If you've noticed your nails are turning yellow, it may be because of this (2024)

The four little words that make the world spin, 'I need a manicure!' never ring quite as true as when you glance down at your fingernails and notice that all of the sudden they’re tinged yellow. Eek! But don't freak out just yet. We caught up with two board-certified dermatologists to find out why this happens and how to combat it.

Meet the experts: Shereene Idriss, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City. Marisa Garshick, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology in New York City.

Reason 1: You wear a lot of dark nail polish.

'Unlike the conventional thinking that healthy nails are firm and hard, the reality is that nails are in fact quite porous,' says Shereene Idriss, MD, a New York City-based board-certified dermatologist. So when nail polish, especially darker shades, are applied to the nail, the pigment can be absorbed. 'The iron oxides in those polishes become oxidized and result in the temporary yellow-rust like color that will eventually resolve,' she says.

Thankfully, it's not permanent. To avoid the staining in the future, 'Apply a clear base coat prior to using heavily pigmented polishes,' Dr. Idriss says. 'Also, if you are bothered by the yellow stain, take your nail polish off after a week or so, and dare to go bare every once in a while.'

Reason 2: You have a fungus.

If you tend to use public showers—like the ones at the gym, for example—and don't typically wear shower shoes, you have a greater chance of getting a fungal infection on your nails and toes.

'There's definitely a fungus among us, especially when walking barefoot in the locker room,' Dr. Idriss says. 'Athlete's foot is a thing, and it's no surprise the name holds true. Fungus and bacteria can cause the nails to turn yellow-green and eventually acquire chalk-like brittleness.' If you think you've gotten something from the locker room, Dr. Idriss recommends speaking to your dermatologist, since treatment can vary depending on the source of the discolouration. ​​

Reason 3: You’re a smoker (or you have a vitamin deficiency).

'Although the exact reason why is unknown, yellow nails are usually seen in those who suffer from chronic lung disease or poor liver function, and long-term smokers (as nails come into contact with the smoke of tobacco),' says Dr. Idriss. 'Certain vitamin deficiencies such as B-12 and zinc can also lead to nail discoloration over time.'

Reason 4: Someone in your family also has yellow nails.

'This is extremely rare and is known as 'yellow-nail syndrome,' says Dr. Idriss of the hereditary condition. 'It starts in middle age, and is associated with obviously yellow nails of both hands and feet, swelling in the legs, and respiratory signs such as chronic difficulty breathing. If this affects you or someone you know, treating the underlying lung issues and leg swelling is of crucial importance to your health. Your nails may or may not revert back to normal because the changes are due to a genetic mutation.'

How to get rid of yellow nails

Treatment of yellow nails is all dependent on how you got them in the first place. For yellow nails caused by nail polish, for example, board-certified dermatologist Marisa Garshick, MD suggests avoiding dark colors while your nails get back to their natural shade. (Or give your nail beds a break from polish altogether just to let them breathe).

You can also use nail brighteners like the Butter London Mellow the Yellow, which she says has a blend of vitamin E, exfoliating acids, and lemon fruit extract to help with discolouration, or the Manicurist Green Active Glow that leaves nails with a rosy glow and also nourishes and regenerates them at the same time.

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When it comes to conditions like nail fungus, she recommends using an antifungal treatment. Yellow nail syndrome, on the other hand, is more about treating the symptoms that come with it rather than the actual yellow nail. As mentioned previously, your nails may not go back to their normal color because it is considered a genetic mutation.

Dr. Garshicks adds that foods rich in vitamin E, such as avocado, sunflower oil, almonds, and spinach, can also help address yellow nails and it would be wise to incorporate these foods into your diet. You’ll also want to minimise trauma to the nails and to moisturise your nails and cuticles regularly to prevent nail dystrophy, which she says is known to give nails a yellow appearance.

And while she says vinegar soaks have shown to be helpful with nail infections, for anything really serious you should go see a healthcare professional. If you’re doing any of the treatments mentioned above and it’s still not helping, it’s time to give your doctor a call and book an appointment ASAP.

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Women's Health US

If you've noticed your nails are turning yellow, it may be because of this (2024)


If you've noticed your nails are turning yellow, it may be because of this? ›

Numerous things can cause yellow nails. If you frequently wear nail polish, you may notice that your nails become stained yellow. However, more serious situations, like nail infections, yellow nail disease

nail disease
Noun. onychopathy (plural onychopathies) A disease of the fingernails or toenails.
https://en.wiktionary.org › wiki › onychopathy
, lung syndrome, and rheumatoid arthritis, can also cause yellow nails.

