What Causes Hangnails – And How to Avoid Them | Todays Secrets

causes hangnails

What causes hangnails?

​What do you think about the term “self-care”? 

Th​is term has long been used in therapy, but it’s now hitting the mainstream in a major way. 

Need a nap? 

Take it... 

...it’s self-care. 

Spending a little more money than usual on a gym membership? Self-care. 

​One thing I used to confirm as self-care was a biweekly manicure. Eventually, I quit going. 

Maybe it was the noxious chemicals at the salon I would visit. 

More than likely... 

...it was the fact that between kids and chores, professional manicures are futile.

​As it turns out, breaking up with the nail salon was for the best.

I’m on track to save almost $400 annually, but I also noticed something else.

​I pretty much never get hangnails anymore.

​I can’t believe I always thought it was normal to have at least one!

But you can easily avoid this annoying, painful grievance.

Because today, I’ll show you how.

As a bonus...

...I’ll share the ultimate in self-care: safe, at-home manicures that won’t give you hangnails.

​Or cost a fortune! In my book, saving money is self-care.

​How’d You Get That Hangnail?

​Hangnails are slivers of dry, dead skin that typically occur around the nail bed.

causes hangnails

Big deal, right?

Well, if you’ve ever picked at one, you know that it can peel down to live skin and really hurt. Keep picking, and they’ll probably bleed.

​​A nailbed and surrounding tissue is a pretty sensitive area. As such, it’s an area that can be prone to infection.

The type of infection associated with a hangnail is known as paronychia. When it worsens and causes even more swelling, it’s called a felon.

​If the (admittedly rare) felon infection occurs, it’s time to go to a doctor for treatment.

causes hangnails infected hangnail

While it’s more likely that your hangnail will cause garden-variety paronychia, an untreated felon can eventually need amputation.


If you’re with me, suddenly something as minor as a hangnail doesn’t seem so harmless.

​So, what causes hangnails?

The short answer is life.

Bold ​answer? Definitely.

But stay with me.

No matter how careful you are, you’re going to experience one sometimes.

But the following causes can leave you open for more frequent, painful hangnails:

  • arrow-right
    ​​Dehydrated skin
  • arrow-right
    ​Cold, dry weather
  • arrow-right
    ​​Aggressive manicuring
  • arrow-right
    ​Nail biting or cuticle picking
  • arrow-right
    ​Harsh or drying detergents and cleansers, including cleaning products

​Indeed, I believe that my frequent hangnails came from a combination of a few causes.

Namely, rough manicures and commercial cleaning solutions. I always had at least one painful scab sitting against my nailbed.

​And sometimes, the entire area was kind of red and inflamed, which you can treat at home.

To treat a hangnail that has bled or possibly become infected, do the following:

​#1. Soak

​Soak the affected hand/s in a dish of warm water. Add a few drops of gentle, naturally antibacterial soap.

#2. Remove as much of the hangnail as possible

​Once hands are dry, use STERILE nail clippers or cuticle scissors.

manicure scissors

Trim the hangnail as much as possible. Only clip away the obviously dry, dead part. Never get too close to the live skin.

​#3. Treat

​To finish it off, any triple-antibiotic cream will do. Bandage if desired.

​For me, firing my nail technician and switching to more, skin-friendly, earth-friendly cleaning solutions mostly straightened things out.

But wait. There’s more you can do!

​Never Get Hangnails Again!

​“Never again” may be a stretch. Still, ​the causes of hangnails are totally preventable, if you stick to these five steps.


​I’m no stranger to just slapping plain old body lotion on my hands and calling it done.

Are you guilty of this as well?

​As it turns out, most companies aren’t trying to extort more money from you by selling a separate cream for your hands.

The skin on the back of your hand is much thinner than that of your other skin.

​Also, that skin doesn’t have as many oil glands as, say, your face.

What does that mean?

It means that the area dries out much more quickly. Unfortunately, this dry, thin skin means that our hands often show our age before our faces do!

