Why Do We Get Hangnails?

Hangnails are the worst. They always seem to come out of nowhere and then painfully hang around. But why do we get hangnails in the first place?

Let’s start with what exactly is a hangnail since the name can be a little deceiving. A hangnail is a result of cuticle separation. Cuticle separation, or hangnails, can occur for a variety of reasons:

  • You have dry hands. Dry hands and nails lead to hangnails because the cuticles become more fragile, leading to the likelihood of a cuticle separation.
  • You pick at or chew your nails. Picking at your nails or chewing your nails can lead to unintentional damage to the cuticles, leading to a hangnail.
  • You wash your hands often. Jobs that require often handwashing can lead to an increased risk of hangnails because over washing dries out your skin faster.
  • You may have a protein deficiency. A less likely scenario is that you may have a protein deficiency. Your skin and nails are made up of protein. If you are deficient in this nutrient, you may suffer from skin and nail issues.

What should you do if you get a hangnail? First off, do not pick or bite at it. This could lead to further irritation and possibly an infection. Instead, swap the area with alcohol and cut it at the base with a clean cuticle nipper. Dab a small amount of ointment, like Vaseline or Aquaphor, at the base afterward.

For prevention of hangnails, regularly apply cuticle oil or hand lotion to keep your hands and nails properly moisturized.

Do you have a skin, hair, or nail concern?

The board-certified dermatologists at Forefront Dermatology are here to answer and address any of your concerns surrounding your skin, hair, and nail health. Find a location nearest you to schedule an appointment.