Causes and Cures for Hangnails
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Causes and Cures for Hangnails

Causes, cures and how to prevent painful hangnails.

Hangnails are the painful small strips of dry skin that appear on the side of the nail. The hangnail itself is dead skin, therefore painless, but it is still attached to the cuticle, which is living tissue and this can be painful. There are several causes for their appearance:

Cuticle Dryness

This is the most common cause of a hangnail. The cuticle around the nail can be dry for several reasons:

  • Seasonal. During winter skin tends to be dry; this is not related only to the hands and nails, but the whole body needs extra moisturizing.
  • Work environment. If you work in a place where you handle dirt, dust, paper, or other materials with your bare hands at the end of the work day the nails and cuticles will be very dry.
  • Acrylic or Artificial Nails. During the application or refill of acrylic nails, the chemicals and artificial products used can cause dryness of the cuticle.

Improper Manicure

One of the essential parts of an effective manicure is the gentle pushing of the cuticle. If the cuticle is pushed to far or cut too much, a hangnail may appear as the cuticle grows back. For tips on how to do your own manicure, please review the article Steps for a Perfect Manicure.

Nail Biting

While this habit is mostly concentrated on the nail, if the nail biting is too intense the person can damage the cuticle as well, thus having a propensity of hangnails when the cuticle grows back.

A hangnail can be easily dealt with as long as you take proper precautions and avoid the temptation of pulling or biting it off, since this will cause even more pain and possible infection. The following are tips on how you can deal with a hangnail:

Protect it

If you are prone to nail biting, having that small piece of dry flesh on your nail can be very tempting. Use gloves or a band-aid in order to keep the hangnail protected until you can properly remove it. This can also be useful if your dry cuticles are consequence of your work environment, left unprotected the hangnail can get worse.

Clip them

The best way to clip a hangnail is by first soaking it in warm water, then use cuticle clippers or very small sharp scissors to cut only the dry skin. The live tissue will go back to the cuticle and will completely heal within a few days. In the meantime, you may feel tenderness in that area until the cuticle heals; so avoid adding pressure to it.


This is more prevention than a cure, especially if you get hangnails frequently. At night apply cuticle oil, olive oil or hand and nail cream to your nails and sleep with cotton gloves so the moisturizer gets absorbed better into the skin.

To view more tips please review the article How to Take Care of Your Cuticles.

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Comments (4)

Useful information...and nicely done. Thanks Voted up!

100% perfect work. i wish I could vote this one up again.

Voted up. Very useful information

Great advice on hangnail care. I like the advice on soaking it first.