Rehab Your Nails: What's a hangnail?

9:45 AM

Ahh...hangnails.  Those pesky little buggers that ruin our photos, annoy us to the point of insanity, and leave our fingers stinging from everything we touch.  Yuck.  Hangnails aren't just an annoyance for nail bloggers or a pain for everyone else though...they're dangerous.  Everyday your hands come into contact with MILLIONS of matter how many times you wash your hands.  And open cuts on your fingers are a very easy way to get sick or worse!  So what can you do?

The number one rule with hangnails is NEVER EVER EVER pull one.  Never.  Ever seen that scene in Black Swan where Natalie Portman pulls a hangnail and ends up practically severing her finger? Well, OK that might be extreme but it DOES hurt and it DOES leave a nasty cut on your hands for days or weeks sometimes.  If you do have a hangnail, the best way to get rid of it is to nip it with your cuticle nippers at an upward angle and then apply cuticle oil to help moisturize the area. A better question can I prevent hang nails? And to answer that it's important to know that there are two basic kinds of hangnail:

Here's the first:

These are the hangnails you get generally towards the top of your nail, which tear down the sides and seem to never end if you pull them.  They're relatively easy to prevent but it takes a bit of time to see the results.  This type of hangnail is caused by not pushing enough of your cuticle.  When you push cuticles, you want to be sure you're including the entire nail plate, even deep into the sidewalls of your nails.  I'll be doing a followup cuticle care post to address this particular issue but for now, you get the idea.  This is actually cuticle which grows up the sides of your nail, if not pushed back.  When it reaches the free edge, it has no where to go so it just sort of peels back.  To take care of this simply nip the base of it while trying not to further loosen it from the nail plate.  Then be sure to push the cuticles on the sides of your nails when you do your regular routine.

Here's the second:

It's hard to see here...and I rarely have this type of hangnail so I didn't want to wait for another one!! But this type of hangnail is basically a little flap of dead skin which can occur anywhere around the base of your nail.  It includes hangnails which are caused when your live cuticle splits and peels off or bleeds.  These are caused by lack of moisture AND improper care of cuticles.  When pushing the cuticles, be sure you're not applying too much pressure.  If you press too hard you can loosen the seal on your nail and cause the cuticle to "flap" up.  If you do this you will expose your nail to bacteria (yuck) and the flap will dry out and crack.  Nipping the cuticles in a ragged or uneven pattern can also cause this to happen.  To prevent these type of hangnails, keep the cuticles and the skin around your nails well moisturized and use just enough pressure to move the cuticle, not enough to do yourself harm!! Remember, when you're pushing your cuticle, you're really cleaning the nail plate.  The cuticle you can see doesn't actually need much care which is something else I'll cover in my second cuticle care series. 

I hope this has been helpful to all of you!! Cuticles are one of those things that always seems to puzzle people about their nail care!  The more you learn, the better you can take care of yourself and the healthier your nails will be!!  Stay tuned for the next rehab your nails series: Keeping Your Cuticles Healthy WITHOUT Nipping!

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  1. This is great, thanks! I look forward to more cuticle care posts.

  2. Great article! My resolution in 2011 was to stop biting my hangnails and I've (thankfully) kicked the habit. They still pop up and I have to try not to pick on them. I'm getting better with the cuticle care and I'm looking forward to the next posts!

  3. I hardly ever get the bottom kind - but I -always- have some on the sides of my nails, my middle and ring fingers most often. I'll look forward to your next installment, and in the meantime I'll see if I can't do better pushing on the sides. ^_^

    I do think I might need something besides orange sticks to push the cuticles back, though - do you have any particular tool for the job that you recommend, or do you think orange sticks (why *are* they called that, anyway??) are sufficient?

    1. I don't use orange sticks. They aren't contoured to your nail and don't do a good job at all. I'll be talking about tools I love in an upcoming post but I recommend a spoon pusher. Ultra has a fairly cheap one which works well.

    2. (oh! And they're orange wood sticks because at one time they were made of orange wood!)

  4. really really good - a constant bane for me!!! I also get lots of withering / dryness of my middle finger, from pen pressure. Your most useful one yet!

  5. This is absolutely fabulous!! Thank you very much.

    I recently purchased Sally Hansen Cuticle remover and it is working wonders. My cuticles tend to grow like mad.

    I look forward to your next post.


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