Posts Tagged ‘8-hydroxyquinoline’

How To Tackle an Ingrown Toenail

The last time I was at a family gathering, my sister asked me, “What’s your favorite over-the-counter product?”

That’s easy to answer: it’s New Skin®. Normally used to seal up cuts and scrapes, I love to recommend it for a completely different condition: ingrown toenails.

I ’ve spent years and years fighting the pain of getting ingrown toenails on both of my big toes. Then, as a pharmacy student sitting in class, one of my professors mentioned a product  called Outgrow® that he recommended for avoiding ingrown toenails. “It’s brushed onto the skin where an ingrown toenail likes to form and like magic, it will “toughen up” the tender skin and keep the nail from cutting into it. Eventually, the nail is forced to grow out straight.”

“Aha!” I immediately went out and purchased a bottle and used it very successfully for years, until I misplaced it somehow during a move out of state. I didn’t worry about it at first, thinking I could just buy another one. But alas, when I went to the pharmacy shelf to pick up another bottle, I couldn’t find it anywhere. Further research revealed that the manufacturer had discontinued their original formulation several years back. I was willing to try anything, so I ordered the new version. Unfortunately for me, the “new” formula proved totally useless, and I was again plagued with painful ingrown toenails.

Years and many ingrown toenails later, I renewed my search for something like the original version of Outgrow® that would  toughen up or protect my skin. I’d used New Skin® before on cuts, and wondered, “Could this work to prevent an ingrown toenail?” Another plus is that New Skin® contains an anti-infective compound called 8-hydroxyquinoline which can help heal your ingrown toenail! When I tried it, it worked so well that I happily recommend it to anyone else needing to avoid ingrown toenails.

Here’s how to use New Skin® to prevent or treat an ingrown toenail:

  1. You’ll need a bottle of New Skin®, a toothpick, a place to apply it that you can wipe up the mess if you spill or drip, and at least 15 minutes of drying time.
  2. Soak your toes in warm water to soften your toenail. You can also do this right after a warm bath or shower.
  3. Dry your foot well.
  4. Brush on a thin layer of New Skin® along the skin of the nail that tends to or which is already curling under your tender skin.
  5. While still wet, use the toothpick to lift up the edge of your toenail just a bit and work some of the liquid New Skin® underneath it so that the liquid is between your nail and your skin. You don’t need a thick coat, just enough to spread along the nail where it likes to curl.
  6. Let it dry for at least 5 minutes.
  7. Repeat if needed with a second “coat”, letting it thoroughly dry before putting on socks.

One 2-coat application lasts me several months. You’ll notice that your toenail will grow out nice and straight instead of cutting into your skin. Enjoy the freedom from the pain of pesky ingrown toenails!

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Take THAT, You Ingrown Toenail

Q: What do you recommend for ingrown toenails?

I used to use a product called Outgro® which did a fine job helping me prevent the pain of ingrown toenails. Then it went off the market, only to return as a wimpy “not worth your money” remedy that didn’t remedy ANYTHING. Afterward, I spent years searching for something that would do what Outgro® could: toughen the skin of my big toe, preventing my toenail from gouging into the tender skin underneath, and encouraging it to grow out straight instead of curling under and repeating the misery.

A couple of years ago I finally found a product that works for most early cases of ingrown toenails, and another product that helps with more advanced cases. But NEITHER of these are powerful enough to overcome an infected ingrown toenail. If your toe is infected, you MUST seek medical help. And if you are a diabetic please, DON’T WAIT! I have seen far, far too many folks with diabetes LOSE A TOE or even a leg because an infected toe spread into the toe bone, and the only way to keep it from spreading was to CUT IT OFF.

If your nail hasn’t actually cut into your skin yet, applying a thin layer of New Skin® liquid bandage will toughen and protect it. New Skin® has an additional advantage: it contains 8-hydroxyquinoline, the same anti-infective found in Bag Balm®.

Here’s how to use New Skin® for an early ingrown toenail:
Step 1: Soak your foot in warm salt water or Epson salts for at least 20-30 minutes. This softens the nail and helps you get any dirt out from around and under the nail.
Step 2: Dry your toe thoroughly, then paint a thin layer of liquid bandage on the skin on and around the offending toenail where it is getting sore. If you use too much, it will drip off and cause a mess.
Step 3: Take a clean toothpick and gently lift the nail just a tiny bit, letting the liquid bandage run underneath the nail onto the skin below. This coats the tender skin to make it “tougher” and more able to resist your nail from cutting into it.
Step 4: Let your toe dry before putting on socks. You now have a waterproof barrier that you can add to daily or several times a week until the nail stops pinching into your skin.

Using the liquid bandage encourages your nail to grow out without curling under.
However, if your nail is already embedded into the skin enough that the liquid bandage can’t get underneath it, you’re going to have to get the nail out of there first. I have found that Dr. Scholl’s Ingrown Toenail Pain Reliever works to soften your toenail and make it rubbery, allowing you to pry it out of your skin and trim it off yourself. It comes as a kit containing a small tube of 1% sodium sulfide gel, 12 foam pads shaped like tiny donuts and 12 protective bandages.

