Why are My Toenails Yellow?

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Our feet are the first things to greet the Earth in the morning. For most of us, our feet spend a majority of their time encased in shoes and socks.

After a particularly tiring day, sliding those socks and shoes off is as close to heaven as a person can get. But have you ever taken off a sock, only to ask yourself, “Why are my toenails yellow?”

yellow toenail fungus

Don’t worry – we have the answer, and some tips on how to resolve this newfound issue of yours.

Reasons Behind Yellow Toenails

Yellow toenails may not be particularly uncommon, but they certainly aren’t something you want to leave unattended if you don’t know their cause.

There are a number of reasons a toenail might become yellow:

  • Women and men who paint their nails can experience the discoloration from constantly polishing the nails. Certain dyes and chemicals (formaldehyde, for one) can cause the nail to become stained over time, and letting your nails “breathe” every so often is a good idea. Darker color polishes tend to stain the nails more quickly, so lacqueristas beware.
  • Yellow Nail Syndrome is a condition that mirrors its name. It causes nails to grow both yellow and more slowly. These nails are also looser and fall from the nail bed easily.
  • Smokers will find the nicotine and tobacco can stain fingertips and nails over time.
  • It could be a toenail fungal infection known as onychomycosis, in which the toenail becomes infected. The infection can also extend to surrounding areas.

Reasons for Yellow Toenail Fungus

Also known as onychomycosis, this is one of the most common causes of yellow toenails. Typically, this will appear as a small white or yellow spot under the nail.

Though some white spots can simply be calcium deposits, it’s good practice to keep an eye on said spots to be sure they don’t worsen.

If they do prove to be onychomycosis, they can be brought about by a variety of factors:


As we age, blood circulation and cell turnover slow down. These processes aid in our nail growth rate, so their slowing results in nails that are more brittle and easily cracked.

Broken blood vessels and years of exposure to the fungi can make older individuals, especially men, susceptible to the infection.

yellow toenails


We keep our feet encased in shoes of some sort throughout most of the day. For those of us prone to heavy sweating, this can lead to athletes foot but also onychomycosis.

Fungal infections grow best in dark, warm, and moist places, making a sweaty person’s sock prime real estate.

The skin on our feet can also become irritated with profuse sweating, making fungal infections even easier.

Diabetes/Weakened Immune System

Individuals with diabetes or other conditions that affect blood circulation have been noted to be more susceptible to yellow toenail fungus.

These conditions, along with conditions that weaken the immune system, prevent the body from healing as quickly, making it more difficult to heal the nail/nailbed and fight off the infection.

Skin Conditions

Skin conditions, such as psoriasis, fall into a similar category of making a person more susceptible.

The constantly irritated skin is more susceptible to breaking and allowing yellow toenail fungus in areas like the feet.

Damage and Exposure

General toenail damage can lead to yellow toenail fungus in healthy people, and yeast or general mold we encounter from public health spaces (spas, showers, etc.) can also be purveyors of the fungus.

yellow toenails

How to Get Rid of Yellow Toenails:

So the question becomes (now that we know why our toenails might be yellow), “How to get rid of yellow toenails?”

The solution isn’t a one and done deal, but rather a series of practices to take care of your feet in general, as we should all do:

  • Try to avoid wearing closed-toe shoes without socks. This only promotes excess sweat for your feet with nothing to absorb the moisture. Remember what we said about mold’s favorite place to grow: dark, moist, and warm.
  • If you are a heavy sweater, be sure to wear fresh socks every day. It’s also not a bad practice to change your socks throughout the day if the level of sweatiness truly calls for it.
  • Toss out old shoes, or treat them with disinfectant or fungal spray.
  • Take a break from nail polish, especially those with darker hues as they tend to stain the nail faster.
  • Cover your feet when walking in communal areas like pools, showers, spas and the like. With high foot traffic, the foot fungus game is sure to be strong in areas like this.
  • Properly dry your feet when exiting the shower or other water sources. This is something most people don’t do, but cleaning in between those little toes is especially important in removing all excess moisture from your feet.
  • Trim your nails regularly. Allowing them to grow too long invites a heightened possibility of cracked nails which can lead to yellow toenail fungus. Be sure to stick to your emery board as well!

This video gives more details on how to remedy yellow toenails.

Our feet are tasked with bearing us across the reaches of the Earth and possibly beyond. The least we can do is make sure those bad boys are properly cleaned and ready to tackle each new day.

Have you experienced yellow toenails?