More than 35 million adults in the U.S. have at least one yellowish nail (most likely a toenail) infected with fungus, and the likelihood you fall into that category increases with age.
For all of our tendencies to keep our feet in sweaty socks and sneakers for extended periods, men tend to be at a higher risk. We also tend to not prioritize any sort of foot hygiene or skincare, likely out of some irrational fear that it’s “unmanly.”
Let’s get this out of the way now– there is nothing unmanly about taking care of yourself. Your feet have been there for you, thick and thin, supporting you under the suffocation of countless socks and sweaty sneakers– show them some appreciation!
Yellow toenails are nothing to be ashamed of and fixing them can be relatively quick. However, these yellowish unsightly yellowish can also be indicative of something more severe.
Not to scare you, but if you fail to treat a fungal toenail infection, you could watch it evolve from a cosmetic imperfection to a mild inconvenience to a severe infection that could potentially lead to the amputation of a toe or your entire foot. We don’t know about you, but keeping all of our toes and feet should be a pretty high priority!
We’ve rounded up some of the fastest, easiest, and most convenient ways to get rid of yellow nails.Key points:
- Invest the time into proper foot hygiene– your body will thank you!
- Avoid oral contact with fingernails or toenails.
- Regularly wash your feet– waiting for the soapy run-off water from your upper body to hopefully splash on your feet doesn’t count!
- At a minimum, ensure you’re using clean nail scissors when trimming and grooming your nails to avoid any potential bacterial infection.
- Wear clean shoes, wash and disinfect them regularly if they get sweaty and dirty.
What Causes Yellowish Toenails?
A toenail infection is up to 25 times more common than a fingernail infection, and we’d venture to guess that the primary cause is a mix of a lack of hygiene, a tendency to keep our feet bundled up all day, and negligence–how often do you get a good hard look at your feet?
Your nails are a hot spot for bacteria and fungus to develop. The primary culprit for yellowish toenails is toenail fungus, also known as Onychomycosis, which accounts for more than 50% of all nail abnormalities. Any one of multiple from a group of fungi called Dermatophytes is usually involved as well.The bacteria you carry in your fingernails and toenails can be fairly dangerous, causing disease and unpleasant experiences if it makes contact orally or through your bloodstream. For example, if you happen to chew on your fingernails, you can ingest a bunch of different types of harmful bacteria such as:
- Staphylococcus aureus - “staph infections”
- Escherichia coli - “E. Coli”
- Herpetic whitlow - “herpes simplex virus”
- Candida Parapsilosis - “yeast bacteria”
- Salmonellosis - “salmonella”
You’re probably not likely to chew your toenails– if you do, impressive flexibility, but also, gross. Keep your nails out of your mouth!
What Does a Yellow Toenail Mean
A yellow toenail likely means you’ve got some fungus forming in the nail plate. Here’s the general sequence of events:
- An infection with fungus leads to a thickening and warping of the nail plate.
- As the fungus penetrates deeper under the nail, it can lift the nail plate off the nail bed. This can cause the nail to thicken, discolor, and start crumbling around the edges. The yellowish (or hazy white color) is likely the result of the nail bed being exposed to air (onycholysis), but it can also be the natural color of the fungal infection.
- Although the top of the nail can appear dry and dead, the area underneath the nail plate can host a lively party of mold, bacteria, and yeast.
However, it’s important to note that there are instances where yellow toenails are a symptom of something more severe, and there are other risks outside of poor hygiene.
For example, if you have diabetes, poor circulation, a weakened immune system, athlete’s foot, or hyperhidrosis, you’re at a much higher risk for developing nail fungus.
If your basic foot hygiene practices and yellow nail prevention techniques don’t change the discoloration, see a doctor or a podiatrist for an assessment.
How to Get Rid of Yellow Toenails: Basic Treatments
A typical yellowish toenail treatment is pretty simple, but can vary with the severity of your condition.
Let’s start with developing proper foot hygiene. Learn how to give yourself a proper pedicure (or get one done professionally.)
Men tend to fumble their toenail trimming routine by cutting the sides of the nails too much, causing the nail to ingrow and cause irritation. Further, cheap nail clippers can cause splitting in the nail and leave rough edges.
If you’re currently dealing with some yellow goblin toenails, you’ll need to treat it directly. If you cut your nails, you could spread the infection from one yellow nail to an otherwise healthy one. Depending on how serious you think your yellow toenails, your solution will vary:
- Hydrogen peroxide can kill toenail fungus, but it may need to be combined with other strategies to completely eliminate the fungus.
- There are specific OTC products made to combat the beginning stages of toenail fungus and athlete’s foot.
- Some mentholated salves such as Vicks VapoRub can help.
Step-By-Step Yellow Toenail Treatment
The most effective way to get your yellow toenails in check is to visit a doctor or podiatrist and get an expert opinion. If they recommend using some specific type of product, follow their instructions.
However, if you want to DIY yellow toenail treatment, try dousing the problematic areas with hydrogen peroxide and see if that makes a difference the next day.
You can use many common household items for an antifungal foot bath, such as the good old soap and water duo. You can also try some combination of menthol, eucalyptus oil, and camphor if you’re looking for a more natural remedy.
Step 1: Find yourself a nice big bowl or use your bathtub and fill it up to ankle level with hot/warm water.
Step 2: Place a few drops of soap, menthol, or eucalyptus oil.
Step 3: Soak your feet for 15 to 20 minutes.
Step 4: Dry off with a clean towel.
These are just some of the most common problems men have with their toenails, and how you can deal with them to enjoy healthy and resilient toenails.
Grooming foot and nail hygiene habits early on means you can live a happy yellow toenail-free life, and if you ever do get a yellowish toenail, you can troubleshoot it ASAP.