​If your hands are dry, your cuticles and nail beds probably are as well. Slivers of skin (hangnails!) can splinter off easily when your hands are dehydrated.

moisturizing cream hands

​Any hand cream you choose should be thicker than your regular lotion. Apply it any time you wash your hands, after bathing, and before bed.

​During the winter, a thicker, more occlusive balm may be necessary.

​2. Squash Bad Habits

​The jagged edges and reckless peeling away that comes with biting your nails can cause more hangnails.

​And if you’re a big-time fidgeter, those hangnails provide yet another opportunity to pick and peel.

The more hangnails you have, and the more you mess with them, the more likely you are to cause infection.

infected hangnail

​There are many ways to stop yourself from doing this, and how you get it done is entirely up to you.

But first, to avoid picking at nails, pick at something else.

​You can use a stress ball, or a rubber band around the wrist.

If it’s especially difficult to stop, try a different anxiety toy.

As you can see, there are more options than the ubiquitous fidget spinner.

​You could also find success by using a combination of mindfulness and excellent, at-home manicures.

Nonjudgmental observation of your actions, as well as clean, beautiful nails will condition you to leave your poor hands alone. 

​3. Avoid Acetone and Harsh Detergents

You’ll waste your time adding all that moisture if you’re using things that aren’t really intended to sit on skin.

​Acetone nail polish removers, bleach, degreasing dish liquids, and more wreak havoc on all skin - but especially sensitive hands. 

​First, switch to an acetone-free polish remover.

As a bonus, many “natural” forms skip formaldehyde, SLS, and phthalates.

​On top of that, I’ve found that many eco-friendly home cleaners aren’t as harsh on skin.

They smell more pleasant and are safer for pets and kids who roll around on floors and touch dirty things. Some lines even offer really effective disinfectants. 

​4. Glove Up

​What do you think of when you imagine wearing gloves to do the dishes, wash floors, and other chores?

Rubber gloves cleaning solutions

It always reminds me of those big, bright yellow gloves my mom wore.

​The rubber gloves of yesterday did often get damp and uncomfortable on the inside. My mom’s ​always looked like they were a size or two too large for her hands.

Fortunately, the gloves of today come in a range of sizing and have comfortable linings. 

​When we take that extra ten seconds to don our gloves, we’re doing a lot of good for our hands.


...you’re not soaking them in harsh solutions - even ones you think are gentle.

​Gloves help you keep moisture, but also avoid friction that can cause hangnails.

​But the real reason I remember to wear them is to preserve my home manicure handiwork.

If you’re anything like me, you don’t have time to waste. I want to keep my nails looking clean and beautiful nearly as much as I want to avoid hangnails!

​5. Clip Carefully

​Have you ever had an ingrown toenail?

If so, you probably pay more attention to how you clip your toenails these days.

Well, the same applies to our hands, and how you clip your fingernails can set you up for a hangnail. 

I’ll explain with an example:

​For example...

...you should never clip your nails vertically. You should also never clip and file nails while they’re dried out.

​Instead, do your best to trim your nails by filing them. Skip emery boards in favor of a long-lasting, durable crystal file.

​And about those cuticles…

​...you should really never clip them.

Coming up, I’ll tell you why, and exactly what to do instead. 

Here's how:

​The Perfect Home Manicure

manicure tools

I once read that 75% of nail salons don’t follow state disinfection protocol.

Umm... excuse me?

​I think I’ll pass.

Hey, maybe you’re lucky enough to have met a brilliant, eco-friendly, super-clean manicurist.

But if you ever want to save major cash and prevent ​hangnails and their causes, just follow these steps.

​First​: Remove old polish

First things first - make the canvas blank again. Use nail polish remover and a few cotton rounds to get every last bit off.

​Dealing with stubborn glitter polish that won’t leave?

Then try this: soak a cotton round in remover and wrap it around the tip of your finger.

Next, wrap a layer of aluminum foil over top of that. Wait 10 minutes before removing the foil. 

​The glitter polish should now wipe right off.

