Are You Trimming Your Toenails Correctly?

by | Aug 2, 2016

Louise Hollis currently holds the record for the world’s longest recorded toenails. Her nails measure approximately six inches long, and as a result, she can only wear open-toed shoes to accommodate her curving nails.

Unless you plan to break her record, however, you likely try to keep your nails trim and tidy. Every week or so, you grab the clippers and set to work. Since you learned to trim your nails as a child, you might have never given much thought to your technique.

But keep in mind that your toenails require a little care and finesse to stay healthy, no matter their length. If you take shortcuts or practice bad habits, you can increase your risk for infection, ingrown toenails, and toe injuries.

As you trim your toenails, take care to avoid the following mistakes.

1. You Try to Clip Everything in One Go

Some toenail clippers come in larger sizes, making them ideal for trimming the nail on your bigger toes. When your schedule seems tight on time, you may feel tempted to trim the entire nail in one easy clip. In just a few seconds, you can have all your toenails back down to a manageable length.

But if your clippers don’t fit each nail perfectly, a single clip will usually result in breaking and tearing the sides of the nail. As the nail grows, the jagged, uneven edge will snag or tear, increasing the risk of ripping into the nail bed.

For best results, use a few tiny cuts to make a straight line across your toenail.

2. You Trim Your Nails Too Short

Toenails grow more slowly than fingernails. Although speeds vary between individuals, researchers estimate that toenails grow at an average rate of 0.063 inches per month. To avoid extra time bending over the trash can, you may trim your toenails super short and simply wait for them to grow out again.

Yet particularly short toenails set the stage for ingrown toenails. As the nails grown in again, they may dig into the side of the skin as you walk, creating a constantly open wound vulnerable to infection.

Additionally, short nails expose the delicate flesh beneath your nail. This flesh will be soft and raw, and as your toes have lots of nerve endings, you can expect extra sensitivity to pain and injury.

Ideally, you should only trim the white part of your nail that extends past each toe’s nail bed. Do not trim into the pink-colored nail beneath that line.

3. You Round the Nail Edge

Many people assume that they should trim their toenails in the same way they trim their fingernails. In fact, some even use the same clippers to do both jobs.

But fingernail clippers often have a curved edge, which is suitable for your fingers but not so much for your toes. When you use fingernail clippers or curved manicure scissors, you risk digging into the tender sides of your nail bed and increase your risk for ingrown toenails.

Look for larger toenail clippers with a straight edge. If you struggle to get a smooth edge when you trim, use an emery board or nail file after trimming to achieve the look you want.

4. You Cut Your Nails When Wet

When you prepare for the day, you may do a lot of your personal hygiene and grooming in one session. You might brush your teeth, shower, comb your hair, and trim your nails as quickly as possible so you can shift your focus to more important tasks.

Although your nails seem easier to trim when you’ve just stepped out of the shower or bath, give your feet some time to dry fully before you grab the clippers. Wet nails are softer than dry nails, and in this state, your nails will bend or tear rather than snap. Dry nails will ensure you have a smoother, cleaner cut.

Do Your Feet Need Some Extra Care?

When you practice good nail trimming habits, you can keep your toes looking healthy and feeling comfortable. But even the best techniques can’t eliminate your risk for nail issues entirely.

If you’ve noticed toenail fungus, ingrown toenails, darkened nails, or similar issues, don’t hesitate to talk to your local foot doctor. He or she may recommend adjustments in your trimming techniques or changes to your lifestyle to heal your nails and protect them from damage.

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