Being a life long sufferer of dermatillomania (aka skin picking and nail-biting), I have experienced the consequences of too short nails A LOT. Lucky for you, this has helped me learn the best ways to handle this problem so that pain is minimized and healing happens quickly.
So what should you do if you cut your nails too short? After cutting your nail too short, first, ensure that the area is clean and dry. Next, use an antibiotic ointment and bandages to prevent infection and reduce pain. For further pain relief, soak the nail in warm water or take an over the counter pain medication.
These are the bare minimum you can do in order to prevent infection and reduce pain. Read on for other ways you can make the experience less torturous and recover quickly from a painful short fingernail or toenail.
But Why Does it Hurt so Bad?!
When your fingernail or toenail is cut too far down, the hyponychium is uncovered. This is the red skin under your nail.
The hyponychium has tons of nerve endings in it. This is necessary so you can feel things well enough to do everything we do with our fingers. However, all these nerve endings make it super sensitive.
This is usually fine because it’s protected by your nail. However, when you cut your nail too short, this exposes it to pressure it’s not used to. And this can hurt like a mofo (as you know right now).
How to Stop the Pain and Soothe a Nail Cut Too Short
Thankfully, there are several steps you can take to reduce pain from cutting your nail too short.
First, make sure the area is clean. This will help prevent infection, which will make your nail hurt even more.
Gently wash the area with hand soap under warm water for about 20 seconds. Then thoroughly rise the area and dry it well.
Continue to wash the area regularly until the nail grows back.
You want to try to keep your nail as dry as possible and avoid harsh chemicals, cleaning products, and dishwashing. All of these things will irritate the sensitive skin under your nail and make it more prone to infection.
If you can’t avoid those things, you can always wear some cleaning gloves. You can get a pair for just a few dollars at most supermarkets or dollar stores.
When I cut a nail too short or pull off a hang-nail, I always put an antibacterial ointment like Neosporin on the area and cover it with a bandage or two until the pain goes away.
Bandages help prevent infection and they provide a cushion that reduces pressure on the painful, sensitive skin.
If the pain is really bad and there is manual labor I can’t avoid, I often take a small dose of an over the counter pain medication like naproxen. This reduces pain well enough that I don’t notice it and can go on about my day.
All the pain is usually gone within about 24 hours for me. My nails grow really fast, though, so that may be why it goes away so quickly for me.
However, if you feel like you need to do more to help with the pain, an easy home remedy is to soak the nail in warm water 3 or 4 times a day. Then dry your nails well.
You may also want to try rubbing a nail oil, such as jojoba oil, into the sore area to help with the pain.
Most people find the pain is gone within a few days, though. The main exception would be if bacteria get under the nail and causes an infection.
Infection from Cutting Nail Too Short
If bacteria invade the skin under your nail, you may end up with paronychia, which is an infection in one of the nail folds.
Pain from an infection is often more severe than the pain from simply cutting the nail too short. If your nail becomes infected, you may have throbbing pain or a swollen finger or toe.
Anti-biotic ointment often heals a minor infection quickly for me. Warm water soaks may also help.
But you don’t want to mess around with bacterial infections. If it lasts for more than a few days, definitely seek out advice from your physician.
They may need to prescribe you an antibiotic or drain the area if it becomes abscessed. Letting this go for too long may result in a worse infection that is harder to heal, especially if you have a weak immune system or other health issues.
How to Stop Biting Nails
If your nails are too short from biting, there are a few things you can do that may help you stop.
First, make sure you take care of your nails properly. A well-manicured nail will look nice and that may be incentive enough to stop you from chewing at it since you won’t want to ruin the work you’ve done on your nails.
If you’re like me, nice-looking nails isn’t a good enough incentive. However, rough skin or uneven edges on the nails may trigger you to start biting or picking. Therefore, a well-manicured nail may help in that way.
So even if you skip a manicure, at least make sure your hands and nails are well moisturized and file them smoothly. I recommend a glass nail file so you don’t have to keep buying a disposable one.
If these steps don’t help you to stop biting your fingernails, it may be time to talk to your doctor or mental health professional about possible treatments.
Ask her or him about therapies for OCD that may help with nail-biting.
In addition, some medications and supplements, including N-acetylcysteine, may help reduce body-focused repetitive behaviors like nail-biting. So that is another topic to you may want to talk about with your doctor or mental health professional.
How to cut nails properly?
To cut your nails properly, don’t angle the nail clipper upwards. It should be parallel with your finger. Then cut straight across, not rounding the edges. This is especially important for toes because this prevents ingrown toenails.
What N-acetylcysteine (NAC) brand do you recommend?
I have used several brands of NAC over the years and found Swanson to be the highest quality for the price. Some brands didn’t seem to work at all, but I noticed a change in behaviors while taking the Swanson brand (under the supervision of my doctor). Click here to view reviews of Swanson NAC capsules on Amazon.
American Family Physician: Acute and Chronic Paronychia
American Family Physician: Management of the Ingrown Toenail
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Nail Hygiene