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How to care for an injured nail


Newswise — ROSEMONT, Ill. (July 25, 2023) — It’s easy to injure a nail by slamming a finger in a car door, wearing the wrong shoes, or getting a sports injury. While these common accidents can happen throughout our life, a board-certified dermatologist from the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) is providing tips to help you treat an injured nail at home, so you’re prepared if it happens.

“To prevent a nail injury, I tell my patients to keep their nails short, so they do not bend or catch on objects,” said Shari Lipner MD, PhD, FAAD, associate professor of clinical dermatology at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York. “Not only do short nails stay cleaner and break less often, they’re also good for your overall health because they are less likely to harbor dirt and bacteria, which can lead to an infection. It’s also important to make sure your shoes fit well and have a wide toe box to prevent rubbing. If you play sports, make sure to wear the proper gear to protect your nails.”

If you do get a nail injury, Dr. Lipner and the AAD recommend these tips:

Treat your wound. If any part of your nail is hanging off, gently trim away the part not connected to your skin. Then, gently clean the wound using soap and water. If the wound is bleeding, don’t put a dry bandage or gauze on top — once the bleeding stops, this will stick. Instead, apply petroleum jelly to keep your wound moist and then cover with gauze or a bandage. Repeat these steps every day while your wound heals.

Do not put sticky products on your nail. Make sure to only apply sticky products, such as an adhesive bandage or medical tape, to the skin around your nail on your finger or toe, so you don’t irritate the injury further. Wrapping your wound with an elastic bandage is another good option.

Get relief. Apply a cool, damp washcloth to your wound to reduce swelling. Prop the arm or leg with an injured nail on pillows so the nail is higher than your heart. This helps reduce swelling. Taking ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help relieve pain and reduce swelling when your nail injury is new.

Protect your nail while it heals. A nail injury can take several weeks to feel completely better. Even after your wound stops bleeding, keeping a light dressing on the nail, such as an adhesive bandage or a small piece of gauze, provides padding and protection.

“While nail injuries can be treated at home, some injuries may require you to be seen by a medical professional,” said Dr. Lipner. “If you can’t bend your finger or toe, if blood covers more than half your nail, if your nail is black or purple, or if your injury is particularly painful, see a board-certified dermatologist or get emergency medical care.”

These tips are demonstrated in “How to Care for an Injured Nail,” a video posted to the AAD website and YouTube channel. This video is part of the AAD’s “Your Dermatologist Knows” series, which offers tips people can use to properly care for their skin, hair, and nails.

To find a board-certified dermatologist in your area, visit

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More Information

12 Nail Changes a Dermatologist Should Examine

Tips for Healthy Nails

About the AAD

Headquartered in Rosemont, Ill., the American Academy of Dermatology, founded in 1938, is the largest, most influential and most representative of all dermatologic associations. With a membership of more than 20,800 physicians worldwide, the AAD is committed to advancing the diagnosis and medical, surgical, and cosmetic treatment of the skin, hair, and nails; advocating high standards in clinical practice, education and research in dermatology; and supporting and enhancing patient care because skin, hair, and nail conditions can have a serious impact on your health and well-being. For more information, contact the AAD at (888) 462-DERM (3376) or Follow @AADskin on FacebookTikTokPinterest and YouTube and @AADskin1 on Instagram.

Editor’s note: The AAD does not promote or endorse any products or services. This content is intended as editorial content and should not be embedded with any paid, sponsored or advertorial content as it could be perceived as an AAD endorsement.


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