Do your toenails gross you out?

I’ve been getting grossed out by my toenails lately, but prescription fungus medications scare me. Any way to get my healthy nails back some other, safer way?

Doctors call this type of fungal infection onychomycosis. Warm, wet, and dark conditions—the exact conditions found on the toenail area beneath socks—encourage fungal growth. Sugar also enhances fungi, making this condition more common among diabetics. You can prevent onychomycosis (and also help treat it) by changing the environment to something the fungus doesn’t like—cool, dry, and light. So wear open toe shoes or sandals whenever possible. Without treatment, say dermatologists from the American Academy of Dermatology, nail fungus can worsen and make it painful to wear shoes

Tea tree oil, which comes from the leaves of a tree that grows wild in Australia, has powerful antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. Because our nails have a relatively poor blood supply, the best way to get this naturally occurring antifungal agent in play is to apply it directly to the toenail. Unfortunately, the oil won’t penetrate very deeply beneath the surface of the thickened toenail unless it’s mixed with a solvent such as DMSO, which will enhance penetration and help carry the tea tree oil deep into infected portions of the nail.

You want to choose concentrated solutions such as 99 percent tea tree oil and 99 percent DMSO, both of which are available at most natural food stores. DMSO works so well as a solvent, however, that it will carry anything on the nail beneath the surface when it is applied. To avoid getting any unwanted substances under your nails, take a shower or wash your feet prior to application. Then simply paint the tea tree oil on the nail with a cotton ball, being careful not to allow the solution to come in contact with (and possibly burn) your skin. Immediately afterwards paint DMSO on the nail to carry the tea tree oil deeper into the nail. Put a Band-Aid on afterwards. For best results, apply this combination three times a day until the fungus disappears, which typically takes several months. Filing down the treated nail surface on
a regular basis also helps absorption.

By Terry Grossman, MD

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