It can be very painful to tear or rip your nail from the nail bed. A nail may separate
from the nail bed (detach) for many reasons, including:
Separation caused by injury is common in
people who have long fingernails. The nail may pry away from the nail bed when
it is hit or jammed.
Severe or repetitive toe stubbing
may cause a toenail to detach. This is also common in
athletes who wear shoes that aren't roomy enough.
Fungal nail infection, which occurs when fungi invade
a fingernail or toenail and the skin underneath the nail (nail bed). Toenails
are more commonly affected than fingernails, and symptoms include cracked,
yellow, discolored, streaked, thickened, or spotted nails.
Chemicals, such as acetone nail
polish removers or some soaps.
Medicines, such as chemotherapy or
After a nail separates from the nail bed for whatever reason, it will
not reattach. A new nail will have to grow back in its place. Nails grow back
slowly. It takes about 6 months for a fingernail and up to 18 months for a
toenail to grow back.
How is it treated?
Home treatment often helps relieve pain, promote healing, and
prevent infection. Treatment may involve removing the nail,
keeping the area dry to prevent infection, and waiting for a new nail to grow.
The infection or skin condition that caused the separated nail will also need
to be treated.
File any sharp edges smooth, or trim the nail.
This will help prevent catching the nail and tearing it more.
off the detached part of a large tear, or leave the nail alone.
Cover the nail with tape or an adhesive
bandage until the nail has grown out enough to protect the finger or toe.
If you trim off the detached nail, you will have less worry about
the nail catching and tearing.
If you leave the detached nail in
place, it will eventually fall off when the new nail grows in.
Use scissors to remove the detached part of the
nail if the nail is partly attached.
Soak your finger or toe in
cold water for 20 minutes after trimming the nail.
antibiotic ointment, such as Bacitracin, and cover the area with a nonstick
To prevent infection:
Soak your foot or hand in a solution of 1 tsp (5
g) of salt dissolved in 4 cups (1 L) warm water for 20 minutes, 2 or 3 times
each day, for the next 3 days. Reapply an antibiotic ointment, and cover with a
fresh adhesive bandage.
Keep the nail bed
dry, clean, and covered with antibiotic ointment and an adhesive bandage until the
nail bed is firm or the nail has grown back. Apply a new adhesive bandage
whenever the bandage gets wet.
Watch for signs of infection such as
increasing heat, redness, pain, tenderness, swelling, or pus.
Remove an artificial nail if it separates from the nail
bed. If you leave it on, the long, artificial nail can tear the nail
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.