Ingrown Toenail Tool: Is It Okay to Remove the Nasty Ourselves?

April 5, 2022
A podiatrist correcting ingrown toenail

Our toes are quite hard to reach, given that it's at the farthest end of our bodies. For convenience, we tend to ignore the pain we feel in our toes and toenails. But you find that the pain in your toenails keeps getting worse. Finally, an ingrown is eating away at your toe until you are forced to undergo surgery.

In this article, we will learn how to handle your ingrown using an ingrown toenail tool kit, treatment, and preventive care. 

Nail Ingrown Causes and Its Stages

An ingrown toenail is a common condition wherein your nail grows into the sides of your toe. However, instead of growing out, it's growing inside the skin, hence ingrown or, in medical terms, onychocryptosis or unguis incarnatus. 

Having an ingrown is pretty normal, and here are its usual causes: 

Improper cutting of nails:  Trimming your nails on the sides of your nail instead of straight across curves your nails into the nail bed. 

Bad choice of footwear: The wrong size makes it either too tight, narrow, or flat, causing discomfort and potential toe conditions.

Bad hygiene: Having wet feet can be a haven for fungi and bacteria.

Curved toenails: Toenails are slightly curved, but too curved can be irregular. 

Hereditary predisposition:  The ingrown toenail itself isn't hereditary, but the genetic factors such as curved toenails produce the ingrown. 

Foot trauma or injury: Whether it be kicking a lot of footballs or accidentally stubbing your toe on your front door, these high-impact injuries traumatize your toe and nail. 

Sports or heavy walking: Wearing closed-toe rubber shoes puts pressure on your big toe whenever you run, walk or jump. 

We don't blame you for having an active lifestyle or a busy schedule. But it's good to pay attention once you feel something unusual on your big toe. There are several signs to tell which stage you are in with your ingrown. Symptoms for each stage are: 

Stage One 

  • Swelling 
  • Pain
  • Inflammation

Stage Two 

  • Pain
  • Inflammation
  • Wound not healing
  • Granulation tissue (your body's response to the ingrown)

Stage Three

  • Pus forming 
  • Thickening and hard growing of the lateral nail fold 

Hopefully, yours is still in the early stages and can be treated at home. Otherwise, you'll need to visit a podiatrist.

Professional ingrown toenail tools against white background

Using Professional Ingrown Toenail Tools 

We know how incredibly hurtful ingrown toenails are. But, whatever you do, don't use professional tools without knowing just how severe your ingrown is. Here are the following ingrown toenail tools (starting from left to right): 

  • Ingrown toenail tool corrector - a tiny brace for your curved irregular toenail 
  • Black's file - a very thin tool used for grazing the hard skin on your towel and filing the nail edge to avoid any spike to cause an ingrown again 
  • Flat file - a broader file tool to soften the toenail's edge
  • Nail picker - a dual tool that easily lifts nail grooves and ingrown nails 
  • Medical-grade nail clippers - a larger clipper with a better grip 

Other tools used are:

  • Scraper - a scalpel to remove a tough skin with an angle 
  • Grinding machine with pencil burrs - medical machine to buff and smoothen the edges of your toenail

Medical experts don't recommend that we try to cut our toenails or remove our ingrown ones ourselves. Infection might only worsen, and you might end up with surgery. Instead, seek medical treatment with a podiatrist and take the recommended steps toward recovery.

Ingrown Toenail Home Remedies  

While you wait for your doctor's appointment, there are ways to help alleviate the pain of an ingrown toenail. Here are common treatments you can do at home: 

Apply antibiotic ointment. 

Your affected toenail can be a breeding ground for microbes that would worsen your ingrown. You can use drugstore antibiotic ointment and cream to reduce infections and promote healing. 

Common ointments are Polysporin, Bactroban, and Neosporin. 

Soak your feet in warm water. 

Give yourself a spa day at home by soaking your feet in warm water to ease the pain and reduce swelling. Soaking it three to four times a week for 20 minutes should do the trick. 

Adding Epsom salt can also give you more pain relief. 

Use apple cider vinegar.

Vinegar has many cleaning and anti-inflammatory benefits. Soak your feet in ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar and warm water for 20 minutes every day. 

