Nails are said to be the mirror of your health. So, you should be worried when your toenails are turning yellow or brown. Such a color change isn’t just about nails.
Any nail discoloration indicates a fungal infection or serious medical condition 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.
The unnaturally yellow and thickened nail plates should not be taken lightly.
Your nails look ugly with their pale yellow color. It is a visible sign of internal health issues that need to be remedied urgently.
If you see any nail discoloration, you should seek medical assistance from a podiatrist or foot doctor.
Common Causes Of Yellow Toenails
A variety of underlying medical conditions may be responsible for it.
The toenails may turn yellow or brown because of a microbial infection or internal disease.
One of the most common causes is onychomycosis infection on fingernails and toenails.
Most men and women do get thick, yellow toenails 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 nail infection (cause 60% of nail discoloration problems),
- Regular use of nail polish can cause colored patches on nails,
- Chronic liver disease,
- Nail psoriasis,
- Diabetes can cause yellow and brittle toenails,
- Living in a warm, humid climate,
- Vitamin E deficiency,
- Injuries or trauma to the nails or subcutaneous skin tissues surrounding the nails,
- Participation in athletic or sporting activities,
- Wearing occlusive or unclean footwear and socks,
- Community bathing.
Fungus afflictions on the nail are one of the most commonly occurring dermatological conditions.
Infection is mainly responsible for your nails turning brittle, thick, or yellowish. Also, if you have nail psoriasis, you may witness yellow discoloration at the tip of a nail.
According to reports, 3–26% of the worldwide population is affected by different nail fungus infections.
Symptoms of Nail Infections
Several symptoms often accompany dangerous infections of the nails. The nail gradually becomes pale and then turns yellowish. With cracks and hardness, the affected nail becomes thicker and thicker.
The affected nails may sometimes become brittle or fall off the toe.
Yellow Nail Syndrome is another common type of nail infection resulting from a certain genetic disorder. Yellow nail syndrome (YNS), also known as “primary lymphedema associated with yellow toenails 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.
If you have yellow nail syndrome, it can have additional symptoms which include respiratory problems and swelling of the lower limbs. Approximately 40% of YNS patients will also have bronchiectasis.
How To Get Rid Of Yellow Nails
Let’s now look at a few natural remedies for yellow or pale toenails.
It is easy to reverse yellow or colored toenails with the help of simple home remedies. Getting the most out of natural remedies may take time and patience.
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 have been used for hundreds of years.
1. Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil is the best natural remedy to use if a microbial infection is the cause of your nails’ yellow or pale colors.
Tea tree oil is a natural fungicide with antiseptic and antimicrobial properties that help eliminate 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 until the microbial affliction is gone.
Do not spill the undiluted oil on other parts of the leg or skin, as undiluted tea tree oil can cause burns and irritation.
2. Baking soda
Baking soda is excellent for bleaching and exfoliation, which can gently remove stubborn stains from the nail. It is exceptionally good for getting rid of yellow nail stains 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, 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.
Lemon juice contains excellent bleaching properties that can exfoliate and remove yellow stains from the nails.
You can also use lemon essential oil to eliminate fungal infestations that change color and damage your nails.
Take 200 ml of water in a half-liter bowl (sufficiently wide for immersing the toes) and add 20 drops of lemon juice.
Soak your stained nail in lemon juice and 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 a day until your nails have returned to their natural color.
Alternatively, you can apply the lemon essential oil to the discolored nails with 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 to remove discoloration and infection from 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 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 a day 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 eliminate the fungal infections on the nail.
5. Essential oils
Most 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 oil,
- Lemongrass oil,
- Lavender oil,
- Tea tree oil,
- Cassia oil,
- Cinnamon bark oil,
- Thyme oil,
- Geranium 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 blend two or more essential oils with antifungal and antibacterial properties to get rid of the fungus.
Apply the essential oil blend on the affected nails twice a day till the infection is fully eliminated and the yellow color of the nail is fully reversed.
