Hangnails are small pieces of dead skin that split off from the side or base of a fingernail. They often catch on clothes and papers, which can be painful. Luckily, fixing and preventing hangnails is fairly easy.
When you notice a hangnail, your first instinct may be to bite or tear it off. That is not a good way to take care of the problem, as you may end up tearing the surrounding skin, and may even cause it to become infected. The proper way to remove a hangnail is to clip it with a pair of small, sharp manicure scissors. It is best to soften the hangnail before clipping it by soaking it in warm water or a mixture of oil and water. Clip off as much of the hangnail as possible without cutting the actual cuticle, which is the living skin around the fingernail.
If you suffer from hangnails frequently, you may wish to keep a mini manicure set handy with items such as nail clippers, manicure scissors and cuticle cream. At the very least, keep some bandages in your desk or purse. That way you can wrap a bandage around the affected finger until you can treat it properly. This will prevent the hangnail from catching on things and keep you from biting or tearing the hangnail off.
Since dry cuticles cause most hangnails, the most obvious means of prevention is keeping the hands, especially the cuticles, moisturized. Effective moisturizers include rich hand cream, cuticle cream or oil, petroleum jelly or olive oil or vitamin E oil. This is especially important during the winter and summer months, as the winter wind and summer sun can dry the skin. Adequate hydration will help moisturize the body from the inside, so be sure to drink plenty of water.
Some professions can be especially drying to the hands. Medical professionals and those who handle food must wash their hands frequently. People employed in these industries will need to make moisturizing the hands a priority. Paper absorbs oil from the skin, so those who handle lots of paper in a mailroom or office setting can be more susceptible to hangnails. It may be a good idea to wear gloves while handling paper. This is also advisable when cleaning with harsh chemcials or washing dishes by hand.
Biting or picking at the nails or cuticles can also cause hangnails, so don't do this. Also, the cuticles should never be cut, but instead should be pushed back gently using a cuticle tool.
By following these simple tips for fixing and preventing hangnails, you can save yourself much pain and aggravation. Your hands do so much for you, so be sure to take care of them.