kaia logo
what no one tells you about ingrown toenails

What No One Tells You About Ingrown Toenails

September 2021 | 5 Minute Read 

Clean beauty industry maven Mary Futher founded kaia naturals® after spending 20 years working for global beauty companies. Mary now shares her weekly content series, delivering a quick fix, home remedy, or clean beauty product suggestion for a variety of human discomforts that some may find too embarrassing to discuss.

You’re never too old or young to start learning good personal hygiene habits, including how to cut your toenails the right way. I grew up with a single father and I distinctly remember him teaching me how to cut my toenails properly. We often forget about the little things that our parental figures do to help us become the people we are today. Yes, from cutting your toenails to hosting a dinner party, we get it from them, but ingrown toenails is often something that many parents don’t cover… in this blog, I drill down to the detail.

You might be surprised to learn that your feet carry about 100 different types of bacteria, and researchers say that the area between the skin and the nail is the perfect environment for many bacteria to thrive in. The underside of your nails, house a particular family called enterobacteriaceae that consists of salmonella and E. coli

This would explain why it’s so incredibly easy to get various infections on our feet. For all the work our feet do for us, it’s important we are taking proper care of them.

ill fitting shoes can cause ingrown toenails

Causes of Ingrown Toenails

Ingrown toenails can be caused by many things: from ill-fitting shoes and incorrectly trimmed toenails, to genetic nail growth patterns and hyperhidrosis. Yes, excessive sweating may be the reason why you experience ingrown toenails and it’s a lot more common than we think. In a study published by the US National Library of Medicine, National Institute of Health, they found that over 58% of people who have ingrown toenails, also suffer hyperhidrosis on the feet. People who suffer from excessive sweating on the feet, have soft skin around their toes due to the constant moisture that the foot produces. This allows the nail to embed itself within the skin and regularly cause ingrown toenails.

How to cut your nails to avoid ingrown toenails

The reality is, we are all different and that applies to the way that our toenails grow too. Although I’m not a doctor or podiatrist, I’ve learned what works best for me, as I’m someone who is prone to ingrown toenails. However, I must advise, that if you have an ingrown toenail, especially if it’s infected, please see a professional.

The first step is using the proper (and clean!) instruments

Make sure you have the proper instruments for cutting your nails. You can use a nail clipper or manicure scissors, whichever your preference is and what’s best for your nail growth patterns. It’s important to have two sets of nail clippers, one for your toenails and one for your fingernails. Your toenails tend to be thicker and wider, that’s why your toenails require a large clipper. Children also require a different set of nail clippers that are suited to their own nails and are also just for them to use.

After every use, make sure that you are thoroughly cleaning your instruments. I keep 70% isopropyl alcohol or hydrogen peroxide in a spray bottle in my bathroom and spray them down after every use. Cleaning them will help eliminate the transfer of different bacteria and fungi. Oh, and please, please, clean the nail tools before using on another family member.

using proper instrument to avoid ingrown toenails
ingrown toenails

Frequency of nail cutting

The average person can cut their nails every six to eight weeks, keeping your nails at 1-2 millimeters in length. However, if you’re athletic, you may find that you cut them more often to keep them at a comfortable length in your shoes. But remember, don’t cut them too short, because your skin can cover the sides of your nails, causing ingrown toenails.

Cut your nails before or after showering?

Everyone wonders if you should cut your toenails before or after your shower. The answer is to cut your toenails when they are dry but soft. Soak your feet, dry them off and then wait for 5 minutes before cutting. You want to make sure that the nail is softer to cut but not too soft, you don’t want them to be too malleable that they tear and bend.

Wash your feet with antibacterial soap

Good foot hygiene is key to preventing ingrown toenails which means properly washing your feet with a natural anti-bacterial soap. Don’t just let the water drop down to your feet in the shower, make sure you’re really washing them. I developed a great bar of soap that uses apple cider vinegar and sea salt that work to eliminate bacteria and properly clean your feet as these ingredients are nature’s way of managing bacteria. 

The shape of your nail matters

Growing up my father taught me to check the edges of the nail as this is what grows into the skin and embeds itself into the skin. Make sure you have a clear path between the sides of your nail and skin (you can feel with your fingers, to make sure). Then cut straight cross, don’t follow the curve of your toe. Reference the image below for guidance.

To file or not to file?

Yes. To my previous point, you want to make sure there are no jagged edges that could get caught on anything and tear. File the sides down, and fight the urge to file them too rounded.

You can also use a tool called a “blacks file” which is specifically designed to smooth down the sides of the nail.

file your toenails to avoid ingrowns

Image source: NCBI.

Things You Should Avoid

In general, for most nail types, when cutting your toenails, make sure you don’t:

  • Cut them too short
  • Round the edges too much
  • Don’t cut them into a pointy V-shape

The Three Most Important Takeaways

  1. Cut toenails but ensure you are getting in and really looking at the full growth on the edges of the nail to avoid ingrown nails.
  2. Do not share implements (some toe infections are contagious and will transfer) or at least disinfect your implements and train your family to do so.
  3. Do not cut your nails too short, and sure your nails have a clear path away from the skin to grow.

Each week on my blog The Little Book of Human Discomforts I share clever solutions for seemingly embarrassing skin, body, and hair issues. Consider subscribing below to be the first to know when new content is live! I also share lots of body and skincare tips on Instagram @kaianaturals and on my TikTok page @maryfuther.


The information provided in this blog is taken from the National Geographic, BBC, TIME, Healthline and Informed Health.

All content found on this website is created for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Website. 

Shop kaia naturals

Related Articles

How to get rid of toenail fungus - kaia naturals

How To Get Rid Of Toenail Fungus

Want to remedy toenail fungus, rough skin, cracked heels and dry, itchy skin the natural way? Epsom salt is the way to go.

Read More