6. Hydrogen peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide has great bleaching properties that help get the nails to their natural color.
The hydrogen peroxide solution is the most commonly used solution to eliminate the yellow stains on the nails. By the way, the solution should contain no 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, 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, then scrub the nails with a toothbrush. After scrubbing, rinse your nails with lukewarm water and apply 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 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, sweaty shoes and socks.
Soaking your nails and toes in the Epsom salt solution also helps to eliminate the fungus.
You should trim your nails short and clean your toes and nails for the best results from Epsom salt treatments. 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 effectiveness of the Epsom salt treatment by adding a few drops of tea tree oil to the solution.
Repeat the foot-soaking treatment three times a week until the fungal infection, and yellowish color on the nails are completely gone.
Ways To Treat Yellow Toenails And Nail Fungus
We have just discussed a few of the proven natural remedies beneficial for getting rid of yellow nails.
Natural remedies are healthy and safe to use. However, some of you may need more patience or time to deal with natural remedies that require consistent effort.
Here are a few mainstream treatments for dealing with colorful blemishes on nails and fungal infections:
1. Laser treatments
Laser therapy is a proven solution to get rid of nail fungus.
Some of the pedicure clinics in your area will have laser treatment solutions for nail fungus. You may have to undergo a couple of laser treatment sessions before fully overcoming the fungal problem. It would be best if you were willing to shell out a good amount of money, approximately $1,000 plus, to get the laser treatments.
2. Prescription medicines
Prescription medicines are the most convenient treatment method most patients like to follow. These may be either oral pills or topical antifungal medications,
The results of prescription medicines are fairly fast and effective. However, long-term use of over-the-counter medicines may cause side effects on overall health.
Here are the most commonly used prescription medicines for toenail fungus:
- Terbinafine or Lamisil,
- Itraconazole or Sporanox,
- Griseofulvin or Gris-Peg,
- Fluconazole or Diflucan.
None of these medicines are to be taken without your physician’s recommendation. These medicines are not recommended for minors or 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 regular treatments also depends on the health conditions and correctly diagnosing the actual cause of the yellowing of nails.
If you have yellow or pale toenails because of the polish, you will have to wait until the nails grow out to restore their natural color.
The changes in the nail’s color can be caused by diabetes, heart disease, liver infection, poor blood circulation, jaundice, etc. In that case, the disease must be treated for the nail color to return.
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, then scrub them for 2 minutes with a toothbrush. Rinse the nails and toes with water and apply moisturizing lotion to them.
This treatment should be repeated three times a week until the nails have regained their natural color.
You may also use tooth-whitening solutions to clean your nails.
How To Prevent Nails From Turning Yellow
Adequate care and protection of your nails are necessary to prevent fungal infections.
You have to be extra careful about taking good care of the nails and toes, especially when injured or damaged. It is the most vulnerable situation because it provides a conducive environment for the fungus to flourish.
At the first sign of nail fungus, you should take immediate action to treat it. The faster you adopt the best treatments, the easier it will be to manage the damage they can cause to the nails.
Here are a few nail care tips that can help prevent 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 wear footwear or socks worn by someone with a nail fungal infection,
- Avoid community bathing and shared clothing,
- Wear shoes in pool areas and locker rooms,
- Always keep your toes and feet clean and lightly moisturized,
- Begin treatment for nail discoloration at the initial stages,
- Applying Vicks VapoRub to nails may prevent the growth of nail infections,
- Diagnose the actual cause of nail discoloration and address particular health conditions,
- Keep your nails short enough, but always trim them straight across,
- Make a podiatrist examine your nails, toes, and feet at least once every two months.
The Final Thought
Beautiful nails, hair, and skin are the quintessential parts of a ‘good look’ that give 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 following the suggestions and tips discussed in this article. Otherwise, people with yellow toenails should make an appointment to see a doctor.
Recommended reading list:
- Bruised Toenail: Causes And Treatment
- How To Get Rid Of An Ingrown Toenail
- Why Are My Toenails Falling Off