Hangnails are not nails at all, but little triangular pieces of skin at the edge of a fingernail that occassionally bleed and, are often, quite irritating. They are more common in the winter due to dry skin from the cold winter air but harsh chemicals, nail biting, and excessive hand washing can also cause the development of hangnails. If not properly cared for, hangnails can be the site at which bacteria enters the skin and causes an infection around the nail cuticle.
PREVENTION: Since dry skin is the primary cause of hangnails, moisturize the hands and nail beds several times a day to prevent hangnail development. If you are nail biter, QUIT!
TREATMENT: If you get a hangnail, don't rip it off! It'll hurt. Secondly, the site may become more inflamed and more painful. And thirdly, a larger skin wound may result.
- Cut off the hanging skin with a clean nail clipper or small nail scissor.
- Wash your hands with water and a mild soap free cleanser and apply a hand cream to the site.
- Cover the site with a Band-Aid.
- Follow this routine daily until the area where the hangnail was removed has healed.
If the area does not improve, if pain continues, or if redness and/or swelling ensues, see a dermatologist immediately.