Yellow Toenails: Causes, Treatments, and Prevention Remedies

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yellow toenailsYellow toenails can not only be an embarrassing sight, but they could also indicate a concerning health condition.

Our toenails can reveal the state of our health, particularly if we are at risk for serious infections or other complications. The shape, color, and texture of the nails will signal problems with the feet as well as our internal systems.

Instead of covering those yellow toenails with socks for the summer, let’s learn the reason behind the discoloration and helpful home remedies to treat them.

Look at your toenails. Are they discolored? Are there ridges or dents on the nail beds? Are they growing in an abnormal shape? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it may be a sign of an existing health condition.

What Causes Yellow Toenails?

Our toenails do not turn color by chance, nor do they become yellow overnight. The nail beds could appear yellow due to a disorder or disease, or could even be the result of a lifestyle habit of yours. The latter is evident with staining from repetitive use of nail polish colors such as red, yellow, or orange.

Yellow toenails can also be caused by smoking, just as it turns your fingernails yellow. More often, yellow toenails are present with a health condition such as diabetes or a fungal infection.

1. Fungal Infections

A fungal infection, such as yeast or a ringworm fungus, can cause toenails to turn yellow and thicken at the head of the nail. The nail itself may also become dull in appearance and easily chip or become brittle.

This type of infection can be contracted by nail exposure to warm and moist locations such as bathrooms, locker rooms, and swimming pool decks. An injury or trauma to the toenail can also invite a fungus infection as can tight shoes, wet socks, or not caring properly for toenails. The nail may fall off and a new one may grow within the next year.

2. Yellow Nail Syndrome

The toenails can change density and color with the rare health condition known as yellow nail syndrome. The nail is forced to separate from the nail bed. This may be seen with cases of lymphatic system health issues, although the cause behind this condition has yet to be identified.

3. Nail Polish

The lovely darker colors of nail polish we love to paint our nails may be the reason behind a yellowish hue to the naked nail. The darker the color, such as red, deep purple, and orange, the more chance the nail will become stained with prolonged use.

Use a base coat on nails before applying a dark polish to help prevent yellowing. Also, allow the nails to breathe for a few days between color switches.

Yellow Toenail Treatment Options

The medical assessment will determine if the yellowing of the nail is caused by a fungal infection or a less troubling reason. You may be prescribed an anti-fngal medication to be used as a topical or oral remedy like lotion, polish, or pills.

The doctor may recommend a combination of both types of treatment to be done over the course of one year in severe cases. There are also laser treatments available for certain conditions.

Natural Home Remedies for Yellow Toenails

For those yellow toenail cases not caused by a severe fungal infection, you may be able to treat the fungus condition and other causes with natural home remedies.

1. Lemon

The astringent powers of lemons as well as the fruit’s capability to be a bleaching agent may alleviate yellow toenail symptoms. Soak feet in a basin of lemon juice for 10 to 15 minutes before gently brushing the nails with a soft but firm bristle brush. Rinse feet with warm water and apply lotion and socks.

Repeat twice each day until coloring returns to normal. You can also use lemon essential oil and water in a basin for the foot soak.

2. Tea Tree Oil

This essential oil is used for its antiseptic and antifungal properties. Combine tea tree oil with olive oil to dab onto the affected nail or apply a few drops of the tea tree oil directly on the nails and massage for a few minutes before rinsing. Repeat either treatment twice each day until the nails are healed.

3. Hydrogen Peroxide

Remove yellow stains on nails with a solution of three percent hydrogen peroxide. Mix three to four tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide with 1\2 cup of water for a nail treatment. Soak nails for two minutes before gently scrubbing nails. Rinse and repeat once each week until clear.

4. Lavender Oil

Use lavender oil to fight fungal infection by mixing equal parts of the oil and tea tree oil. Apply with a soaked cotton ball at the edge of the affected nails twice each day.

5. Oregano Oil

The natural components of analgesic, antifungal, antiviral, antiparasitical, antiseptic, and antibacterial properties of the oregano oil make it a great option. Mix two drops of oregano oil with one teaspoon of olive oil and apply directly on the nail.

6. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar fights fungus infections and may treat the yellowing of the nails with its malic acid and acetic acid components. It could strengthen the nails as well. Combine equal parts of apple cider vinegar and warm water to create a 20-minute soak for the feet. Repeat three times each day for up to four weeks.

7. Listerine

The Listerine brand mouthwash has antifungal properties of eucalyptol, menthol, thymol, and methyl salicylate. It will also directly target the discoloration at the same time. Soak toenails in a basin of Listerine daily for 30 minutes for one week.

Stop for a week and then repeat treatment for another week. You can also mix Listerine and vinegar in equal parts for a 30-minute treatment solution.

8. Orange Peel

Get rid of the yellow stains of toenails with the use of orange peels, more specifically, the vitamin C. Rub the peel on toenails two to three times each day until stain is gone.

You can also combine two tablespoons of dried orange peel powder and water to make a paste to apply directly on nails.

After 10 minutes, gently brush away the paste and rinse. Repeat two times each day for up to two weeks for best results.

9. Vitamin E

You can remove the yellow stain from your toenails with the use of vitamin E. Squeeze directly onto the nails from the capsule supplement to clear the discoloration naturally.

How to Prevent Yellow Toenails

For preventing yellow toenails, we have compiled a list of dos and don’ts to keep in mind now and throughout the year.

  • Use flip-flops on pool decks.
  • Remove socks when they become wet.
  • Avoid tight-fitting shoes.
  • Do not share towels.
  • Thoroughly dry feet and toes after washing or swimming.
  • Follow good foot and nail hygiene.
  • Maintain toenails by clipping straight across and not too short.

Yellow toenails can be unsightly and possibly harmful to your health. If you notice a discoloration of your nails along with changes to the shape or texture, take heed as to whether it is from a fungal infection or a life habit. The yellow coloring may be just a stain from prolonged use of dark nail polish and can be treated with natural bleaching solutions.

Serious infections need to be attended to in order to prevent further complications. All issues of yellowing of the toenails may be prevented with several lifestyle changes.

Related Articles:

What to Do When Your Get White Spots on Your Toenails

Yellow Fingernails: Causes and Treatments

Foot Health: Four Warnings Your Feet May Be Giving You

“How To Get Rid Of Yellow Nails”, Top 10 Home Remedies;, last accessed June 8, 2017.