How to Fix and Prevent Yellow Nails
by Hilary Braaksma
Take a good long look at your nails without polish. Go ahead. Do it. Would you feel confident about going without polish today or are your nails looking a little worse for wear? If you polish often, chances are you may have one of the most commonly experienced side effects of repeat applications of nail polish: yellowing nails. Sure you can keep hiding them with more bright polish, but that can stifle healthy nail growth, and, in fact, yellow nails are sometimes a symptom of a larger health issue. We talked to nail expert Danielle Candido to get some of her pro tips for keeping your nails in tip-top shape.
Most experts and manicurists recommend taking your polish completely off once in a while to make sure your nails are looking healthy and there’s nothing funky going on. Unfortunately, yellowing nails are the kind of thing that makes us want to immediately cover up our fingertips again. If you’ve got a bad case of yellow nails bumming you out, there are two things you should know: It’s important to address the issue and it’s easily fixable.
Why Do Nails Yellow?
Most often, yellowing of the nails is caused by staining from color polishes, so it’s important to always apply a clear base coat to protect the nails before adding layers of bright color. Plus, it will help your manicure last longer!
Using an acetone nail polish remover is also a known culprit in exacerbating the yellow tint. “I never recommend using straight acetone on a nail, ever,” says Danielle Candido, a nail expert from Gelish. “There’s no reason to.” Always reach for a non-acetone nail polish remover when taking off your color.
If you’re a smoker, chances are your nails are yellowed from nicotine staining. Yet another good reason to give up the habit!
Another common cause of yellow nails is a fungal infection. Fungus-infected nails can turn all sorts of colors and may also cause other nail issues such as flaking, peeling, and an unpleasant odor. Again, see your doc if you think your nails may be yellow due to a fungal infection. Though there are over-the-counter treatments available, prescription remedies tend to be more effective.
And, as prevention is always better than treatment, Candido does have a few tips for preventing fungal growth on the nail, however. “Tea tree oil, diluted with Vitamin E or grape seed oil, which is always good for your nails, will prevent help prevent fungus in the first place,” she says. Massage the diluted tea tree oil into your nails every day for healthy, clear nails.
If you try these tips and still see problems with yellow nails, your problem may be systemic. Liver and lung problems are both known to cause yellowing, as are nutritional deficiencies such as a lack or iron or zinc. If you suspect that your yellow nails may be caused by an underlying medical problem, we make an appointment with your physician right away.
How Do I Whiten Yellow Nails?
While prevention is best, if you already suffer from discolored nails, there are a lot of at home remedies for whitening them. “A hydrogen peroxide solution, baking soda paste, or whitening toothpaste will fix the staining,” says Candido. The following at-home treatments will work on yellow nails caused by smoking or frequent nail polish use.
Hydrogen Peroxide: Mix one part hydrogen peroxide to three parts water in a small bowl you can fit your fingers in and soak your nails for 10 to 15 minutes. Rinse well afterward and apply a moisturizer as peroxide can dry out your nails and skin. You could also try making a paste by mixing a few tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide with a b it of baking soda. Apply the paste solution to the nails using an old toothbrush and let it sit for a bit, then rinse off your nails with water and moisturize.
Denture Tablets: Made to whiten and brighten dentures, these tablets can also be used to remove stains from fingernails. Simply follow the package directions to dissolve the tablet in water and soak your nails in the solution.
Whitening Toothpaste: Just as it removes stains from your teeth, whitening toothpaste can be used to brighten yellowed nails. Simply apply a bit of whitening toothpaste to each nail and rub it in. Let it sit for a few minutes then wash off with water.
Lemon Juice: Real lemon juice can be used to whiten yellowed nails. Simply slice a lemon and squeeze the juice into a bowl you can fit your fingertips in. Let your nails soak for 5 to 10 minutes, repeating as necessary. As with other treatments, moisturize well afterward.
Buffing: You can buff some discoloration off your nails, but be careful: If you buff too deeply, you may weaken the nails or leave them vulnerable to infection.
The key to success with most of these at-home remedies is repetition, says Candido. If you scrub your nails with peroxide, baking soda, or toothpaste without noticing results right away, repeat the process until you achieve your desired level of lightness.
So listen up ladies: Don’t cover your nails at the first sign of yellowing, be sure to explore any health problems that might be related, and don’t be afraid to give your nails a week or two to recuperate from constant polish. A little breather now and then will help your nails stay strong!