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Hangnails hurt — and trying to yank them out only makes things worse. If you’ve noticed a few more of these painful hangers-on lately, there are a few places in your routine to check first. Of course, the name of the prevention game is hydration. Just like the rest of our skin, our fingers need moisture on a regular basis.

Deborah Lippman, renova hand center san antonio manicurist and nail polish brand founder, tells Prevention, “Think about your face: You probably wouldn’t wash your face and not moisturize after.” Since many soaps dry out the skin on your hands, it makes sense that these can spell disaster for your nails — resulting in painful hangnails. The outlet recommends keeping a bottle of hand lotion with you at all times to use after you go to the bathroom or anytime you use hand sanitizer. That way, you’ll be able to replace the lubricant that the cleaning agents extracted. Make sure to give your cuticles and fingernails some extra TLC whenever you break out your moisturizer as well. 

If you still notice tons of stragglers even after you’ve upped your hydration game, consider trying a soak for your fingertips. Basically, the outlet explains, you simply rest your nails in a hydrating oil like jojoba or coconut for a few minutes. After you dip them in, cover your hands in warm towels to seal in the hydration and soften the areas around your nails. Try it once a week and see if it makes a difference.

Never rip a hangnail off of your skin

When you do get a hangnail, the way you care for it can be hugely important — especially since this area can be prone to infection. One of the main reasons that dry skin is more prone to hangnails is due to its correlation with separation, Men’s Health reports. Dry cells more readily strip away from the rest of your nail, resulting in a hangnail. Combined with the nerve endings and sensitive skin in the area, it’s a recipe for pain. Dr. Benjamin Jacobs, M.D. explains, “When you pull them off, you typically tear some of the normal surface skin that keeps out bacteria. When you pull off a hangnail, you can develop an infection of the surrounding skin.”

Indeed, if you notice a painful hangnail giving you grief, it may be time to apply an antibiotic ointment to avoid infection. But, there are a few treatments that you can do to avoid further hangnails while soothing any that you currently have. In addition to keeping your skin soft and nourished, the outlet suggests wearing gloves whenever your hands are exposed to extreme temperatures. In the winter, make it a point to always have a pair of mittens on you. Then, whenever your hands are in hot water — like when you’re washing the dishes — wear gloves to protect your skin.

In addition to avoiding painful hangnails, this technique will also keep your skin looking youthful and soft. To properly remove a hangnail, wash your hands first and then use fingernail clippers to cut off the dead skin as close to your nail as possible. From here, try to avoid touching it and stick with your hydration routine!

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