Our hand health isn’t something we pay particular attention to—that is until we get a pesky hangnail or two. Unfortunately, hangnails can not only look unattractive, but tend to be quite painful, and they almost seem to appear out of nowhere.
So what are they? “A hangnail is a piece of torn or jagged skin which surrounds the root of the nail,” says skin expert Caleb Backe. “Hangnails are not exclusive to the fingers, but it is somewhat rare to suffer from one on a toe. They are more common in the winter and in any situation that would promote the dryness of skin.”
To banish hangnails once and for all, you’ll just have to pay closer attention to the health of your hands and make a few little tweaks to your grooming habits. Here are six ways to prevent hangnails and get rid of them once and for all.
“The best way to take care is apply intense moisturizer 2–3 times a day,” says dermatologist Dr. Sampada Avinash Thakare. If you don’t have moisturizer, you can also use petroleum jelly, coconut oil or olive oil to keep your skin hydrated.
2. Avoid Products With Acetone
Nail polish remover is handy, but it can wreak havoc on your hands. “Stop using products with acetone, since it may cause your skin to be more prone to dryness and breakage, thus increasing the chance of hangnail,” says Backe. Look for acetone-free nail polish removers or opt for an all-natural version.
3. Avoid Picking The Skin
As tempting as it may be, it’s essential to stop picking at the skin. “Stop biting or chewing your nails,” says Backe. Picking at hangnails is what makes them worse and can increase your risk of infection.
4. Clip The Skin Around The Nails
If you’re tempted to pick at your skin, clip it off instead. “Soaking the affected hangnail in warm water will help to make it more susceptible to nail clippers or cuticle cutters,” says Backe. “It is imperative to cut off the hangnail at the source, and to make sure that it returns to normality and rejoins its epidermal brothers and sisters.”
5. Don’t Over-File
Over-filing the side of your nails too much can cause hangnails, celebrity manicurist Jin Soon Choi told Refinery29. Keeping your nails painted, even with clear polish, can help prevent you from filing too often and creating more hangnails.
6. Wear Gloves
Wearing gloves can help prevent your skin from getting too dry. Wear gloves in cold weather and when you’re doing dishes or submerging your hands in warm water. Keeping your skin hydrated is key to preventing those dreaded hangnails. It looks like your hand health does matter after all!