Stop hanging around, hangnails!
June 23, 2015 12:37 AM   Subscribe

I frequently get hangnails. I understand that the main treatment is not to pick at them and the main prevention is to keep your cuticles moisturised. I have questions about how to make these things happen.

Treatment seems to involve always noticing incipient hangnails, soaking them in water/oil and then carefully trimming them off. I never seem to be able to do this, partly because I'm usually at work when I notice them and partly because I have this awful compulsion about picking at loose skin on my fingers. I know, I know.

Prevention, along with moisturising, seems to include wearing gloves for activities like gardening and washing dishes; not being stressed; possibly making sure you get enough of an assortment of vitamins. And not picking or biting, of course.

So the common theme seems to be not picking at them. I have tried carrying nail clippers with me everywhere but it doesn't stop me picking. Has anyone else broken themselves of this habit? How? I don't bite in most cases, so rubbing nasty-tasting stuff on my fingers is not going to help.

Related bonus question: my nails are quite short and form a kind of dry callus at the corners, especially in winter. This isn't really part of the cuticle, but it's next to it and when they start getting cracked or damaged, it often spreads to the cuticle. I try to keep them trimmed when I cut my nails, but it's not very effective. Any suggestions on that front? More moisturising, no doubt.

Extra super bonus question: suggestions for a moisturiser available in Australia which does not leave your hands feeling like you have dipped them in fat and will leave sticky, goopy marks on anything you touch? My number one hate about moisturiser and probably why I have this problem to begin with. So far my favourite is Vaseline intensive care deep restore but clearly it's not doing enough.
posted by Athanassiel to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Get a very good hand cream and apply last thing at night, when you don't have to touch anything. Good, in my book, is intensly moisturising and healing, not necessarily the stuff that is marketed as sinking in in seconds. Most of that stuff seems to just sit on top of my skin like a film and then washes off. You want something, that will leave your skin feeling moisturised and plump after a few hrs even after you've washed your hands again. This is my favourite. It is pricy but a little goes a long way and it is sooooooo good. It feels intensely moisturizing but sinks in well after a few minutes. So I do use it during the day as well, if I can time it so I don't have to touch much for a few minutes. Also, get some cuticle oil and massage in whilst watching TV.
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:50 AM on June 23, 2015

I have been told by my doctors that MY callus-y things at the corners of my nails are from my hypothyroidism (and seem to occur more when my med dose is too low). This is (obviously) not to say that YOU have hypothyroidism, but rather that lots of seemingly unrelated conditions can cause really dry skin.

To stop the picking, carry some band-aids around with you. Moisturize then bandage.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 2:58 AM on June 23, 2015

I am terrible about this and my cuticles always look as though I have been at them with a cheese grater, but the real secret is to find the thickest, stickiest fat you can stand, and slather it on your hands, sheathed in cotton gloves overnight. It truly does help. So, coconut oil or eucerin cream or petroleum jelly. Even duck fat would work if you could stand it.
posted by gingerest at 3:13 AM on June 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

I like Burt's Bees cuticle cream. It's very thick and effective but it only goes on your cuticles and nails so the rest of your hands aren't all gross.
posted by that's how you get ants at 3:49 AM on June 23, 2015 [5 favorites]

I moisturizer my cuticles throughout the day with a method I learned on metafilter.

Get a tiny natural bristle paintbrush. A short handled 0 or 2 bright or flat. Use the paint brush to well, paint thick goopy lotion on your hands all day.

Keep one at your desk and another at home.

I was prevented from moisturizing because I didn't want to touch papers or food or my clothes with my dumb fresh finger prints all the time.

If I skip a day or two, I definitely notice now but overall my fingers look pretty good.
posted by bilabial at 4:17 AM on June 23, 2015 [5 favorites]

The problem with vaseline is that the particles are so big that they don't penetrate the skin, they just form a protective barrier on top that will lock in any moisture. But if there's no moisture to lock in it won't really have any benefit.

I use Nivea Creme (the one in the little blue tin. It also comes in a bigger blue jar if you want to buy it in bulk). It also contains mineral oil, but it contains other moisturising ingredients that seem to penetrate. I work in food service and have to wash my hands constantly, and this helps stop my hands from drying out.

I scoop a pea sized amount with the finger print of my right index finger and put about half of that onto the print on my left index finger. Then I put a dot of cream onto the cuticle of each finger and a dot on the back of each hand. I then massage the cream in. My hands are a bit sticky and greasy and gross for a few minutes but before I know it, I have forgotten that I even put moisturiser on.

You could also try just try straight lanolin. I think that's the most important ingredient in the Creme anyway.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 4:47 AM on June 23, 2015

Keep cuticle nippers handy and trim hangnails as necessary. No need for soaking/moisturizing if you are careful not to trim too much. Just the dead skin tempting you to pick. It's the only thing that made a difference for me. Also moisturise hands before bedtime as indicated in answers above.
posted by Karotz at 4:54 AM on June 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

I keep my nails clipped too short to be useful for picking at the cuticles.
And I use a beeswax moisturizer, which is a mostly-solid substance, so I can actually put it on without using the pads of my fingertips (which get too soft for rock climbing if I let the substance get on them).
posted by nat at 5:14 AM on June 23, 2015

A major cause of hangnails (in Canada at least) is dry winter air, caused by heating cold outside air.

On of the best treatments for hangnails is a whole-house humidifier, usually installed on the output plenum of your furnace system.

