Tetra Images for Getty Images
Tetra Images for Getty Images

Sometimes it’s the smallest mishaps that make the most trouble. Everyone has had a nasty splinter! During a busy day at the salon or at home it’s tempting to ignore the little thing, but you’re better off dealing with it right away.

“Splinters come in all shapes and sizes, and they can really hurt,” says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Robert Sidbury, associate professor, department of pediatrics and division chief of dermatology, University of Washington School of Medicine. “To reduce pain and the possibility of an infection, splinters should be removed as quickly as possible.”

Sidbury recommends following this procedure:

  1. Wash your hands and the affected area with soap and water, and gently pat the skin dry.
  2. Inspect the splinter with a magnifying glass to determine how big it is and from which direction it entered the skin. If part of the splinter sticks out, use rubbing alcohol to sterilize the tip of a pair of tweezers. Then, use the tweezers to gently pull out the splinter in the same direction that it entered the skin. Never squeeze out a splinter, as this may cause it to break into smaller pieces that are harder to remove. If the entire splinter is embedded under the skin, use rubbing alcohol to sterilize a small needle and a pair of tweezers. Looking through a magnifying glass, use the needle to gently pierce the surface of the skin at one end of the splinter. You may need a second person to help. Continue to use the needle to carefully push out part of the splinter. Once one end of the splinter is sticking out, use the tweezers to gently pull out the splinter.
  3. After the splinter has been removed, clean the area with soap and water and apply petroleum jelly. Keep the area covered with a bandage until it heals.

“Most splinters can be safely removed at home, but some may require medical assistance,” Sidbury says. “See your doctor or a board-certified dermatologist if your splinter is very large or deep, if it’s located in or near your eye or if the area becomes infected.”


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