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Toenail Fungus: What it is and How to Get Rid of It

Updated: Jan 13, 2020

Even the name of this blog post might turn your stomach, but toenail fungus is surprisingly common, affecting 15% of Americans who report it, and higher among those that don't. While it's a taboo topic for some, a fungal infection in your toenails can disrupt your entire foot, and it needs to be taken care of as soon as possible.

This time of year is crucial for getting nails healthy and ready for summer toes!

The technical name for a fungal toenail infection is "onychomycosis". Trichophyton rubrum and Trichophyton mentagrophytes are the most common culprits. The first originates in the nail fold closest to the body and spreads outward from there. The latter starts on the surface and digs deeper as it goes. Another common culprit is athlete's foot, or tinea pedis. This fungus affects the entire foot.

Feet are more prone to fungus because they spend all day in warm, dark, moist spaces. It's common for people to get their feet wet and then put socks on without drying them entirely. We also put a lot of stress on our feet, which means they crack and split, inviting more infection beyond the original area.

How to Care for Toenail Fungus

No matter the cause, toenail fungus needs to be treated immediately so that it does not spread to the rest of the foot, or elsewhere. You can have your particular fungus diagnosed at a general practitioner, who will look at it under a slide or grow it in a culture to determine the type.

If you choose not to go to a doctor, foot fungus is still easy to spot. The most common symptoms are toenails that are yellow, brown or white (different from their usual fleshy-pink color), unusually thick toenails, or toenails that are fragile and crack easily. If your feet itch, burn, sting, have blisters, are cracking or peeling between the toes, or your toenails are pulling away from your nail bed, athlete's foot may also be responsible.

Treating toenail fungus at home can be as fast as buying an over-the-counter remedy: undecylenic acid is the most common ingredient in toenail remedies, and tolnaftate is the main ingredient in products for athlete's foot and ringworm.

Effective DIY to Halt Toenail Fungus

1. ESSENTIAL OILS: Tea Tree Oil and lLavender Oil are highly effective antimicrobials. Apply daily to nails before putting on socks can stop the fungus and treat the rest of your feet.

2. BAKING SODA: Fill a bowl with 2 T baking soda and water. Soak for 20-30 minutes, a few times a week. Rinse and apply good moisturizer (like Skin and Sky!)

3. LISTERINE: There's a reason you shouldn't use Listenrine as a mouthwash often, and why it is effective as a foot-bath: it is STRONG. Mix 1/2 C Listerine in bowl of water. soak feet 20-30 minutes, a few times a week. Rinse and apply good moisturizer (like Skin and Sky!)

Preventing a Reoccurrence

After you effectively get rid of the fungus, make sure that it doesn't return by following these simple rules:

  • Thoroughly dry your feet after every shower, swimming session, or smushy, slushy walking day.

  • Cut sugar out of your diet. Sugar intake has been linked to fungal infections, and eliminating sugar can also decrease yeast and other nasties that hang out in your bloodstream.

  • Wear clean socks every day. Clean your shoes often. (spray the inside with alcohol if you wear daily)

  • Shoes are a must when going to the gym, the pool, or walking around barefoot in public places.

  • Cut your toenails short and straight across--don't "edge" them. Fungus thrives in the small cracks made by trimming the sides of your toenails.

  • Use cornstarch or medicated powder to keep your feet dry if you are prone to fungal infections.

  • Regular pedicures are great for keeping feet healthy! Make sure your nail tech is keeping everything super sterile.

Once you have everything under control, consider keeping a spray bottle of withc hazel near your vanity and spritz feet post shower, then follow with our luscious products! Keeping your feet healthy matters!

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