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There’s nothing quite so unsightly as removing your shoes and socks to reveal a set of thick, yellow toenails, and while this isn’t as much of a problem in the winter (you can always hide your feet, after all), spring is coming. 

How can you get rid of those yellow toenails in time for sandal season? Here are a few ways to treat yellow toenails, as well as the potential causes and when you might want to consider heading to the doctor.

What are the Causes of Yellow Toenails? 

There are a range of causes for yellow toenails. Some you can help, others you can’t. Some are nothing to worry about, while other times yellow toenails can stand in as a sign that something more serious is wrong. 

Causes include:

  • Aging
  • Polish/Pedicure Habits
  • Medical Causes/Underlying Issues
  • Infections
  • Yellow Nail Syndrome

Aging is one of the most common causes of yellow toenails, but there’s nothing you can really do about this cause. You can treat the yellow toenails, but you’ll only be alleviating a symptom, not eliminating the root issue, which is just that you’re getting older. 

There’s nothing to really worry about in this instance, though. Your yellow toenails are just that and nothing more. 

The same goes for if your yellow toenails are caused by nail polish or pedicure habits. Sometimes, certain nail polishes and pedicure products can turn your nails slightly yellow. All you have to do is stop using your products for a while and you’ll see the yellow go away.

On a more serious note, sometimes yellow toenails are a sign of a medical issue. Yellow Nail Syndrome, for example, is a disorder that not only causes you to grow thick, slow, curved nails with a yellowish (and sometimes black or green) hue but also can cause more serious problems such as respiratory issues. 

Other times, yellow toenails are a sign of a fungal infection, or they’re a symptom of another, more serious condition, such as diabetes or an autoimmune disorder (however, you would most likely have other symptoms to lead you to believe you have one of these conditions, beyond the yellow toenails). 

When to See a Doctor About Your Yellow Toenails

Gloved hands examine feet

You should see your doctor about yellow toenails if you notice a rapid change in your toenails in terms of thickness or shape, bleeding or discharge around the nails and/or swelling and pain around the nails. 

Treatment for Yellow Toenails

If you find you have a case of yellow toenails and you’re not sure you need to go to the doctor just yet, there are a few things you can do at home to try to eliminate the problem. 

Firstly, stop using any nail polish or pedicure products. You want your toes to remain clean and untouched as you monitor them for changes. 

Keep your toes clean and dry and give the nails minimal care, with short cuts to the nail, making sure you’re always using clean nail clippers.

Wear clean, breathable socks every day. Avoid ill-fitting shoes. If you sweat in your shoes a lot, air them out between wears. 

If you do think you need to go to the doctor for your yellow toenails, they might prescribe you an antifungal medication (if your yellow toenails are indeed caused by a fungal infection), which is often a cream or medicated polish that you apply to your nails/toes on a regular basis. Antibiotics are also sometimes prescribed.

Home Remedies for Yellow Toenails

Bare feet soaking in soapy water

If you suspect your yellow toenails are caused by something harmless, such as aging or heavy nail polish use, or even a mild fungal infection, then there are a few home remedies you can try. 


Try cleaning your nails with whitening toothpaste. All you need is a nail brush or toothbrush and the toothpaste of your choice. The whitening powers of toothpaste can extend to your yellow toenails. Brush and watch the yellow color disappear. Make sure to wash your hands and use a moisturizer afterward because the toothpaste will dry out your skin. 

Orange Peels 

You can also start rubbing your nails with orange peels on a daily basis, which shows results for some users. Oranges are said to be a great antioxidant for your body and will minimize the yellow color. You can also eat the orange and then use the peels to take care of your toes.

Lemon Juice or Denture Tablet 

Another daily remedy includes soaking your nails in either lemon juice or a bowl of warm water with a dissolved denture tablet for 10 to 15 minutes. If you have neither on hand, you can also try soaking your nails in mouthwash for half an hour, daily, for a week, or until you see improvement. 

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar has antifungal properties and a mixture of half a cup of water and a half a cup of apple cider vinegar makes for a good soak for your toes. 

Just soak your nails for 20 minutes, three times a day for three to four weeks, to both fight the fungal infection and return your nails to their normal color. 

Tea Tree Oil

If you don’t have time to soak your nails for an hour each day for four weeks, then try tea tree oil. The oil’s antiseptic properties fight fungal infections. Apply the oil to your nails, leave it for five minutes and then rinse. Do this twice daily for up to a few months. 

Prevention for Yellow Toenails 

If you’ve gotten rid of your yellow toenails and want to make sure they stay gone, or if you’re worried about getting yellow toenails for the first time, there are a few easy preventions you can take. 

You don’t need to avoid pedicures altogether. Just ensure your nail salon is sticking to proper hygiene standards. Then, ask for a clear base coat of polish, which can prevent discoloration caused by darker shades of polish. 

If you don’t regularly paint your toenails, then at least take care of them by keeping them clean and cut and by keeping your shoes clean as well. 

No More Yellow Toenails

Getting rid of yellow toenails once you have them can be a pain, but it doesn’t have to be overly difficult. Whether you need a prescription from your doctor or a little patience for one of the at-home remedies discussed above, you can show off pristine toenails once again, just in time for sandal season! 

You might also be interested in: Gut Health 101

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Feb 27, 2020
Health & Wellness

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