Try a toe protector. 

Toe protectors look like thimbles for your toes. Usually made of cotton, silicone, or plastic, these tiny protectors can prevent any toes from bumping into your ingrown toenail. Some products even have a medicated gel to soften the toenails. 

Wear comfy footwear and socks. 

Wearing constricting socks and footwear such as boots is one of the reasons we get ingrown in the first place. So give away your tight footwear and get a truly your-size pair. 

Put cotton soaked in olive oil.

Podiatrists have found olive oil to have anti-inflammatory and healing properties. Putting the soaked cotton under the nail eases some of the ingrown pain. Unfortunately, some medical organizations, such as the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, say that putting cotton under your infected toenail will worsen the pain. 

Remove the pain with medicine.

If the pain is too much to handle, you can take over-the-counter painkillers like Tylenol.

Results vary depending on the seriousness of your ingrown. Try these remedies for a couple of days up to a few weeks. If it's still painful and affecting your daily life, you should make a follow-up with your doctor then. If the ingrown toenail doesn't heal despite treatment at home and the clinic, your podiatrist might resort to surgical treatment. 

Surgical Procedure of Ingrown Removal 

Unfortunately, severe ingrown toenail cases and ingrown that keep coming back need permanent removal. In this case, you need to visit your doctor to remove the nasty forever. 

Like any surgical procedure, it starts with sterilizing or cleaning the ingrown toenail and injecting anesthesia right after. 

You should feel a bit of a pinch with the anesthesia, so don't jolt or kick no matter what you do. This process is called freezing, and it's the hardest part of the surgery. When the toe is completely numb, your podiatrist will test if you can feel any pain. You should feel some pressure but not any pain. 

Next would be putting on the tourniquet a rubber band to push out the blood. Doctors do this for two reasons. One, it stops the blood flow so they can see everything. Second, the nail needs to be in a bloodless area, so the solution applied later will be effective. Blood during the procedure will dilute the acid, causing it to be ineffective. The doctor would then put Betadine to clean the area. 

The podiatrist would then start to unearth your toenail. After separating the nail from the nail bed, your doctor would trim the nail that's a bit curved. It's shocking how deep your nails can go into the skin. After extracting the nail, he will clean up any debris or hard skin. 

Now, to the preventive part of the surgery–the acid. The acid solution is called phenol or trichloroacetic acid, which prevents your nail from growing back in. In addition, some doctors use a heated electrical device known as cautery.

Lastly, your doctor will clean up your toe with alcohol to neutralize the acid and antibiotic cream and cover it with gauze. 

Ingrown removal usually takes 20 to 25 minutes, depending on the ingrown. So we'd say time well-spent for us to walk carefree again.

Aftercare for Your Toes 

The numbing of your healing toe lasts up to 12 hours deep. Therefore, you should lessen any walking or rigorous activities that could aggravate your toe after the surgery. 

Taking antibiotics and any pain medication is to be expected. Besides this medicine, they would ask you to apply antibiotic cream and cover the healing toe with gauze. It would help if you changed your toe dressing as needed.

The rest is pretty much up to you whether to follow these helpful toe care tips: 

  • Keep your toe clean and dry.
  • Wear open-toed footwear or loose shoes
  • Diet affects the health of your toe's ability to heal. Be sure to have a balanced diet. 
  • See your doctor for aftercare treatment or follow-up appointments. 
A foot with a bandage on its toe


Properly cutting your nails is one way to avoid another ingrown disaster. Here are some other preventive ways: 

  • Don't use tweezers or nippers to peel or pick at your toenails. We know how hard skin can be a tease, but it will only cause callus skin.
  • Trim your nails straight to avoid them from curving down your skin. 
  • Disinfect your pedicure tool kit to avoid any bacterial infection. At the same time, use the right tools when cutting your nails. 
  • It is also helpful to wear comfortable shoes or footwear with the right fit. A comfy pair will lessen any pressure on your toes. 

We know how tempting it is to remove an ingrown toenail, but doctors know best how to treat and remove this nightmare using proper professional ingrown toenail tools. 
Ergotoes is here to help you make the pain away! Check out our product reviews and buying guides for more helpful information on caring for your toes.

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