Why Are My Toenails Yellow?

Nails are said to be the mirrors of your health.

Any type of nail discoloration is an indication of fungal infection or some other serious health issues affecting the body.

Yellow toenails and fingernails are some of the most commonly seen nail infections among both men and women. It is a matter of embarrassment and a pointer to your poor health condition.

In today’s world, nails have truly gone wild with colorful polishes and shades. According to Richard Dorment, a senior editor at Esquire magazine, yellow and green colors are extraordinary nail polish shades that are pouring off salon shelves now. He says, “It’s the color of mucus. It’s the color of infection. It’s the color of old piano keys.”

However, the nails turning unnaturally yellow and thick are NOT to be taken lightly. Your nails look ugly with pale yellow color. It is a visible sign of internal health issues that needs to be remedied urgently.

If you see any signs of nail discoloration, you should seek medical assistance from a podiatrist or foot doctor.

Causes Of Thick Yellow Toenails

Most men and women do get thick yellow nails as they advance in age. It can affect any person. Athletes are highly susceptible to developing thick yellow toenails.

Nails change colors to yellow or become thick and brittle for reasons such as:

  • Fungal infection (cause 60% of nail discoloration problems)
  • Regular uses of nail polishes (stains and damages the nails)
  • Chronic liver disease
  • Diabetes
  • Lymphedema (Yellow Nail Syndrome)
  • Living in a warm, humid climate
  • Injuries or trauma to nails or subcutaneous skin tissues surrounding nails
  • Participation in athletic/sporting activities
  • Wearing improper or unclean footwear and socks
  • Regular communal bathing and occlusive footwear.

Nail fungal infection is one of the most commonly occurring dermatological conditions. Fungal infection is mainly responsible for nails turning brittle, thick, or yellowish.

According to reports, 3-26% of the worldwide population is affected by different kinds of nail fungus infections.

Yellow Nail Syndrome

Symptoms of Nail Infections

The damaging infections of the nail are often accompanied by several symptoms. The nail gradually becomes pale and then turns yellowish in color. The affected nail becomes thicker and thicker with cracks and hardness.

In some cases, the affected nails become brittle or the nail falls off from the toe.

Yellow Nail Syndrome is another common type of nail infection that is the result of a certain genetic disorder. Yellow nail syndrome, also known as “primary lymphedema associated with yellow nails and pleural effusion,” is a very rare medical syndrome that includes pleural effusions, lymphedema (due to underdevelopment of the lymphatic vessels), and yellow dystrophic nails. Approximately 40% of YNS patients will also have bronchiectasis.

How To Get Rid Of Yellow Nails?

yellow toenails care and cure

Let’s now look at a few natural remedies for yellow nails.

It is easy to reverse the yellow nails with the help of simple home remedies. It might take time and require a lot of patience on your part to get the best out of the home remedies.

These days most people prefer natural remedies to toxic prescription medicines. They are safe and effective with lasting healing results.

Now let us look at some of the popular DIY solutions that are in use for 100s of years.

1. Tea Tree Oil

If the yellow or pale colors of your nails are caused by a fungal infection, then the best natural remedy you should use is none other than the tea tree oil.

Tea tree oil is a natural fungicide and has antiseptic as well as antimicrobial properties that will help in eliminating infectious fungi.

With the help of an eyedropper, you can apply one or two drops of tea tree oil to the nail beds. Let the nails absorb the oil for 15 minutes and then you can rinse the toes and nails with warm water.

Daily repeat this treatment for a few weeks till the fungal infection is totally gone. Do not spill the undiluted oil on other parts of the leg or skin as undiluted tea tree oil cause burns and irritation.

2. Baking Soda

Baking soda is excellent for bleaching and exfoliation which can gently remove the stubborn stains from the nail. It is exceptionally good for getting rid of nail discoloration caused by nail polish.

Baking soda works best for a manicure when it is used along with hydrogen peroxide. Mix 1 tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide with 3 tablespoons of baking soda in a glass bowl. Gently knead the mixture into a thin paste with the right amount of water.

Apply the paste with a toothbrush to the discolored toenails. Leave the paste on the nails for 10 minutes and then rinse the nails and toes with lukewarm water.

