Ingrown Fingernail Treatment Options

At-home and when to see a healthcare provider

An ingrown nail develops when one or both sides of your nail grow into the skin. Over time, this can cause pain, swelling, and even infection.

Ingrown fingernail treatment can often be done at home by soaking your finger and using antibiotic ointment, but there are times when you might need to see a healthcare provider.

This article discusses what ingrown nails are, why they happen, how to treat an ingrown nail, and when to see a healthcare provider.

Woman's fingernails

Konstantin Aksenov EyeEm / Getty Images

What Is an Ingrown Fingernail?

Although ingrown nails are more common in toenails, ingrown fingernails also occur, making everyday activities like typing on a keyboard or holding a pen painful.

Under normal circumstances, healthy nails grow straight. However, when the nail plate begins to curve downward and grows into the skin, you may end up with an ingrown fingernail. Over time, it can become swollen, painful, and even infected.

Home remedies are often enough to treat an ingrown fingernail, but if you begin to experience severe pain or notice signs of infection, it's important to speak with a healthcare provider.

What Are At-Home Ingrown Fingernail Treatment Options?

If you are experiencing discomfort and notice your nail is growing into the skin, you may have an ingrown nail. Unless you have diabetes, poor blood circulation in your hands, or an infection, you can treat your ingrown nail at home. You may also take Advil (ibuprofen) or Tylenol (acetaminophen) to relieve pain.

People with diabetes or other conditions that restrict blood flow are at a greater risk for complications related to ingrown nails. They should be extra cautious with nail care and seek medical attention right away if they notice an ingrown fingernail.


To treat an ingrown fingernail at home:

  • Apply a warm compress or soak your finger in warm water three to four times per day.
  • Keep the finger dry the rest of the day.
  • Apply antibiotic ointment.
  • Place a small piece of wet cotton or dental floss under the nail.

Should you dig out an ingrown fingernail?

No. Cutting or digging out the ingrown part of a fingernail can make the condition worse. Instead, soak the ingrown fingernail in warm water, apply antibiotic ointment, and keep the area dry.

Medical Ingrown Fingernail Treatments

If you don't see improvements using home remedies to treat your ingrown nail, your healthcare provider may recommend medical treatment. Although it is more common to have surgery for ingrown toenails than for ingrown fingernails, fingernail treatments may include removing the affected area of the nail or medication.

Chemical Matricectomy

Partial nail avulsion, which removes the portion of the nail that has grown into the skin, combined with chemical matricectomy, is considered the most successful treatment option for ingrown nails.

The process involves numbing the infected area with local anesthesia and removing the ingrown portion. Next, a chemical agent such as phenol or sodium hydroxide is rubbed into the nail bed. Antibiotic ointment is then applied, and gauze is wrapped around the nail.

Prescription Antibiotics

When infection is present, you may need prescription antibiotics. Your healthcare provider may also prescribe antibiotics after a surgical procedure.

Can an ingrown fingernail heal itself?

Yes. Ingrown fingernails usually heal on their own. Soaking your finger in warm water, using antibiotic ointment, and keeping it dry can help it heal faster.

Paronychia and Felons

Paronychia is an infection of the skin that surrounds a fingernail or toenail. It is characterized by pain and inflammation and can develop within hours. Yellow pus may also develop under the cuticle. Paronychia is often caused by Staphylococcus aureus (bacteria) entering a break in the skin around the nails.

Without proper treatment, it can spread to other nail folds, leading to chronic infection and long-term nail damage.

A felon is a serious infection deep inside the fingertip. It can lead to a painful, pus-filled abscess. It is often caused by a bacterial infection, primarily from Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.

Although paronychia and felon are both infections primarily caused by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, a felon is often more painful and severe than paronychia. If paronychia is left untreated, it can grow and spread, resulting in a felon.

Causes of Ingrown Fingernails

Ingrown fingernails can happen for no apparent reason. However, they often result from cutting the nail too short or not cutting it straight across, causing the nail to grow directly into the skin instead of out.

Other factors contributing to ingrown fingernails include:

  • Washing hands frequently
  • Having curved fingernails
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Fingernail injury
  • Getting manicures
  • Broken nails

How to Prevent Ingrown Fingernails

Taking preventive measures is key to avoiding painful ingrown fingernails. Keeping your nails trimmed and regularly soaking your nails are all ways to prevent ingrown fingernails.

How to Trim Nails

When trimming your nails, it's important to:

  • Soak your hand in water to soften the nail before trimming.
  • Use a clean nail trimmer.
  • Trim nails straight across the top and avoid rounding your nails.
  • Avoid cutting nails too short.

You can also soak your nails in tea tree oil. Tea tree oil has antifungal and antiseptic properties that may help combat nail fungus.


Most of the time, ingrown nails are caused by improper trimming and can be treated at home. Applying warm compresses to the area and using antibiotic ointment can help the ingrown nail heal faster. However, if you suspect an infection, you should call your healthcare provider.

9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  5. American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. Paronychia nail infection.

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By Lindsey DeSoto, RD, LD
Lindsey Desoto is a registered dietitian with experience working with clients to improve their diet for health-related reasons. She enjoys staying up to date on the latest research and translating nutrition science into practical eating advice to help others live healthier lives.