If you need another reason to properly take care of hangnails, think about how unattractive a wart can be. Common warts -- which are caused by a virus called human papillomavirus (HPV) -- can develop in areas in which the skin is broken. Because the virus is infectious, warts can be transmitted through contact [source: Canagas].
What Causes Hangnails?
You probably notice that you get more hangnails during the cold winter months. You might also notice that during the winter, your skin dries out really fast. Bingo! You've just hit on one of the main causes of hangnails. Anything that can dry out your skin, such as cold winter weather, harsh chemicals or frequent immersion in water can cause hangnails to develop.
If you are a nail biter, it's likely that you develop more hangnails than your friends who prefer not to nibble on their nails. Besides being bad for your teeth, biting your nails can damage your nail bed, which is the skin underneath the actual fingernail [source: Mayo Clinic]. A weak nail bed can result in more hangnails. Another cause of hangnails is a manicure gone awry -- an inept hand with the nail clippers or frequent cutting of the cuticles can cause hangnails [source: Bruno].
Hangnails that aren't properly cared for can result in an infection called paronychia. There are three types of paronychia infection: bacterial, Candidal -- which is a type of yeast -- and fungal [source: MedlinePlus]. An infection in the skin around your fingernail can be red, swollen and painful, and it may even emit pus.
Now that you know how hangnails happen, you're probably wondering how you can stop them before they start. Keep reading to find out.