​​Second​: Cuticle protocol

​Your cuticle clipper might help trim down a hangnail, but it’s no good for clipping cuticles.

Your cuticles actually exist to protect your nailbeds.

If they weren’t there, bacteria could slip in, and you’d get infections more frequently and easily.

​This was the part of the salon manicure that caused hangnails for me.

But now, I just gently push them back for a neater, smoother nail surface.

Try to avoid sharp metal pushers, and go for a rubber one that won’t rip at skin.

​It’s also not necessary to push the cuticle all the way back to the edge of your nailbed.

Your goal should be to reduce the amount of nail surface it takes up. It may take practice to do so uniformly on each nail, but the important part is being gentle.

​If you have tough cuticles, soak your nails first. But make sure your hands and nails are dry before the next step.

​Third​: File

​YouTube is actually an excellent resource when it comes to learning how to file nails properly. 

Use a crystal file and work in one direction only. Going back and forth causes splitting, and weakens your nails overall.

​Do not file the vertical edges of your nails. Like clipping vertically, this can cause hangnails. Stick to the top edge, and work horizontally. Remove all dust or shavings.

​Also, never file or “buff” the surface of your nail. If you have ridges, that can be taken care of during the next step.

​​Fourth​: Apply polish

​To really make polish stick and fill in ridges, begin with a base coat. Choose a nontoxic formula.

As a bonus, it will protect your nails from being stained yellow by dark polishes. 

​After the base dries, it’s time for color. A few hints here:

  • arrow-right
    ​​Swipe a very thin amount of polish horizontally across the tips first. This will prevent that all-too-familiar tip chipping and tip wear which can ruin a manicure within hours of finishing.

  • arrow-right
    ​Never apply from the bottom up. Rather, start at the center, nudge to the bottom, and swipe back up to the tip. Repeat for each side. Avoid polishing all the way down to the cuticle, as this will lead to peeling and uneven wear. 

  • arrow-right
    ​​Let each layer of color dry completely before proceeding to the next coat. True, this eats up time, but you’ll be surprised how much longer you’ll go without chipping!

  • arrow-right
    ​Finish with a top coat. A good top coat can hide a multitude of sins, namely any tiny skips, drags, or snags that need smoothing.

​​Finally​: Oil it up

​Once you’re all dry, it’s time to replenish moisture. Massage a thick cream into hands.

From there, apply a drop of cuticle oil onto the base of each nail bed. If your nails are really and truly dry, massage a cuticle balm in instead.

Applying cuticle oil to nails

Your ​Bonus: Foods for Stronger, Healthier Nails

​You’ve probably heard that biotin is the best supplement you can take for hair and nail growth.

But for many of us, it can cause acne, or be completely ineffective for growth. 

​So, if you want to grow long, strong nails naturally over time (and keep them that way), your diet is the key!

Here are some foods I’ve found with the high amounts of vitamins and minerals to make it happen:

  • arrow-right
  • arrow-right
    ​Coconut Oil
  • arrow-right
  • arrow-right
    ​Brazil nuts
  • arrow-right
    ​Farm-fresh organic eggs
  • arrow-right
    ​Chia seeds
  • arrow-right
    ​Pumpkin seeds
  • arrow-right

​Final Word on: What Causes Hangnails – And How to Avoid Them | Todays Secrets

What Causes Hangnails – And How to Avoid Them | Todays Secrets

​We take our hands for granted.

You don’t know how much you use them until using them hurts!

​Hangnails seem like a necessary evil in this life. The truth is, you probably get them more often than you need to.

And because infection can slip in deep via the nailbed, you need to take them a bit more seriously.

​To prevent them, stop biting your nails.

Give yourself a safe and gentle manicure at home, and never clip your cuticles.

Make applying hand cream a lasting habit. Finally, avoid making skin contact with caustic solutions and stripping soaps.

I want to know what you think. How often do you get hangnails?

Could you teach yourself to do your own manicures?

If you already do them, what tips would you share?

​Share with us ​now in the comments below! And I’ll see you soon.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 0 comments