The Right Way to Trim Your Toenails
You can protect your little piggies from ingrown nails and infection by following some simple steps
When it comes to toenail trimming, many people take a minimalist approach: a quick clip when they notice their toenails are snagging their socks or tights. And that’s fine: You don’t need a professional pedi to keep your toes tidy.
What you do need are the right tools and technique. Otherwise you could put yourself (or someone else, such as your child) at risk for an ingrown toenail or infection.
“Toenails tend to curve at the edges and dig into the fleshy part of the skin along the sides. If you angle your clippers too deeply, you may be leaving part of the nail in the fold which can lead to an ingrown,” explains podiatrist Ami Sheth, DPM, a spokesperson for the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA).
Incorrect clipping can also cause nicks and cuts, which can be particularly problematic for people with diabetes. “Because of poor blood flow, a small scrape could potentially turn into a larger one and become infected,” explains Sheth. Also some people with diabetes have decreased sensation in their toes and may not feel the pain of an ingrown nail until it’s quite severe.
To keep your toes healthy as well as neatly trimmed, follow these simple steps:
Choose your weapon wisely. The best tool for trimming toenails is a simple clipper. Sheth prefers the “plier” type, which is flat across the bottom, rather than the clam-shaped variety. The curved blades of manicure scissors and fingernail clippers can lead to ingrown nails.
Get it straight. A rounded edge increases the risk of an ingrown toenail so cut your nails straight across. That way you can see the edges and know they aren’t digging into the tender sides of the nail bed. A nail file or emery board can come in handy for smoothing rough edges. Gently file in one direction: Sawing back and forth or using too much pressure could cause the nail to split.
Keep it clean. Use a rubber or wooden manicure stick to clean under nails, advises the APMA. Never dig for dirt with something sharp; you could easily puncture your skin. Don’t cut cuticles either: They provide a barrier against infection. (If you’re having your toes tended to at a nail salon, tell the pedicurist to push your cuticles back rather than clip them.)
Pamper your pinky. This little piggy is the hardest to trim, in part because it’s so small and often misshapen. (The smallest toe takes a beating because of the pressure and rubbing it withstands against the inside of shoes.) The APMA recommends filing down the thickness of the littlest toe and then clipping it just to the edge of the flesh and no lower.
Give thick nails special TLC. If your toenails are really thick, see a podiatrist. You may have picked up a foot fungus. “There are treatments that may help the nail, including topical solutions that soften it,” points out Sheth. The doctor will also decide if you should attempt to cut your toenails yourself or whether he should do it. It may be possible to file down the thickness with an emery board before trimming.