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How to Fix Pincer Toenails: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

How to Fix Pincer Toenails

When a toenail curls under and digs into the skin, it's unsightly and painful. Typically, a person will need medical attention to correct the problem. Read on if you'd like to know how to fix pincer toenails.

What Are Pincer Toenails?

Sometimes called curved or curled nails, pincher toenails are a type of ingrown nail. In extreme cases, the toenails form a tube.

What Causes Pincer Toenails?

There are many reasons why people develop pincer toenails:

  • Fungal infection
  • Aging
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Cysts in the nail bed
  • Wearing tight shoes
  • Certain medications like beta blockers
  • A genetic tendency for ingrown nails
  • A bone spur under the nail
  • Improper nail trimming

This condition is common among pregnant and older people because both groups may be unable to care for their nails.

What Are the Best Treatments for Pincer Toenails?

Various treatments for pincer toenails range from non-invasive braces and medication to surgery.

For example, when the nail is just starting to curve and become ingrown, a topical medicine called Tazarotene can help thin and straighten it.

Next, a podiatrist can insert a small device to force the nail to grow in the correct shape. It looks similar to the orthodontic spacer used to widen the roof of the mouth. After a few weeks, the straightener can be removed.

Another study in Japan used a nail grinder to thin the nail by about half a millimeter. It doesn't sound like much, but this reduced the pressure causing the nail to curve. The process was repeated after a few weeks of allowing the nail to grow back. Then, two months after the first treatment, the nail was only half as curved as before and no longer painful.

Lastly, a podiatrist can cut off both sides of the nail as they would for an ingrown toenail. This method also relieves pain but doesn't guarantee that the nail won't grow back deformed.

None of these methods is a hundred percent foolproof for fixing pincher toenails, but you can do a few things at home, too.

Home Remedies for Pincer Toenails

Please consult a doctor if you have a pincer toenail. Getting proper medical treatment as soon as possible is best to avoid pain and infections that could lead to severe consequences. We certainly can't give you medical advice on this topic.

Should you be in a situation where you can’t access medical care, there are a few things you can try to relieve and correct a pincer toenail. It all starts with proper nail care.

Proper Nail Care to Treat and Prevent Pincher Toenails

You’ve probably heard that you should trim toenails straight across and leave a thin strip of white at the tips. That’s good advice to avoid both ingrown toenails and pincer nails. If it leaves them with sharp corners, use a file to smooth the edges.

Trim Thick Nails at Least Once a Month

But what if your nails are thick and hard to trim? On the bright side, toenails don't grow very fast, so you only need to work on them once or twice a month. Make it easier on yourself by investing in a pair of large-jawed podiatry clippers.

You might also try an off-label use for cuticle nippers. Their sharp blades can snip thick nails. Just don’t use the same pair on the cuticles because trimming nails may dull the blades.

Moreover, if you soak the nails first, they are easier to trim and less likely to shatter. Submerge them in warm water for 5 to 10 minutes before cutting them. Make it a spa treatment with Epsom salt and bath beads.

But if you don’t have manicure tools that can handle thick nails, you can always grind them with a nail file or a nail drill if you have experience using one. Don't use a coarse grit file or bit, no matter how thick the nails are, because you'll shred and split the keratin. Instead, use a fine grit and a light touch. It may take longer to see results, but it's much healthier for your nails.

Treat Fungal Infections

Many times, pincher toenails coexist with a fungal infection. If you treat the disease, it's easier to straighten the nail.

Remember, getting rid of nail fungus takes weeks to months, even with potent antifungal medication. Cuticle oil with lavender is naturally antifungal, so it can also boost the nails' health.

In between treatments, keep your feet clean and dry and wear properly fitted shoes.

Can Acrylics Fix Pincer Toenails?

Have you seen the videos where a manicurist applies acrylics to curved toenails so that they grow straight? This is similar to the podiatry technique of bracing the nail with a metal or plastic device. We have yet to try this trick, but it seems plausible. Still, it's likely to take weeks to months to eliminate the curvature, and you'll still need to do regular pedicures in the meantime.

What about Thinning the Nail?

We wouldn’t recommend grinding down the nail bed to fix it. It’s all too easy to go too far and damage the skin. However, if you want to use a drill or file to trim the tip of the nail, that would be okay.

How to Hide a Pincer Toenail While It’s Healing

Depending on how curved the nail is, you might be able to disguise it with a pretty pedicure. We recommend using a non-toxic nail lacquer instead of long-lasting gels or dip powder. Lacquer is easier to remove, so you can monitor the nail's recovery. Furthermore, lacquer is compatible with acrylics if you've used that method to treat the nail.


We hope this information about how to fix pincer toenails helps you resolve the problem. It's not just a cosmetic issue; they can become quite painful. Act promptly and take good care of your nails.

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