What causes your fingernails to turn yellow? ›

Vitamin or mineral deficiencies can cause nails to appear yellow, and introducing a multivitamin supplement to your regiment may stop the problem. In some cases, nails that remain yellow despite repeated treatment can be a symptom of thyroid conditions, psoriasis, or diabetes.

Does yellow nails mean liver problems? ›

It may be a sign of a fungal infection, which also can lead to thickening and crumbling. Yellow nails also can be a symptom of more serious health problems, including thyroid conditions, liver disease, congestive heart failure, lung disease, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.

Does yellow nails mean diabetes? ›

Discolored nails may simply indicate an infection, but if you're also making extra trips to the bathroom, constantly reaching for your water bottle, and feeling fatigued, a likely culprit is diabetes. The condition can cause glucose to attach to collagen proteins in the nail, turning them from pink to yellow.

Why is my nail polish turning yellow? ›

UV Exposure

Your gel product cures in around 60 seconds under the lamp, so over time, overexposure to UV rays can cause over-curing which results in the gel turning yellow, brown, or even greenish.

What are the signs of yellow fingernails? ›

The characteristic finding associated with yellow nail syndrome is the development of yellow, thickened, and excessively curved nails with almost complete stoppage of nail growth. Loss of the strip of hardened skin at the base and sides of a fingernail (cuticles) may also occur.

Can kidney disease cause yellow nails? ›

Nitrogen waste products build up in people with CKD, which can lead to damaged fingernails and toenails. Show your doctor if you have any abnormal change in your nails such as: Yellow or opaque coloring. Brittle nails.

What do diabetic fingernails look like? ›

In some people with diabetes, the nails take on a yellowish hue. Often this coloring has to do with the breakdown of sugar and its effect on the collagen in nails. This kind of yellowing isn't harmful. It doesn't need to be treated.

Can fingernails show signs of illness? ›

Color change
ColorDisease or other health problem
Pale nailsAnemia
Half pink, half white nailsKidney disease
Yellow nailsLung disease, nail infection
Dusky red half-moonsCould be lupus, heart disease, alopecia areata, arthritis, dermatomyositis
3 more rows

How do you treat yellow nails? ›

Treatment: There is no treatment because the staining resolves on its own with time. To speed up the process, give your nails a break from use of polish, avoid acetone nail polish removers and soak your nails in diluted hydrogen peroxide (1part peroxide, 3 parts water) to help reduce the yellowing.

Should I be worried if my nails are yellow? ›

Vitamin E deficiency may lead to yellow-colored nails. So can many other vitamin deficiencies or conditions. If you have yellow nails, see your healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment.

Are yellow nails serious? ›

If you frequently wear nail polish, you may notice that your nails become stained yellow. However, more serious situations, like nail infections, yellow nail disease, lung syndrome, and rheumatoid arthritis, can also cause yellow nails. In addition, smoking can sometimes stain nails yellow.

What deficiency causes yellow nails? ›

Low levels of certain vitamins, like zinc or B12, can lead to weak, yellow-colored nails. Some people opt to take vitamins that specifically target hair and nail health. But you don't always need to take these vitamins to make sure your body is getting what it needs.

How do you get rid of yellow nails naturally? ›

5 Ways To Whiten Nails At Home
  1. Lemon Juice Soak For White Nails. Lemon contains natural bleaching properties that can help to remove the yellow stains from the nails and whiten them. ...
  2. Vinegar Soak To Whiten Nails. ...
  3. Tea Tree Oil With Olive Oil To Whiten Nails. ...
  4. Mouth Wash To Whiten Nails. ...
  5. Nail Buffing To Whiten Nails.
May 2, 2022

Are yellow nails permanent? ›

Blame it on the nail polish or an infection, either way, yellow nails are not a permanent condition and can be overcome using simple home remedies.

Does base coat prevent yellow nails? ›

That's right – base coat isn't just a sales spiel. "What's happening is that the polish is actually tinting their nails and when they leave the polish on for too long, the pigments from that polish tend to go yellow and stain the nail, even if it's not a yellow polish. Base coat stops that from happening."

How do I get rid of yellow fingernails? ›

Scrub your nails using hydrogen peroxide mixed with baking soda for 2-3 minutes to quickly lighten them. Alternatively, apply whitening toothpaste to your nails and let it sit for 10 minutes. You can also rub the cut side of a lemon on your nails, then let it sit for 10 minutes to lighten them.

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