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Debunking Your Top Ingrown Toenail Myths

There’s a lot of information out there about ingrown toenails, and unfortunately, some of it is not accurate. Which, when you’re struggling with an ingrown nail and the methods you’re reading online aren’t working, can be very frustrating, disheartening, and painful. 


So today, we’ve debunked some of the top ingrown nail myths that we hear regularly from our patients – many of whom have tried treating their ingrown toenail on their own for weeks first, without success.


1. It’s Not An Ingrown Nail Unless It’s On The Big Toe

This one stems from many people being unsure of the cause of their toe and toenail pain on their smaller toes, despite having similar signs and symptoms to previous ingrown nails they’ve had on their big toe. The truth is:


  • Yes, you can absolutely develop ingrown toenails on the lesser toes, and we see this often
  • The side of the toe is likely to appear red and swollen, and pushing on the area will elicit pain
  • As the nail is so much smaller, it’s usually a very quick and easy fix
  • Some of the time, there’s notable debris built up in the side of the nail (including discharge from the nail piercing the skin) that when removed, can instantly feel significantly better


2. Cutting a ‘V’ In The Centre Of Your Nail will Fix An Ingrown Toenail

While it is true that other cells in the body work by ‘coming together’ during repair and therefore could hypothetically ‘pull away’ from the sides of the ingrown toenail, unfortunately that’s not how the nail cells work or grow. Your nail grows in only one direction – out. What you do to the ends of your toenails doesn’t change this – nor does it change the painful nail spicule that is embedded into your skin when you have an ingrown nail.

We recommend saving yourself the hassle – and the potential of shredding through socks and hosiery with your sharp nail edges after a ‘V’ cut out.


3. Ingrown Toenails Are Only For School-Aged Children & Above

It makes sense that this sounds viable, after all, school comes with strict shoe requirements that kids must stay in all day everyday, and footwear is a primary cause of ingrown toenails. While it’s true that we see a lot of ingrown nails in school-aged children, we also see them in babies and toddlers too! If your young child has a red and swollen toe, or it looks like they have an ingrown toenail, bring them in for an appointment.


4. An Ingrown Toenail Will Get Better On Its Own

Think of an ingrown toenail like a sharp, big splinter – but instead of disappearing into the skin, being attached to your nail means that it continues to pierce through, growing as your nail grows, and leaving a painful, open wound where it has pierced the skin (which is vulnerable to infection). This is not something that goes away or just gets better on its own – not without removing the painful nail spicule first.

There are definitely things you can do to help relieve your painful symptoms – soaking the nail, taking painkillers, taking antibiotics, but none of these actions remove the nail from the skin.


5. Antibiotics Will Fix An Ingrown Nail

Antibiotics are a fantastic medication for managing infections. And if you have an infected ingrown toenail, it’ll do a great job to kill that bacteria and give you relief. But what antibiotics don’t do is remove hard, sharp pieces of nail from the skin – which is the only way to truly fix an ingrown toenail. 

Unfortunately, many people are simply given antibiotics from their GPs and told to wait it out and soak their toes, which while it can give them some much-needed relief from their painful symptoms, that relief is only temporary as the nail is still lodged in the skin. Having the ingrown nail removed will give you symptom relief and prevent it from continuing to bother you.


6. Ingrown Nail Surgeries Leave Ugly Looking Nails

It makes sense to think that when part of your nail is removed as part of a partial nail avulsion procedure to permanently fix ingrown toenails, that your nail will be left looking less than ideal. But as a clinic that specialises in ingrown toenail surgery, we only remove the very bare minimum of the edge of your nail so that the difference is barely noticeable. The only difference is that your nail will appear to have a very straight nail edge, instead of one that curves down the side. 

Our podiatrist will be able to explain exactly how much of the nail we’ll need to remove at your appointment, and what cosmetic results you can expect.


Got Any More Ingrown Nail Questions?

We’re here to help – email them to us at and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible. To book a consultation for your ingrown nail, call us on 09 523 2333 or book online here.


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About the author

Hanan Kane