hangnail Symptoms

Hangnail causes a lot of discomfort and irritation. They appear at the base of the nail along the sides. If the hangnail swells, it puts pressure on the nerve endings beneath it, causing further discomfort. Symptoms of a hangnail occurrence are:

  • Jutting out pieces of skin alongside the nails
  • redness of the nail bed
  • swelling of the nail
  • pain and tenderness in the nail and finger

If a hangnail becomes infected, there would be a warm pus-filled abscess in the nail. 

Why Prevent Occurrence of Hangnail

Hangnails should be treated as worsening could lead to severe infection. If the hangnail is exposed to bacteria or fungus for a prolonged time, it will cause an infection. As such, it is necessary to keep the hands free of any dirt or debris.


There is a hangnail infection the person is experiencing the following symptoms:

  • Swollen and skin around the injury
  • Light pus in the nail bed or the hangnail area
  • The skin burning or feeling hot to touch
  • Persistent fever or chills
  • Throbbing pain in the finger

One can apply a topical antibiotic cream and bandage it up to reduce the risk of further infection. Proper fingernail care would prevent the occurrence of hangnails.

  • Wear gloves and cover your hands during cold weather.
  • Wear work gloves during washing, gardening, and household cleaning activities
  • Don’t chip the cuticles, even on a professional manicure appointment. Instead, properly soak the cuticles in warm water, and gently push them back with a cuticle remover.
  • Always moisturize your hands.
  • Avoid nail-bitingly.
  • Avoid acetone-containing products. Acetone dries the skin.

Hangnails are a common sight during cold weather. Biting fingernails and chipping the cuticles make a person more prone to hangnails. Regularly take care of your hands and moisturize them properly to avoid hangnails. If a hangnail persists for more than a week and causes pain and pus, see a doctor.

Also Read: Yellow Nails: 5 Causes & Treatment