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How To Fix Pincer Toenails [What You Need To Know]

Most people are familiar with ingrown toenails. Even if they’ve never suffered from one, which is rare in and of itself, they’ve probably known someone that has. It’s a relatively common problem. However, there is a type of ingrown nail that can cause more pain and is harder to treat than the normal kind: Pincer toenails. But how do you fix them? Let’s find out.

So, how do you fix Pincer toenails? Unfortunately, one of the only ways of correcting pincer toenails is with surgical procedures. However, some new studies and gadgets show that there are ways, with medication, medical devices, or non-surgical approaches to resolve these curling ingrown nails without the need to go under the knife. 

Chances are, if you have these, you are going to want to get them sorted out as soon as possible.

So let us delve deeper into exactly what they are (so you know for sure), the causes, and your treatment options!

What Are Pincer Toenails?

Pincer toenails are one type of ingrown toenail, of which there are four. Also called “trumpet nails,” they are characterized by the C-shaped curl of the nail, which digs into the soft tissue of the toe. These are considered to be the most painful type of ingrown nail.

As the name implies, the sharp curve causes the nail to “pinch” into the flesh of the toe, slowly digging into it as the nail grows. 

Because of the shape of the nail, it grows directly into the flesh at a more pronounced speed, with worse results.

These are usually easily spotted because the curl is so pronounced that it is hard to confuse with a healthy nail. 

This is one of the reasons it stands out from other ingrown nails, which most of us are familiar with or have suffered from at one point or another, or will, in the future. 

Most of the time, these are generally short-lived and can be dealt with at home. 

Sometimes, they require the aid of a doctor to fix. 

There is almost always some pain, though it is often mild, with the occasional infection caused by the problem.

What Causes A Pincer Toenail?

This problem can be caused by fungal disease, medications such as beta-blockers, autoimmune problems, cysts and/or tumors near the nail bed, genetics, shoes that are too tight, improper nail care, age, and pregnancy. These are just some of the causes of pincer nails.

There are many different things that can cause pincer nails. 

Some of them you can plan for and try to avoid, others you can’t. 

But they all have a hand in possibly causing this over-curvature of the nail.

Fungal Disease

Is a common cause of many toenail-related problems, including ingrown nails such as pincer nails. 

They cause the nail to become unhealthy and grow in ways that they shouldn’t… including as the C-shaped curl of pincer nails.

The best way to deal with this is to try over-the-counter fungus remedies or if those don’t work, speak to a doctor about prescription antifungals.

The sooner you’re fungus-free, the better for your toenails.

Taking Beta-blockers 

Has been linked, in some cases, to the formation of pincer nails.

While this isn’t something you can just stop taking, it is something to bring up to your doctor.

They can help you find the right balance between taking medications necessary for your health and keeping your toenails from becoming horribly ingrown.

Autoimmune Problems 

These are also sometimes to blame, though that can be a subject that is a bit complicated.

The same can be said for genetic causes.

Pincer nails are more common in people with a family history, though no specific gene has been pinpointed as the cause yet.

Cyst or Growth

Any cyst, tumor, or other growth under or around the nail bed can cause nails to grow improperly, including forming pincer nails.

Because this could point to severe health problems, it’s something you should rule out with your primary care physician or, if needed, a specialist.

Inappropriate Shoes

If you routinely wear shoes that are too tight around the toes, you may be setting yourself up for this problem.

Ingrown toenails are common amongst people who keep their toes tightly constrained for long periods, and pincer toenails are no different.

Avoid this by making sure that the toes of your shoes have ample room and don’t cause crowding.


Lastly, something as simple as improper toenail care can cause pincer nails.

Toenails cut too short, with rounded edges, are more likely to become ingrown.

These may turn into pincer nails.

Always cut your nails a little long, and make sure that your edges are straight!

The elderly and pregnant women are the most likely demographics to develop pincer nails. 

This is likely because both groups have a hard time caring for their feet because reaching them becomes difficult. 

For those worried about pincer nails, if you fall into one of these categories, you should take care to keep your toenails as healthy as possible.

How Do You Treat Pincer Nails?

There are no guaranteed methods. However, the traditional method is with surgery to remove the ingrown nail, sometimes including the entire nail matrix. There are new methods, as well. This includes the application of medications such as Tazarotene 0.1% or with special devices that may stop the curving of the affected nail. These are all still being studied.

So, what can you do to fix pincer nails? Unfortunately, not much. 

There are no guaranteed methods to fix them, and most of the cases that are solved are done with surgery.


While surgery may sound scary, it’s actually something that’s fairly common when it comes to ingrown nails. 

In cases where nails have grown into the soft tissue around the nail, surgery is often required to remove the offending nail and the nail matrix, causing it to grow in that way. 

This is true of all types of ingrown nail, not just pincer nails.

If it’s been recommended to you by a doctor, there’s no reason to avoid it. 

This is an option that is most likely to work and bring you relief from the pain of ingrown nails, including pincer nails.