Repeat the treatment process twice a week until the stains from the nails are fully gone.

3. Lemon

Lemon juice contains excellent bleaching properties that can exfoliate and remove the yellowish stains from the nails.

You can also make use of the lemon essential oil for getting rid of the fungal infections that discolor and damage the nails.

Take 200 ml water in a half-liter bowl (sufficiently wide for immersing the toes) and add 20 drops of lemon juice to it. Soak your stained nail in the lemon juice water for 15 minutes. Then you may use a toothbrush to brush off the stains from the nails.

Rinse the toenails with lukewarm water and apply a natural moisturizing cream to the nails and toes. Repeat this treatment once daily till your nails get back the natural color.

Alternatively, you can apply the lemon essential oil to the discolored nails with the help of a cotton ball. Leave the lemon oil on the nails untouched for 15 minutes and then gently scrub the nail for 2 minutes with a toothbrush to remove the stains.

The lemon oil also helps to eliminate the fungi that cause nail infection and yellow color.

4. Apple Cider Vinegar

Using apple cider vinegar for removing discoloration and fungal infection on the toenails works great.

The acidic quality of vinegar works as a natural bleach for removing the stain. ACV is also beneficial for getting rid of the fungal infection that affects the nails.

You can soak your nails in ACV for about 15 minutes and then rinse the nails and toes in cold water.

Repeat the treatment once daily till you get rid of the yellowish color and stains from the nail. It may take 2 to 3 weeks of daily ACV treatment to get rid of the fungal infections on the nail.

5. Essential Oils

Most of the essential oils have antifungal properties that can effectively remove the infection on the nail caused by fungus. Some of the best antifungal oils are:

  • Clove Essential Oil;
  • Lemongrass Essential Oil;
  • Lavender Essential Oil;
  • Tea Tree Essential Oil;
  • Cassia Essential Oil;
  • Cinnamon Bark Essential Oil;
  • Thyme Essential Oil;
  • Geranium Essential Oil.

Essential oils can be effectively used in treating Onychomycosis. Use coconut oil or Argon oil as the carrier oils to be used with the essential oils.

It is always best to use a blend of two or more essential oils with antifungal and anti-bacterial properties for getting rid of nail fungal infections.

Apply the essential oils blend on the affected nails twice a day till the fungal infection is fully eliminated and the yellow color of the nail is fully reversed.

6. Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide contains excellent whitening elements that can help in retrieving the natural color of the nails.

The hydrogen Peroxide solution is the most commonly used solution to get rid of the yellow stains on the nails. By the way, the solution should contain NOT more than 3% hydrogen peroxide.

Add three tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide liquid to half a cup of water and dilute it well. Soak your nails in the solution for 3 minutes. Scrub the wet nails with a toothbrush to remove the stains and then rinse the nails and toes. Repeat the treatment once a week for a few months until the original color of the nail is retrieved.

To prevent dry skin and nails, it is important to moisturize your nails and toes with moisturizing lotion after the hydrogen peroxide treatment

7. Whitening Toothpaste

Teeth whitening toothpaste is also effective for removing yellow stains from your nails.

You can brush the nails with toothpaste that contains whitening ingredients like hydrogen peroxide.

You can first soak the nails in water and then apply the toothpaste to the nails. Allow the paste to stay on the nails for 5 minutes and then scrub the nails with a toothbrush. After scrubbing, rinse your nails with lukewarm water and apply some good moisturizing cream to your nails and toes.

Repeat this treatment two or three times a week to preserve and retain the original color of the nails.

8. Epsom Salt

Using Epsom salt solution for foot soaking is very beneficial for gently exfoliating the nails and skin. It can remove the dry and dead layers of thick nails.

The fungal infections that turn the color of nails to yellow are mostly caused by the fungus on your toes nourished by the hot, dusty, and sweaty shoes and socks.

Soaking your nails and toes in the Epsom salt solution also helps to eliminate the fungus.

For best results from Epsom salt treatment, you should trim your nails short and clean your toes and nails. This allows the soak to get deeper into the nail bed and under the nail to destroy the fungi residing inside the nails.

You can increase the effect of Epsom salt treatment by adding a few drops of tea tree oil to the solution.

