If you’ve ever noticed your or your client’s toenails looking abnormally thick, discolored, textured, warped, or cracking and breaking easily, there is a chance they have toenail fungus. This type of infection is rather common and, luckily, treatable.
In the worst cases, you’ll have to recommend your client see a doctor to get the proper treatment. But in the early stages of toenail fungus, you can effectively treat it at home. Keep reading to find out how to avoid it and how to treat it.
What Is Toenail Fungus?
Fungal toenail infections are a common type of infection that resonates beneath the toenail, causing discoloration and changes in thickness and making it more likely to crack or break.
How Do You Get Toenail Fungus?
Toenail fungal infections are caused when different types of fungi, like yeast or mold, in the outside environment make their way underneath the nail. It thrives in warm moist areas. You can get it from letting your feet stay wet, either from sweat or residual water, for an extended period of time. You can also get it by coming in contact with the fungi and it making its way beneath your toenail.
Is Toenail Fungus Contagious?
Besides direct contact with feet, fungal infections are spread in warm, moist areas. You won’t get it from having a cup of coffee with a friend who has it but living in close quarters with someone who has infected toes will put you at risk.
High-Risk Areas for Toenail Fungus
Older people aged 60 and up are most at risk for contracting toenail infections. This is because older people typically have a weaker immune system and are more susceptible. Aside from that fact, places where you are most likely to pick up a toenail fungus are in warm, moist areas… mostly places that see a lot of foot traffic, literally.
Make sure your nail salon prioritizes sanitation between each client they service. Nail clippers, filers, and other nail tools used on the toes can harbor bacteria and spread it from one infected client to the next. Lifehack: nail salons are typically cleanest in the morning since it is the start of a new day, so schedule your pedi in the am hours.
Wet, humid areas are a prime place for spreading fungi. Always wear shower shoes or flip-flops if you are going to be stepping where others do.
The same goes for waterparks as showers. Keep water shoes handy to reduce your risk of picking something up off the ground.
How to Avoid Getting Toenail Fungus
If you’ve come in contact with someone who has toenail fungus, such as a client whose feet you had been touching before you recognized the infection -- immediately wash your hands with an antibacterial soap. Best recommendations are to wear gloves and change with each client.
Dry Your Feet Thoroughly
Aside from wearing water shoes in public areas that are moist, damp, and steamy, be sure to thoroughly dry your feet before putting your shoes on, whether that’s getting out of your own shower or slipping your shoes on after a day at the pool. Water is a breeding ground for fungi, so just be aware.
Powder Up Your Pantyhose
Wearing pantyhose daily can cause sweaty feet and lead to toenail fungus. Nylon hosiery doesn’t absorb sweat, so consider putting some baby powder or antiperspirant powder or spray on your feet before slipping them in your tights for the day.
Long-distance runners sweat a lot. Sweaty socks and tightly laced up running sneakers create a great environment for toenail fungus to grow. Try using special socks that are designed to keep the feet dry by wicking away moisture. Another tip is to alternate between sneakers, allowing them to thoroughly dry out between runs.
Give Your Toes a Break
Wearing tight closed-toe shoes or high heels can cause pressure and damage to your toenails, making them more susceptible to cracks and breaks and, therefore, more at risk for fungi to get underneath.
How to Treat Toenail Fungus
Once you recognize something funky is up with your toenail or nails, treat it right away. Toenail fungus will not clear up on its own, and if it is left untreated, it will spread and destroy the nail.
Treating It at Home
Toenail fungal infections can often be treated at home while they’re still in the early stage.
When the fungal infection is superficial, small white patches of fungus will form on the nails. Generally, you can file off the fungus (make sure to thoroughly clean the file afterwards) then apply an over-the-counter antifungal topical medicated to the nail. But, these topical medications don’t penetrate the nail deep enough to kill all the fungus. You will have to repeatedly apply the cream.
Holistic Home Remedies
In addition to treating fungal infections at home with OTC medication, there are also some life hacks you can put together with things in your pantry to help treat your infected toenails.
Baking Soda: Although baking soda will not treat toenail fungus once it has affected the toenails, you can use baking soda to combat it. Sprinkle some in your socks and sneakers or boots before a long, sweaty day of work or in the feet of your pantyhose to help absorb moisture.
If it’s too late to be proactive and now you are forced to actively deal with your toenail fungus, create a baking soda paste. Mix the baking soda with water to create a glue-like consistency and plaster it onto the infected area. Let it sit until it is completely dried, and rinse off.
Vinegar: Soak the infected toenails in a bowl of vinegar mixed with water. The mixture should be two parts vinegar to one part water. You’ll need to soak the toes for about 30 minutes daily. Vinegar is naturally acidic, so it works to help balance the pH of the skin. It also helps prevent the fungus from spreading while working to kill it. Be sure to thoroughly dry your toes after soaking.
Snakeroot Extract: In Mexico, Snakeroot is a traditional treatment for fungal infections. It is part of the sunflower family and is known for its antifungal properties.
Tea Tree Oil: Found to have antifungal and antiseptic properties, tea tree oil can be applied directly to the toe. Let it soak on the nail for about ten minutes before rinsing off and repeat daily.
Other Essential Oil Blends: Mixing certain essential oil blends with a carrier oil and applying them to the infected toenails are believed to have antifungal benefits. Here is a list of the essential oils believed to help with fungus:
- lavender oil
- petitgrain oil
- clary sage oil
- ylang ylang oil
- jasmine oil
Once you’ve noticed a toenail fungal infection, be hypervigilant in taking the proper care ritually until the fungus has cleared. Without healthy feet to begin with, a pedicure can only do so much to improve the appearance of your feet. Keep your feet dry, clean, and away from damp areas where fungus grows, or all your efforts for beautiful feet will be in vain. Beauty is sometimes in the not-so-beautiful details of self-care and maintenance.