As a medical and beauty journalist, I often get questions about “ugly toenails” and how to remedy them. Having had ugly big toenails (caused by onychomycosis or fungal infection of the growing base) for over 14 years, I have become somewhat of an expert in this persistent condition and how to restore damaged toenails to some semblance of beauty. Here are a few pointers:
1. If you think you have a toenail infection (usually heralded by a yellowish discoloration of the nail and/or thickening), act quickly! Soak your toes in vinegar daily, or apply a 3% hydrogen peroxide with a Q-tip twice a day. Caught early, most cases of onychomycosis are treatable.
2. Always let your toes out to air as often as possible. Fungus cannot develop in the presence of ultraviolet light and oxygen. (Fungi love dark, damp places like socks and closed-toed shoes.) Go barefoot at home, or wear thongs, and don your sandals when you’re out. Never, ever wear plastic or vinyl shoes that do not have breathing holes.
3. Don’t fall for any of those ads on eBay or elsewhere on the Internet, claiming that some ancient cure emanating from uncle so-and-so in an obscure Mediterranean village cured the seller’s ugly toenails. The solutions they sell (often for over $20 a small bottle) are either diluted vinegar or hydrogen peroxide. I fell prey to one of these sellers and paid $25 a bottle for a few drips of hydrogen peroxide in distilled water.
4. Ditto for tea tree oil/melaleuca and oregano oil. These may be an anti-fungal in action but once onychomycosis has taken hold, there’s not much either can do.
5. Beware of prescription meds for onychomycosis, such as Lamisil® (terbinafine) and Sporanox® (itraconazole) in tablet form. These have to be taken for the long-term (up to 12 weeks) and are extremely expensive (over $500 last time I checked). The products come with warnings about liver health and some cases of liver damage have been reported. Is the health of your entire body a sensible trade-off for pretty toenails? More recently, Lamisil® has become available as a cream or spray.
You may want to try this instead. After 13 years with severely thickened and deformed toenails, the cream finally restored my nasty toenails to healthy, thinned down, pink ones. First, I filed down the “tabletop” of the nail, being very careful to stop before it became too planed down and I hit the skin underneath. Then I applied the cream nightly and in the morning for two months. After this, I used it only at night (after washing my feet of course) and rubbed in oil of oregano in the morning. This produced the miracle I had been waiting for. But what if you are going on vacation where your tootsies will be revealed, or you are going out for a night on the town and want to wear your strappy stilettos with the peep toes? This brings me to:
6. Check out the local nail salons and find one where they will apply fake toenails. It will likely cost you in the region of $12 and you’ll be sporting a pair of brand new, pretty feet. Be sure to have the nails removed as soon as possible though, as fungi can spread underneath, spoiling your best efforts to have beautiful toenails again. Getting rid of ugly toenails can be done, even after many years. Trust me. I did it, and you can too.