Ingrown toenails are familiar enough to nail techs and clients that they’re often dismissed as a simple annoyance. However, they can quickly cause severe pain, and, left untreated, they can become infected. Techs have the ability to catch and correct an ingrown toenail early, and then suggest at-home care to help relieve any pain or pressure. The conversation could be as simple as this:
You: Oh, this toenail looks like it’s starting to grow into the skin, which could develop into an ingrown toenail. Does it hurt you at all?
Client: Not really. Sometimes when I wear certain shoes it hurts.
You: OK, we’re going to work together to make sure this doesn’t get any worse. My part is to use these flat-edged nippers to remove the piece of nail cutting into your skin. Your part is to wear flat shoes with a wider shoe box (no heels or pointed shoes!), so the toes don’t get crushed together. Also, soak your foot in warm water if you’re in pain, push the skin away from the nail, and apply some topical antibacterial cream to make sure it doesn’t get infected.
[Note: Sometimes the nail is clearly growing into the skin and the area is red, swollen, and warm. Even though this is a little more advanced, the condition may still be mild enough where you can correct it. Soak the foot and examine the area to see where the toenail is pressed against the skin. Find a jagged edge of the nail and trim it correctly. Once the obstruction is removed and the nail is filed properly, and after the client performs regular at-home care mentioned above, the inflammation will go down. In its advanced state, the ingrown nail deeply penetrates the skin. There may be an obvious infection. Don’t try to correct the nail. Instead, refer her to a doctor. That conversation may go something like this:]
You: Oh! Ouch! This must hurt. Let me take a look at that. Yes … I see the problem. You have an ingrown toenail. How long has your toe been like this?
Client: I don’t know. It’s hurt for a while. Is there anything you can do?
You: I can wash it, but the skin is broken, and it looks like it’s infected, so I’m not going touch the nail. You really need to see a doctor. You might need a prescription for this, or the doctor may suggest you have part of the toenail removed. While you wait to get your appointment, be sure to keep this area clean. Apply antibacterial medicine to it, and wear shoes that allow your toes to move around. You don’t want to be squeezing your toes together.
Client: There’s nothing I can do from home to fix it?
You: No. Not at this point. The nail needs to be removed from the skin or it’s going to continue to get worse. Go see a doctor, and she’ll be able to fix it.
A third option is available. Techs trained to use the B/S Brace have reported incredible success with the care of ingrown nails. Lourdes Castillo, owner of Lourdes Nail Studio in Sarasota, Fla., regularly uses the B/S brace. “I can put it on a client during her pedicure and work around it. The client can feel it pulling the nail out of the skin as early as later that day,” says Castillo. “When the client returns for her pedicure, the brace will still be on, and the nail will have drastically improved.” Castillo says clients sometimes balk at paying $50 for the brace, but eventually ask her to apply it when they feel pressure or pain on the nail.