What Causes a Hangnail and How Can You Avoid Getting Them

Let’s face it, hangnails are a nuisance. When dealing with them, it’s vital to take proper care of your nails and avoid things like infections. So how do you treat a hangnail and how do you get rid of them? Here are some of the best ways to keep your manicures free of hangnails. 

What Are Hangnails

To fully understand what causes a hangnail, you have to understand what they are first. Hangnails are pieces of skin that, as the name suggests, hang off your nail. It’s not the same as a broken nail and that’s actually a misnomer. Hangnails are not made of the nail plate, but are actually a piece of cuticle skin.

So if the side of your nail looks like its peeling, that’s a hangnail. Cuticles protect both your skin and nail from outside bacteria. When the cuticle starts to lift from the nail bed, that’s how you get a hangnail. But what are some of the things that cause hangnails to occur?

What Causes Hangnails?

There are many reasons you might get a hangnail. Here are some of the most common ones.

If you have incredibly dry hands, you are more prone to hangnails. This is the same idea as split ends in your hair. When the hair isn’t properly moisturized, it cracks and breaks. People who have naturally dry skin need to make sure their nails and cuticles are hydrated every day. 

During the colder months of the year there is less moisture in the air. Even if you don’t have naturally dry skin, it’s likely to start to crack at freezing temperatures. This is especially difficult for people who live in cold climates year round. 

Another reason you might get hangnails is due to washing your hands too much. People who have jobs that require a lot of hand washing are particularly vulnerable to hangnails. This includes cooks, healthcare workers and bartenders. This is a difficult factor to consider when trying to avoid hangnails. You can’t simply avoid washing your hands to preserve your manicure. 

One of the lesser-known causes of hangnails is a protein deficiency. Both your nails and skin are made of proteins, so if your body is lacking nutrients that it needs, it could lead to cracking and peeling skin. You may want to talk to your doctor about boosting the protein in your diet to avoid hangnails. 

Accidents that cause trauma to the nail bed can also result in hangnails. This includes things like paper cuts and pinching your skin too hard in a door frame. The best way to avoid this is by wearing protective gear when dealing with dangerous objects. 

One of the most avoidable causes of hangnails is picking your finger skin. This is usually done absent-mindedly as a fidget mechanism. If you are trying to quit biting your cuticles or nails, try applying a bitter tasting polish to them. 

How To Avoid Hangnails

Now that you know how you end up with a hangnail, let’s talk about the ways you can avoid getting them. 

Moisturizing your nails is the first step to keeping them healthy. Cuticle oil and balms are useful for preventing hangnails because they shield your skin from outside factors. 

You can also soak your nails about once a week for 10-15 minutes to soften them, and then apply your ointment. However, don’t over soak your nails because that could weaken them. 

When you are cutting your nails, don’t clip too close to the cuticle area. Clipping off a bit of skin next to your nail bed is the easiest way to end up with a hangnail. Instead, clip your nails straight across and then shape them with a nail file. 

During the wintertime, it is essential to keep your hands out of the cold. Remember to put on gloves when going outside and to keep them stored indoors. Your gloves are meant to keep your hands warm, not to warm your hands up after they’ve already been exposed to freezing temperatures. 

It is also helpful to wear gloves when doing other activities that require a lot of handiwork. This includes things like gardening where you might get your hands dirty or even break a nail. 

One of the worst things for nails is acetone. It’s a chemical solvent that is used to remove polish and glue and contains the same ingredients as paint strippers. Acetone causes dehydration to the nail cells and worsens dry or brittle nails. If you need to remove some nail polish, try using a method that is acetone-free to save your cuticles. 

How To Treat Hangnails

So you’ve already got a hangnail. What’s next? We’ll tell you. 

The first thing you should know is that ripping it off will only make it worse. This will pull other skin off with the hangnail and expose your skin to more bacteria. Your entire nail will likely become irritated and red. 

Before you start to treat the hangnail, make sure you thoroughly wash your hands. Use warm water with soap for at least 30 seconds. This will prevent more germs from being spread to the area. 

Soften the cuticle and hangnail with warm water. Next, put your hand with the hangnail on a flat surface. Sanitize a pair of nail clippers and then cut the excess skin off the hangnail. 

If this happens on your dominant hand, you may need to ask for help from a roommate or family member for assistance 

Protect the area afterward with antibiotic ointment. If your hangnail starts to bleed after trimming it, apply a band aid immediately. If it becomes infected and lasts more than two weeks, contact your doctor. 

The last step for treating a hangnail is to moisturize the area. Keep it hydrated to prevent further damage. 

Signs Of A Hangnail

You might be wondering why something so small can hurt you so badly. This is mainly because there are many nerve endings in the fingertips and disrupting any of them can cause a lot of discomfort. 

The signs of a hangnail usually include swelling, redness, and tenderness. The skin will usually be jutting out on the side of your nail and it will be quite obvious to see. 

The signs that your hangnail has become infected are a little bit more severe. If this is the case, your skin will be puffy around the area, feel hot to the touch, and you’ll feel a throbbing sensation. This could also result in a fever or chills. 

Hangnails are extremely common and there is usually no cause for concern. However, if your hangnail forms blisters, changes color, or the infection spreads, it could be a more serious infection that needs medical attention. 

Do Manicures Cause Hangnails?

Everyone wants their nails to be healthy and hangnail free. But does that mean giving up manicures forever?

Well, there is a chance that getting your nails done could cause hangnails or other nail problems. If you get any polish on your skin, if you let it dry and then peel it off, it will leave the skin dry and prone to hangnails. 

So if you are going to a salon, or doing your nails yourself, be careful while applying the polish. Hangnails also occur when nail technicians fit you with the wrong size nail for your finger. If the nail is too big, it will cause friction between your cuticle and the fake nail. 

This can also happen with cheap press-on nails. When you apply a nail that doesn’t correctly fit your nail bed, it can cause a lot of problems. The biggest one being that the nail will not stay on for very long. 

Clutch Nails Is Different

If you’re looking for a solution to manicures that cause hangnails, we’ve got you covered. Clutch Nails has come up with a revolutionary way to make press-on nails that last. Each set comes with 24 different nails for you to use. 

This way, you’ll find your perfect fit no matter what. Every set also comes with a nail file and nail glue for easy application.

But wait, we haven’t even told you the best part yet. These nails are reusable! That’s right! You can use these nails more than once and get the most out of your purchase. Our nails are designed to last up to five times longer than regular manicures. 

Wrapping Up

Nobody wants to deal with hangnails. They are one of the most miserable parts of nail maintenance, but luckily, they’re easily avoidable. As long as you follow these tips for healthy nails and cuticles, you should have gorgeous, pampered nails!


Hangnails | Healthline

What Causes Hangnails, And How Do I Stop Getting Them? | Women's Health Mag

How to Remove, Heal, and Prevent Hangnails | GQ 

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