However, that’s not an option for everyone. 

And some people, of course, would prefer to find a non-surgical method of treating this problem before agreeing to surgery. 

After all, that entails a lot of fuss and expense.

Non-Surgical Methods

There are some non-surgical methods being studied at the moment. 

One is the application of Tazarotene 0.1% over a period of several months. In the study, it helped a patient suffering from pincer toenails.

Likewise, a treatment of manually thinning the nail was shown to work in another study. These are all individual cases, however, and might not offer a solution to everyone.


Lastly, there are devices marketed to people suffering from this problem.

They claim to help straighten the toenail to keep it from cutting into the skin.

If a doctor agrees, there’s likely no harm in trying these before surgery. 

But they aren’t proven to work and should only be used if a doctor agrees that they are safe for the patient.

Can You Treat Pincer Nails Yourself?

You shouldn’t. With surgery being the best option in treatment, this should be left to your doctor or surgeon. You may take care of normal nail care yourself. Home remedies may bring temporary relief.

There are many conditions that respond well to home treatment. 

Pincer nails aren’t one of them. In fact, taking the time to try home remedies first could allow the problem to become worse and more painful. 

Even medical procedures aren’t guaranteed to work, making home remedies an even worse idea;

Instead of doing it yourself, you should consult a doctor. 

They can tell you what the best course of action is. Sometimes it will be surgery. 

Others, it may be a less invasive option, such as medication or a device to straighten the curve of the nail. 

There have been examples of nails being thinned to stop the curling. But you should not try to fix this yourself.

You can likely care for and maintain your nails, including the affected one.

This might require extra caution and a gentle approach, but it can make you feel better about yourself and your nails.

Home remedies for ingrown toenails may give some relief of pain, even if it doesn’t fix your problem. 

For example, carefully working a piece of clean dental floss beneath the nail can help ease the pressure from the curled nail-biting into the skin. 

Only do this with a doctor’s permission, however. You don’t want to add to your problems!

Are There Non-surgical Options?

Yes, there are. While still in the early stages, there has been progress made with the use of topical medications, such as Tazarotene 0.1%. Similarly, both devices to straighten the nail and thin the nail to correct curling has shown to be an effective treatment.

Of course, many people are wary of going under the knife to correct pincer nails, even if it happens to be painful. 

Particularly now, when many hospitals already have more patients than they can manage, and some are still putting off elective surgeries. 

There are many reasons why someone might not want surgery to cure their pincer nails.

While working treatments are still hard to come by, there have been improvements made on that front. 

You can’t be sure that it will work and are less likely to be successful than surgery would be. But it is a non-surgical option to keep in mind.

One is the topical application of the medication Tazarotene 0.1%. 

In one case, after being applied to the pincer nail for several months, the problem was completely corrected. 

The nail lost all unnatural curl, and the pain had been dealt with. 

Unfortunately, this does have the added issue of whether you can take the medication or if it’s the right choice for you. You should speak to your doctor about it, and take their advice.

Devices are also available that can straighten your nail. 

A medical professional may be able to advise you on the best options to try. 

Some professionals have also started thinning nails to prevent the extreme curling and growth into the nail.

If that interests you, you should bring it up at your next appointment.

Will Pincer Nails Grow Out?

No. If you have a pincer nail, you should see a doctor for help in correcting it. There are options available, but they will not go away on their own or grow out.

Here’s the bad news: 

Your pincer nail isn’t going to grow out on its own. 

Once you have one, you’re going to need to see a doctor for help to take care of it. 

Normal things like clipping may be done by yourself, at home, as long as you use proper care.

But actual correcting of the problem is going to require medical intervention.

The good news? This is something that has a few options to treat, and more and more options are being tried. 

While, in the past, surgery was your only option, you can now find other ways that may work.

These include both medications, devices, and new procedures that don’t require the removal of the nail. 

While none of these is a guarantee, it does show that we’re making steps towards something that could be a cure.

If you notice what appears to be a pincer nail, don’t let yourself believe it might grow out or correct itself.

Getting medical attention quickly will help prevent the worst of the pain and damage.

Make an appointment with your doctor to address the issue.

Can You Prevent Pincer Nails?

Yes, and no. While you can take precautions, there is no guarantee.

In some cases, you can prevent pincer nails. To do so, you should make sure that you’re not wearing shoes that are too tight or that crowd your toes. 

This can lead to ingrown toenails in general, and pincer nails are a type of ingrown toenail.

You should also be sure that you’re trimming your toenails correctly. 

They should be left a bit long, and the edge should be completely straight, not rounded at the sides.

Prompt treatment of fungal infections can also make a big difference.

But, sometimes, there is no preventing it. 

Genetics seems to play a role in who develops pincer nails, and a tumor or cyst growing beneath the nail bed can cause the problem, too. 

In these cases, careful monitoring and the quick attention of a doctor can be a lifesaver.

And if you ever encounter a broken toenail, then here’s a guide to fix that too!