Repeat the foot soaking treatment three times a week till the fungal infection and yellowish color on the nails are totally gone.

Natural Remedies For Yellow Nails Reversal

Ways To Manage Nail Fungus And Yellow Nails

We have just discussed above a few of the proven natural remedies beneficial for getting rid of nail discoloration.

Natural remedies are healthy and safe to use. However, some of you may not have the patience and time to deal with natural remedies that require some amount of consistent effort from your side.

Here are a few mainstream treatments for dealing with nail discoloration and fungal infections:

1. Laser Treatments

Laser therapy is a proven solution to get rid of nail fungus and the yellowish color of the nail caused by it.

Some of the pedicure clinics in your locality will have laser treatment solutions for treating nail fungus. You may have to undergo a couple of sessions of laser treatment before you can fully overcome the fungal problem. You should be willing to shell out a good amount of money, approximately $1000+ to get the laser treatments.

2. Prescription Medicines

Prescription medicines are the most convenient treatment method most patients like to follow.

Of course, the results of prescription medicines are fairly fast and effective. However, long-term use of OTC medicines can have side effects on overall health.

Here are the most commonly used prescription medicines for toenail fungus:

  • Terbinafine /Lamisil
  • Itraconazole /Sporanox
  • Griseofulvin /Gris-Peg
  • Fluconazole /Diflucan

None of these medicines are to be taken without the recommendation of your physician. These medicines are not recommended for minors and pregnant women.

Prescription medicines besides healing the fungal infection also negatively affect functions of the body like the liver and heart. Prescription medicines have on average a 60% treatment success rate as in some cases the fungal infection returns after a few months.

The success of the mainstream treatment also depends on the health conditions and correctly diagnosing the actual cause that leads to the yellowing of nails.

If you have yellow nail color because of the polish, then you will have to wait until the nails grow out to restore the natural color.

If the discoloration of the nail is caused by diseases like diabetes, heart ailments, liver infections, poor blood circulation, jaundice, etc., then treating the specific health condition is necessary to retrieve the lost color of the nails.

3. Denture Cleaning Tablets

Denture cleaning tablets are effective for cleaning stained nails. Two prominent ingredients in this tablet are citric acid and sodium bicarbonate.

Take a bowl of lukewarm water and dissolve two or three denture cleaning tablets in it. Soak your discolored nails in this water for 10-15 minutes; after this with a toothbrush scrub the nails for 2 minutes. Rinse the nails and toes with water and apply moisturizing lotion on them.

This treatment should be repeated thrice a week till the nails have regained their natural color.

How To Prevent Nails From Turning Yellow?

Adequate care and protection of your nails are necessary to prevent fungal infections of the nails.

You have to be extra careful in taking good care of the nails and toes especially when they are injured or damaged. It is the most vulnerable situation that provides conducive ambient for the fungus to flourish.

You should take prompt action in treating the nail fungus at the first instance of its appearance. The faster you adopt the best treatments, the easier it will be to manage the damage it can cause to the nails.

Here are a few nail care tips that can help in preventing yellow toenails:

  • Wear clean shoes and socks;
  • Shoes you wear must be made of breathable materials;
  • Follow the full course of the treatment as suggested by your doctor;
  • Avoid walking barefoot in filthy areas;
  • Do not use footwear or socks used by others with nail fungal infection;
  • Avoid community bathing and shared clothing;
  • Always keep your toes and feet clean and lightly moisturized;
  • Begin treatment for nail discoloration at the initial stages itself;
  • Diagnose the actual cause of nail discoloration and address particular health conditions;
  • Never keep your nails too long or short, but always trim them straight across;
  • Make a podiatrist examine your nails, toes, and feet at least once in two months.

The Bottom Line

Beautiful nails, hair, and skin are the quintessential part of a ‘good look’ that gives a unique identity to an individual.

Grooming the toes and fingers with beautiful nails and cuticles is the essence of every manicure culture. Any type of discoloration happening to the nails is bad.

It is easy to prevent and reverse the yellow color of your nails by ardently following the suggestion and tips we have discussed in this article.

If you have some better ideas on managing nail infection and discoloration, share your valuable suggestion in the comment section below for the benefit of all readers of this blog.