How Men Prevent Ingrown Toenails and Stinky Feet
It’s time for a harsh truth. Your feet are gross. Maybe you do better than the average dude. You’ve taken up manscaping, and in the process, you’ve learned better hygienic habits. That doesn’t matter. Your feet are still gross, and that’s a bigger problem than you think. It doesn’t just hurt your social life. The stinky state of your feet can contribute to legitimate health problems. Most notably, that includes ingrown toenails. That’s why you’re going to take a few minutes out of your day to learn how to fight ingrown toenails, stinky feet and the general problem of keeping your feet clean.
Let’s cover the most serious topic first. Ingrown nails have plagued too many people, and it takes surprisingly little knowledge to end that plague.
What Are Ingrown Toenails?
You might think this is obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people mistake painful hangnails and too-short nails for ingrowns. In a technical, not-quite-medical explanation, an ingrown toenail is where the nail grows directly into the fleshy bits of your toe instead of above it. As you can imagine, it doesn’t feel very good. Aside from the pain, it can cause swelling, redness, irritation and even bleeding. Ingrown nails are also at high risk for becoming infected.
Just in case pain isn’t enough of a motivator, you want to prevent the infections that can accompany an ingrown nail. It gets gross fast, and once infected, you definitely need to see a doctor.
What Causes Ingrown Toenails?
While any nail can become ingrown, they are much more common in the toes. Understanding why is important if you want to prevent the problem. There are a few common causes. The first comes from cutting toenails too short. It’s kind of obvious. If your nail is already growing properly, it can’t become ingrown. But, if you cut it too short, there’s a chance for change.
The other common culprit is wearing footwear too tight. When your toes are squeezed, the pressure can actually bend your toenail (most commonly the biggest one), and that bending will force it into an ingrown state. What’s crazy is that shoes aren’t the only things that cause this problem. Sure, you want your work shoes to breathe a little, but you also need to be careful that socks and such give you enough room to wiggle your toes.
When the top two causes aren’t the issue, the ingrown toenail is usually the result of trauma to the foot. If you’ve ever stubbed your toe real good, you can probably imagine how it can mess up the nail.
The fourth great cause is the most frustrating. A propensity for ingrown nails can be hereditary. Some people just have more natural curve in their toenails. If you’re among them, pay extra attention to the next section.
Preventing ingrown toenails requires more than just a basic routine. It can come down to lifestyle changes. So, we’ll break this section into two parts.
What did we just say is the number one cause of ingrown toenails? Grooming your feet properly is the first thing to know. Here are the basics. When you clip your toenails, be wary of the length. You never want to trim past the skin. The rule of thumb is this: if your toes are sore after a clipping, you’re going too short. Additionally, you want to clip straight across the toenail and avoid rounding the corners. This is the exact opposite of how you should groom your fingernails. Don’t worry about the aesthetics. Toenails don’t benefit from meticulously rounded corners. You can add that to your list of tips for male grooming. Lastly, if you have trouble managing toenails, use the big clippers. They’ll force you to cut straighter and make it tougher to cut too short.
Grooming is great, but it’s only about a quarter of the battle. Let’s talk about your shoes next. A lot of guys favor athletic shoes and sandals. That’s a great start. As long as you aren’t some crazy person who wears their sneakers so tight it squishes their toes, you’re in good shape. Work shoes and dress shoes are a more common source of woe for the gents. It should already be obvious that you want shoes with a good fit, but this reinforces that rule. Most importantly, ditch the pointed-toe shoes if you can’t get enough space for your toes.
If, for some reason, you absolutely have to wear tight shoes on a regular basis (maybe you’re a professional rock climber?), then you need to give your feet a break. The goal is to minimize squishy time on your feet.
The next lifestyle tip is to keep your feet clean. Don’t deny it. You’ve been that guy who sees soapy water run over feet in the shower and thought “Eh, good enough.” It isn’t good enough. Your feet need to be scrubbed daily — with an exfoliator. The reason for this is that feet are more prone to fungal infections than any other part of your body, and those fungal infections can thicken the toenails and increase the risk of ingrown nails. So, scrub your feet daily, and use a soap that actively fights infection. If it helps maintain a healthy pH, then it’s even better.
This last part is for you poor souls who have a hereditary problem. Consider soaking your feet a few times a week. If you can add Epsom salt to the soaking, it’s even better. This process softens the toenail and makes it more difficult to puncture into the skin.
Sometimes, our best efforts fail. Prevention isn’t a guarantee. If you find yourself with an ingrown toenail, it’s completely treatable. The first thing you need to do is determine the severity. If the pain isn’t bad and it’s definitely not infected, you can try the DIY steps below. If you’re at all unsure, just let a doctor take care of it. You’re not a pirate. You don’t get extra points for losing half of a toe.
The DIY process goes like this. First, soak your feet in an Epsom salt bath. You want warm (but not scalding) water. Each treatment softens the nail, and after a few iterations, the ingrown problem will usually self-correct. No cutting or clipping is necessary.
If the gentle method doesn’t work, you can grab some clippers and get in there. Just remember to soak your feet first. Softening the nail can help you separate it from the rest of the toe and trim it safely. Also, disinfect your cutting tools before you start. If you remember from about a minute ago, ingrown nails are prone to infection. A little sanitation can prevent that. Lastly, any self-treatment should be concluded by applying a topical antibiotic.
What do stinky feet have to do with ingrown toenails? They’re both largely prevented by good men's hygiene. You already learned how fungi can contribute to ingrown toenails. They can also produce the most powerful and disturbing foot odors known to man. Even if you don’t have a fungal infection, there are bacteria growing on your feet that definitely stink. Thankfully, you can deal with all three of these issues in the same way.
We already talked about scrubbing your feet. That still holds. You can expand on that by working to keep your feet dry. Socks are an amazing piece of technology that save our feet from blisters, but they also trap a lot of moisture. Any time your socks get wet, change them. Probably more importantly, don’t keep your work socks on at the end of a day. You can go barefoot, or you can change into a fresh pair. What matters is that you’re relieving your feet from moisture.
Lastly, you can supplement your pedal hygiene with Foot Duster, by Manscaped. It’s a foot deodorant that helps with moisture management, pH control and fungal growth. The formula battles the microbes that make your feet stink, and it helps prevent ingrown toenails. Give it a try, and the days of smelly, excessively sweaty feet will be behind you.