To use Dr. Scholl’s Ingrown Toenail Pain Reliever to soften up your toenail, you need some salt or Epsom salts and the kit, which is sold without a prescription. It’s not widely available in some areas, so I recommend calling around to save time and gas.
Step 1: Soak your foot first to soften the nail, in warm salt water or Epsom salts for 20-30 minutes.
Step 2: Apply the donut-shaped foam pad, centering the donut hole over the nail that you want to remove.
Step 3: Apply the stinky gel onto your nail inside the donut hole of the foam pad and cover it with the protective bandage supplied in the kit.
Step 4: Repeat twice a day for up to a week until you can lift the nail out and trim it off.

Because ingrown toenails often come back I suggest applying New Skin® liquid bandage to the exposed skin that’s around and underneath the newly trimmed-off nail to encourage it to grow back nice and straight.

Please remember, if your toe is infected, seek medical help; don’t mess around with this on your own!

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What’s in Bag Balm, Anyway?

One of my friends swears that Bag Balm® is great for cuts, abrasions and dry skin on humans, not just in animals. Does it actually contain an antibiotic?

Bag Balm can

My own can of Bag Balm®

Five years ago, my parents were forced to downsize, and I was assigned the job of cleaning out their medicine cabinet. Picking up a faded green square can of Bag Balm, these words caught my eye:  “ACTIVE INGREDIENTS: 0.005% MERCURY FROM ETHYLATED MERCURY STEROLS, PETROLATUM, AND LANOLIN.”

Mercury? REALLY?  I checked my own can as soon as I got back home, and on the side of my can was: “ACTIVE INGREDIENTS: 8-HYDROXYQUINOLINE SULFATE 0.3% in a PETROLATUM, LANOLIN BASE.”

Could Bag Balm have had mercury in it? Yes, at one time it did. When John L. Norris purchased the formula in 1899 that became the recipe for Bag Balm, topical mercury compounds were commonly used as anti-infectives.  If you, like me, remember your mother putting red Mercurochrome® on your cuts, or its colorless cousin Merthiolate®, she was applying a mercury-based antiseptic to your “owie”.

Mercury compounds do not work very well as anti-infectives, but can be absorbed into your body and eventually cause toxicity, especially if applied to broken skin and used over a long period of time. In 1992 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a statement that declared that topical mercury compounds for topical use were neither safe nor effective as anti-infectives, and in 1998 the use of mercury compounds in topical products was banned outright by the FDA, removing the original formulas of Merthiolate® and Mercurochrome® from the shelves of pharmacies and grocery stores.

When did Bag Balm® change its formula from ethylated mercury to its current anti-infective, 8-hydroxyquinoline? I looked up the formula for Bag Balm® in the database Poisindex®, the same one used by poison centers throughout the United States, but the only formulation I found was the one with 8-hydroxyquinoline. To make sure, I called my local poison center, the Washington State Poison Center in north Seattle, who confirmed that as the only formulation listed for Bag Balm®.

So I went to the source. I called the Dairy Association Company, Inc, manufacturers of Bag Balm® in Lyndonville, Vermont, and asked them straight out, “When did you swap out the mercury for the 8-hydroxyquinoline? Did the FDA make you do it when they outlawed its use in 1998?”

According to Charles Allen, Vice President of the Dairy Association Company, the mercury was taken out of Bag Balm long before that – in 1972, to be exact. But what he said next really surprised me. “Dr. Achey, the anti-infective 8-hydroxyquinoline has been in our formulation all along. We just changed the labeling on the can.” Now, isn’t THAT interesting…

Bag Balm® was originally sold to dairy farmers to treat cow udders, keeping them from getting chapped and helping heal minor cuts and scrapes. Most of us recognize Bag Balm’s distinctive green square metal can in both the 10-ounce and 1-ounce sizes. The Dairy Association Company, Inc. continues to be family owned and manufactures and ships the ointment from their facility in Lyndonville, Vermont all over the world. Although it clearly states on the can Veterinary Use Only, many folks use it on their own cuts and chapped body parts with good results.

I used Bag Balm® on myself last year for a jagged cut on my ring finger. Despite soaking the gash in Epsom salts and non-prescription antibiotic ointments, it continued to swell, gradually getting more and more painful, and turning red. I called and made an appointment at my doctor for the following afternoon, but that night I decided to change my strategy. After all, what could I lose?

As a last resort, after soaking my very sore finger in Epsom salts one more time, I applied a liberal coating of Bag Balm® over it instead of the antibiotic ointment I had been using, then covered it with a bandage and went to bed. I wasn’t expecting much improvement, but when I got up the next morning I was totally astounded to find the cut nearly normal in color with no pain and barely any swelling left. It was all but completely healed.  Whatever is in that stuff, it worked. So, I checked out 8-hydroxyquinoline.

What is 8-hydroxyquinoline, anyway? It ‘s not quite an antibiotic, but something that may work even better. 8-hydroxyquinoline has had an excellent reputation as a topical anti-infective for many years and is listed as the active ingredient in liquid bandages such as New Skin®. The 19th edition of the United States Dispensatory published in 1907 described it as a “very powerful and well-regarded antiseptic”.

8-hydroxyquinoline works to stop the growth of bacteria and fungi by binding to certain trace minerals on the surface of the those organisms, creating a toxic compound that poisons it. Other compounds closely related to 8-hydroxyquinoline are currently being studied as weapons against “super-bug” bacteria that have developed resistance to multiple antibiotics.

Dr. Louise’s new book, Why Dogs Can’t Eat Chocolate: How Medicines Work and How YOU Can Take Them Safely is now available here.


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