Treating an ingrown nail requires time, patience and a few tools, but you can take care of most ingrown nails at home. If the nail isn't infected, one of the most common and effective home remedies is to take a cotton ball or some waxed dental floss and place it under the nail. This separates the nail from the skin into which it's growing. You can use a bandage or medical tape to keep the cotton or floss in place [source: American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons].
To help the healing process and relieve any pain or discomfort, soak the finger or toe with the ingrown nail in warm water a few times a day. When not soaking the nail, keep the area clean and dry. You can also take over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, to alleviate any pain. While the nail heals, wear comfortable shoes that give your toes room to move -- wearing constricting or ill-fitting shoes not only causes ingrown nails, but also makes them worse. If weather and activity permits, wearing open-toed sandals may be more comfortable than close-toed shoes [source: American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons].
If these home remedies don't help -- or if the ingrown nail becomes infected or becomes a recurring problem, talk to your doctor about treatment options. Your doctor can discuss simple surgical procedures for removing the nail or part of the nail -- never try to remove your toenail without consulting a physician. A doctor will typically remove the nail only partially. Removing the entire nail may enable it to grow back in the same distorted shape, but partial nail removal will prevent the ingrown part of the nail from coming back. The surgery generally can be done as an outpatient procedure with a local anesthetic [source: American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons].
Choosing one of these treatment options should help prevent your ingrown nail from becoming infected. However, if your nail is already infected, keep reading to learn how to treat it.