Updated: Aug 12, 2020

Do you ever remember someone actually teaching you about toe nail cutting.  Probably not. As a parent, it’s just not something you ever think to teach your child. Sure, tying laces, riding a bike, brushing your teeth, washing your hair, but cutting your toenails? When you are little your parents cut them for you, then at some stage, generally around teenage years they stop. Hmmmm, now that I think about it, that’s probably why we see so many ingrown nails in teenagers!

So what is the right way to cut your toenails? Everyone’s nails grow at different rates, so while there may not be a correct time to cut them, there most certainly is a correct way to do it. Unfortunately if you don’t follow these tips, you can end up with:

  • ingrown nails

  • infections of the skin at the base of the nail

  • discomfort when you walk

  • fungal infections of the nail

There are some very simple ways to avoid damaging your nails and skin when cutting your toenails at home. But a word of warning. If you have a history of ingrown nails, have trouble cutting them because you can’t reach your feet easily, very thick nails or have diabetes or a condition that compromises your immune system, we strongly recommend a podiatry visit. You may not need to come regularly but it is advisable to have your feet checked. Your podiatrist will advise you on the best way forward, what ever that means for you.

For those of you who have none of the aforementioned issues, here are some tips to keep your toenails healthy

1. Purchase a good pair of clippers

We don’t recommend the backhanded clippers, preferring clippers that look like scissors. They allow you to trim all your nails into a preferred shape. The backhanded version make cutting the big nails difficult and increase the risk of leaving a small spike of nail attached to the nail plate, which is the cause of an ingrown nail. They need to be clean. Keep them in the cover they came in, and if someone in your family has any type of nail infection, DO NOT share them.

2. Clean your feet first

Bacteria and fungus love warm, sweaty feet (yes I know, our job is gross). Good foot hygiene is imperative which means clean and dry socks and shoes, and regular washing. Clip your nails after showering, they will be softer and easier to cut.

3. Always trim your nails straight across

For people with curvy nails that cause pain down the sides, cutting away the nail seems like a good idea. This is however fraught with danger. When you cut down the side there is a chance you will leave a small section of the nail. As you nail continues to grow, this tiny spike of nail (that is often the width of a hair) will grow into the flesh like a knife, causing an ingrown nail. Ouch. Cut your nails straight across, then use a file or emery board to gently round the edges. Like you would do with your finger nails. Much safer……Oh, and DON’T pick your nails. Please.

4. Do not cut your cuticles.

The cuticle is the skin that covers the nail at the base (the end back towards your finger). This is there to prevent infection. Cutting them or excessively manicuring them by pushing them back with force can expose you to paronychia which is a bacterial infection. If you notice this skin is very red and inflammed and throbbing, this is what you have. You need to apply an antibacterial ointment to the area. You may even need antibiotics. So don’t go there. And please don’t let the pedicurist at your local nail bar do it either. Their instruments are rarely sterilised (yuck).

And please, if you have an ingrown nail please DO NOT attempt to remove it yourself. An ingrown toenail will be extremely sore, red and inflammed and there maybe pus. Come and see us. We can remove them quickly and even under local anaesthetic if it is extremely sore. The vast majority of people who try to remove their ingrown nails only make things worse. And by the way, antibiotics from your GP will NOT cure the ingrown nail. Sure they will help any infection, but unless the spike of nail is removed the infection will not go away!

We recommend everyone comes into the clinic once a year for a check up. We are able to pick issues up quickly that way and prevent more serious issues. If you have a fungal infection of the nails (or think you do), have very thick nails, ingrown nails, difficult to cut nails or diabetes we would prefer to see you more regularly. Book today.