Hung up on a Hangnail?

Don't let a hangnail spoil your day. Here's how to help prevent them from forming in the first place.

They will typically show up alongside your fingernail. It's a triangular flap of excess skin that has separated from the fingernail or cuticle area. It is typically just 1/8" long and one end of it remains attached to the skin next to your fingernail. Get it? It will "hang" on next to your "nail". That must be how they got their name. This flap of skin will usually dry out, stick straight up (or out), and it can tend to become snagged in clothing or when you run your fingers through your hair. Amazing that something so small can hurt so much!

They are usually the result of dryness, but things like cutting the cuticle, biting your nails or suffering an injury might also cause them.

They can be pretty painful, especially when they are constantly getting snagged on things and the skin around them turns red and becomes tender to the touch. But resist the urge to pick at or gnaw it off as this can lead to Paronychia, a soft tissue infection of the fingernail. You can always cover it with a small bandage, or trim it (as soon as you notice it) with a clean, sharp pair of manicure scissors. It will typically go away in a few days. If it doesn't, it's a good idea to visit your primary care physician for a consultation.

As with most everything, prevention is the key. It's best to keep your hands, fingers and cuticles moisturized, as hangnails are more likely to form when your skin is dry. Avoid lotions with alcohol in them because that will only dry out the skin. It's usually best to not cut your cuticles, but gently push them back instead. Cover your hands with gloves if they are frequently exposed to water, harsh cleansers and other chemicals. If you're able to run a humidifier to keep the air from being so dry, then do so. Dry air is a major contributing factor in the formation of hangnails.

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