When it comes to toenail trimming, is there one 'right' way to make the cut? And is it true that you need to cut your nails straight across to avoid ingrown toenails? Today, we'll answer both of these questions. But, the truth is, the answer is complicated. Let's take a closer look. 

Toenail Trimming Advice: What's Fact and What's Fiction

In the world of foot wisdom, there's a pretty common conviction that 'proper' toenail trimming can protect you from ingrowth. And the most common advice people offer on proper toenail trimming is that you should cut your toenails straight across to prevent problems. In fact, this belief is so ingrained that it's been passed down from parents to children and from pediatricians to patients for years. In many cases, trimming the toenails in this fashion will prevent problems with the toenail itself. Especially when it comes to caring for children's toenails. But everyone is different, and some people will require different toenail trimming treatments to stay the most comfortable.  

Nail Care for Seniors: Proper Toenail Trimming Advice Close up of an ingrown toenail.

You see, as we age, it is natural for the toenails to curve more. This happens because the natural support to the toenail wears away and the toenails folds around the bone beneath it. While this does not happen to everyone, it is very common in older adults. Have you noticed more curves in your nail?  In these cases, trimming the toenail straight across will result in sharp corners of the toenail. And those can start digging into the skin. People whose toenails grow in this fashion would be better served by slightly rounding the corners of the toenail, either when they are being trimmed or by using a file to do so afterward.  This will relieve the pressure on the skin and keep the toes comfortable. 

But, there is a word of caution in this advice, however. Do not mistake "slightly rounding the corners" to mean "dig out the sides of the toenail."  If the toe is painful, whether before or after you trim the toenail, stop what you are doing and get it properly evaluated and treated at our podiatry practice in Houston, TX. We can guarantee it will be less painful than doing it yourself!

Now, additional rounding is not the only nail change that's common for seniors. You see, as you get older, your nails can also grow thicker, and that makes it harder to practice safe toenail trimming. At the same time, you lose flexibility when you get older, and that can make it even more difficult to give yourself an at-home pedicure. So, how can you practice safe and effective toenail trimming when cutting nails straight across just isn't an option? 

For starters, try soaking your feet before trimming them, or hop in the bath or shower first. This will soften your toenails, making it easier to trim them properly. Also, you may not need to trim your nails as often as you think. After all, leaving some visible white nail on your toes can help protect you from ingrowth. As such, depending on how quickly your nails grow, you may be able to go as long as eight weeks between toenail trimming sessions. 

Then, when you do get ready to trim? Again, make sure not to go to short. Leave a tiny bit of white nail visible above your nail bed, in order to prevent injury. Now, while many people will tell you to cut as straight across your nail as possible, your nails may need to have a bit of a rounded edge. If possible, round the edges with an emery board instead of scissors, in order to avoid too much trauma to the area. 

A Note on Tools for Toenail Trimming 

While an emery board can help you prevent ingrown toenails, using special clippers for toenail trimming can also be helpful as you age. Luckily, in today's economy, there are hundreds of different clipper types, each designed to trim different nail types. So, from thick nails to curved ones, there's a product made for keeping your nails properly trimmed. You can even find nail clippers that will help you reach down to your toenails when mobility is a challenge. And, if you're not sure which tools to choose, or if you're simply struggling to find the right toenail trimming technique to preserve your health and comfort, our team of experts is always here to help!

Comprehensive Nail Care in Houston, TX

Our nails can reveal so much about our changing foot health. A thick toenail could be a sign of aging. But it could also be a sign of a pesky fungal infection that needs treatment, ASAP. Has your toenail turned black? Your running technique could be to blame. Or, you may simply need to switch up the way you lace your sneakers. Either way, coming into our Houston podiatrist's office will help you determine the cause of your nail troubles. And, whether it's improper toenail trimming or a different cause altogether, we can find a way to resolve your problem and restore the health and appearance of your nail. 

Now, when you come into the office, we can diagnose and treat the cause of your nail troubles. Unfortunately, restoring their healthy appearance can take time. In fact, with some conditions, you may need to wait months before you regrow a healthy-looking nail. But, before you start panicking, here's some good news. While we treat your nail, we can also give you the appearance of having a healthy nail using the Keryflex restoration system. When we apply Keryflex to your nail, it looks exactly like a real toenail. You can even paint it, just like you would your real nail. (Although toenail trimming won't be necessary.) Even better? It protects your real nail that lies beneath. This allows us to continue treatment, and give your nail time to heal, without forcing you to hide your nails while you wait. 

Ready to get the best care for your toenails? Want to optimize your toenail trimming and prevent or treat existing concerns? Contact our office today for an immediate appointment!