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In-Groan Issues

Sunday, August 6 2017

Two weeks ago, we spoke about some common foot issues that can make even the most experienced nail professional tuck tail and run… but we also discussed how to prevent and mostly treat these afflictions so that you can keep it pumpin’. There is an issue though that needs its own article… ingrown toenails (cue blood curdling scream).

An ingrown nail is a condition where the nail penetrates the surrounding skin. An ingrown nail usually affects only one side of the finger or toe.

Once the nail has penetrated the skin, bacteria can get into the cut and the area is at risk for infection. Clients may complain of warmth, tenderness, swelling, or redness.

How do you get it? Ingrown nails can be caused by incorrect shaping or filing. Often, a part of the nail is filed, but a pointed edge remains on the outside of the nail. That edge acts as an irritant, causing the body to respond to what it perceives as an invader. The body responds first by sending blood to the area, which creates heat and swelling. Left untreated, the nail will grow into the swollen skin that surrounds it.

Ingrown nails can also occur with persistent nail biters. Trauma, injury, or constant pressure (such as from running or too-tight shoes) can also cause an ingrown toenail. Finally, some people are predisposed to ingrown nails because of the natural shape of their nails or due to the “fleshy” nature of their toes and fingers.

A standard rule of thumb is to let a podiatrist treat this condition but you and your nail professional can help prevent ingrown nails.

Nail techs aren’t doctors. So, if you already have an ingrown nail, it’s not for the nail technician to touch. Says Karen Hodges, co-owner of NailCare Academy in Fort Myers, Florida, “We are in the ‘beauti_ cation’ business only.” Techs can cosmetically address any foot- and nail-care issues after you’re gotten the “all clear” from your doctor.

Here’s some advice for averting this toenail bummer this summer: Use the right tools. The best tools would be flat-edge nippers (nothing with an angle) and slightly curved toenail clippers. An ingrown nail file is another valuable tool; its thin tip with very fine grit can be used to smooth the nail’s curved edges. Watch the size of your tools, as well.

For instance, using a too-large curette under the toenail can generate too much pressure, lifting the nail plate and creating an area ripe for fungus.

Don’t cut the nail too short. I know, I know, you ‘re in pain and your first reaction to an ingrown nail may be to reach for the clippers and cut the nail short. However, now the outlying flesh of the toe can come up over the leading edge, forcing the nail downward into the sidewalls — causing an ingrown. A better option would be to allow the nail to grow long enough that it no longer digs into the toe. Before you can trim the nail properly, the nail should be long enough that trimming is possible.

Make “small cuts” to trim the nail. “Use small ‘nibbles’ as you work your way across the nail, rather than trying to take the length down in a single ‘bite’. Avoid flattening the nail, which can cause pain and splitting on the sides of the free edge, especially when nails are thick or tough.

Don’t cut into the corners. The nail should be cut and filed straight across. Leave the corners alone so they grow out and away from the sides of the nail. Sharp corners can cut into the skin, so use a fine flle to gently take the sharpness off the corners without rounding the nail.

Make an effort to care for the skin around the nail. Keeping the area in the vicinity of the nail healthy, supple and properly moisturized can help prevent ingrowing. Use an exfoliating scrub to keep calluses at bay and moisturize at home.

Use proper footwear. Poorly fitting footwear or extremely pointed styles can push the toenails into the nail groove area. If working in an area where there’s a risk of injury wear protective footwear, such as steel-toe boots.

Taking care of your toes should be deemed a necessity since it will affect your entire body, including how you walk, stand and do what can seem to be basic tasks. So as the old saying goes, take care of them and they’ll take care of you!

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