I've done a couple of them. They're less than $100 and about an hour to install yourself, or you can get an HVAC guy to do it for you.
posted by bonehead at 5:19 AM on June 23, 2015

I use a little bottle of cuticle oil that comes with a paintbrush, and cuticle nippers (though I think it's best not to trim very often).
posted by three_red_balloons at 6:08 AM on June 23, 2015

I love love love Lush's Lemony Flutter Cuticle Butter, if there's a Lush near you. I find it's best for me, plus it smells SO good.
posted by fiercecupcake at 6:25 AM on June 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm an ex-biter who is now working on stopping picking as well. The frequent moisturising before bed and especially after getting my hands wet as recommended here is helping a lot. The same article also suggests using a washcloth in the shower to push back your cuticles and I use it for a very gentle exfoliation of the rough bits that make me want to pick.

I use apricot oil at home (couldn't find the recommended jojoba) and a standard hand cream at work. At work it's mostly about creating a substitute action for the picking without leaving my hands goopy.

When I stopped the biting it was due to a technique I'm sure I read about here on MeFi. I put an elastic band on one wrist, and snapped it every time I caught myself biting. At first I only realised after i had a chewed off bit of nail in my mouth, but the snapping seemed to make my conscious mind pay attention quicker. I started catching myself in the act when my finger was still in my mouth, then as I was raising my hand, and then as I had the impulse. I'd never even noticed the impulse before! It took about a month. I think there's a good chance it could work for picking as well if the moisturising isn't quite enough for you.
posted by harriet vane at 6:51 AM on June 23, 2015

Do you file your nails? Try filing in 1 direction only, away from the hand and out. Use a buffer to polish the nails, it may stimulate cells to grow faster. I seem to have always had slightly low thyroid, and supplementing helped my energy and probably helped my nails get stronger. it's worth being tested.
posted by theora55 at 7:06 AM on June 23, 2015

I have cuticle nippers everywhere - my work desk, my car, my purse, home. I am a cuticle/hangnail biter (gross I know!). So if I can cut it before I let myself try to bite it (which never gets it all leading to me biting myself bloody and leaving me with throbbing owies on my fingers), I can stop the ugly cycle. So that, moisturizing, and regularly manicuring my nails before the hangnails get to the "I want to bite it off" stage keeps them in decent shape. But it's a lot of work.
posted by cecic at 7:29 AM on June 23, 2015

A few things keep my cuticles gorgeous

1) put lotion on my hands somewhat regularly. I do this after I bathe or sometimes after I wash my hands at work with the industrial skin drying soap there
2) every couple weeks push my cuticles down with a wash cloth in the shower after they get soft
3) massage cuticle oil into my cuticles once a week (more if things seem dry)
4) only use glass nail file and file in one direction (metal nail files will seen like barbaric implements after you try this)
posted by congen at 9:29 AM on June 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Body Shop makes a really handy cuticle oil pen thing that appears to be available in Australia. Easy to carry, easy to dab exactly where you need it without getting your hands all goopy.
posted by corey flood at 10:13 AM on June 23, 2015

This is the best cuticle product I have ever used, it transformed my fingers.
posted by rubster at 11:04 AM on June 23, 2015

Here's what I do:

Burt's Bees lemon-butter cuticle cream, once a day (usually at night, right before bed), and/or anytime my nails and cuticles start looking icky.

Use lotion after I wash my hands (and anytime, as above)

Get a manicure once or twice a month.
posted by Flipping_Hades_Terwilliger at 11:39 AM on June 23, 2015

I love my L'Occitane 20% shea butter hand cream, as the first commenter mentioned. You can get a smaller tube for $12 (make sure you don't buy the scented ones, because they're usually 15% instead of 20% shea) which lasts me a long time because I only moisturize when my hands are in desperate need.
posted by serelliya at 12:36 PM on June 23, 2015

OP, you mention nail clippers, but I just wanted to make sure you know this is a whole different thing from cuticle nippers? (I didn't know this.)

The ones meant for cuticles are built differently and really let you get in there to trim every loose bit if skin. People will warn you to be careful and not get any live skin (and I've seen people advise against using these nippers at all) but for me, I know I'm going to mess with any loose bit of skin and make it a million times worse, so this is a useful preventative.

Also, seconding the Burt's Bees cuticle cream - it's pretty amazing.
posted by jessicapierce at 8:22 PM on June 23, 2015

Okay, I had not realised that cuticle nippers were a thing, or had thought they were for the round bit at the bottom of your fingers which some people seem to like to cut off (ouch!) Next time I get a level-up I will have to invest some points in ambidexterity, but at least in the meantime my left hand can start improving on the cuticle front.

And that Body Shop pen (which actually has a little brush, just as others suggested) works beautifully. No excess goop on my fingertips, very easy to do just before going to sleep. As a bonus I got some of their almond hand cream too, which also seems to help. So though I'll never be a hand model, at least I've started to be able to take the band-aids off and keep them off! Thanks for all the suggestions, will keep the serious hand cream/sleeping in gloves thing as an emergency backup.

A final note for anyone else interested in this topic, apparently pushing your cuticles back (this is the round bit at the bottom of your nails) is not recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology, but they do say that if you must push them back, doing so after a shower or bath is better. I note this because I never used to and only experienced more cuticle problems after starting to on a friend's advice.
posted by Athanassiel at 10:56 PM on June 28, 2015

« Older Wasting a question on soda pop: Snapple Soda...   |   To date or not to date: MRSA edition. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.