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How to Lighten Dark Toenails [Complete Guide]

If you have dark toenails, you’re not alone. Many people struggle with this common problem.

While there are a number of causes of dark toenails, the good news is that there are also a number of ways to lighten them.

I’m going to share helpful tips on how to lighten dark toenails, as well as exploring the reasons why your toenails may have become dark or discolored.

How to Lighten Dark Toenails [Complete Guide]

What Do Unhealthy Toenails Look Like?

Unhealthy toenails can present in a variety of ways. Generally, they will look dry, brittle and discolored. Toenails that are discolored (yellow or white) can be indicative of an underlying fungal infection known as onychomycosis.

Other common symptoms associated with this condition include thickening of the toenail, crumbling or splitting of the nail bed, and debris accumulating underneath the nail plate.

Onychomycosis is caused by microscopic organisms called dermatophytes that live off keratin, which is found in skin, hair and nails.

In addition to turning yellowish-brown or white, unhealthy toenails may begin to grow in an abnormal pattern, such as curling up at the sides or beginning to thicken outwards instead of lying flat against the toe.

This could also be indicative of a fungal infection causing the nails not to respond normally due to tissue damage beneath them.

Other issues such as psoriasis could also cause discoloration in toenails, leading them to become chalky looking and flaky around their edges, where there are small pitting marks visible upon close inspection.

It is important for people with any symptoms related to unhealthy nails should seek medical attention from their healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment plan tailored specifically for their needs as soon as possible before further complications arise from an unknown cause.

What Causes Toenail Discoloration?

Nail discoloration can be caused by a number of factors, ranging from medical conditions to environmental ones.

Toenails tend to be particularly prone to discoloration since they are more likely than fingernails to come in contact with potential staining agents such as dirt, household cleaners and the like.

A fungal infection, medically referred to as Onychomycosis, is one of the most common causes of nail discoloration and occurs when organisms such as fungi, mold or yeast infect one or more nails.

If not treated properly and early in the onset of an infection, these organisms can cause severe damage—including permanent pigmentation changes—to both fingernails and toenails.

Other possible causes for nail discoloration include;

  • excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation due to sunbathing or tanning beds
  • contact with certain chemicals, including bleach
  • nutritional deficiencies such as vitamin B7 (biotin)
  • psoriasis
  • lichen planus
  • eczema
  • trauma resulting from rubbing shoes that are too tight against your toes; and other underlying medical issues.

The good news is there are treatments available for nail discoloration caused by many of these forms of damage, and stains on your nails.

Topical creams may help clear up fungal infections, while oral medications may be prescribed if a systemic infection is present.

There are also some over-the-counter lotions that have been formulated specifically for treating nail discoloration—though it’s always best to talk about any health concerns you have with your doctor before attempting treatment on your own.

How To Prevent The Darkening Of Toenails

One of the most common issues when it comes to foot care is darkening or discoloration of toenails. This is often caused by fungal infections, pressure from tight shoes, certain medications and skin conditions like psoriasis. Avoid walking barefoot, as that can lead to darker toenails.

To prevent darkening of your toenails, you should reduce moisture around the toes and wear open-toed shoes or sandals that allow air circulation throughout the day.

Keep your feet clean and dry at all times. If you have an existing nail fungus issue, use an antifungal cream and visit a medical professional for further treatment if necessary.

Another method for preventing darkening of your toenails is to simply paint them with a basecoat before applying color polish such as white or nude tones, which deflect light away from the toe nails.

Avoid wearing darker shades of polish on the affected toes, as this will only make any discoloration more visible.

Be sure to apply moisturizer before painting nails to give them a healthy shine and always wear protective gloves while cleaning or gardening to reduce any contact with harsh chemicals which can contribute towards nails becoming brittle nails or discolored over time.

Regular maintenance, including trimming and filing of your nails, will also help treat nail discoloration as well, aiding in better general foot health overall.

How To Properly Look After Your Toenails

How To Properly Look After Your Toenails

  • Inspect your toenails regularly – look for any signs of discoloration, changes in nail shape or thickness, crumbling edges, or any other abnormalities. If so, schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible.
  • Keep them clean and dry – wash between your toes every day when you’re in the shower, plus use a dry towel afterward to dry them off thoroughly.
  • Trim your toenails properly – trim them straight across and avoid cutting too close to the skin; if it’s difficult for you to reach down far enough to trim safely, then ask someone else for help.
  • Keep them short and neatly filed– use a file to smooth out any rough areas after trimming. Be sure not to go into the corners; the nails are weaker at these points, so rounding off their edges is important.
  • Wear proper shoes that fit well – this will prevent blisters or other painful foot problems from occurring due to poorly fitting footwear. Choose shoes made from breathable materials like canvas, which allow air to flow around your feet, and also opt for ones with wider toe boxes that give toes plenty of room.
  • Moisturize – apply a foot cream or oil weekly (or more often if needed) on both feet and toes. This helps keep the skin around nails soft and supple.
  • Protect feet in public areas – wear flip flops at pools, showers, locker rooms etc. This is particularly important if there is an outbreak of athlete’s foot because this contagious infection can spread via contact with floors in these places.
  • Avoid harsh chemicals – hand creams and lotions may contain fragrances that can irritate your skin; instead choose a moisturizer which is specifically designed for use on feet.
  • Visit a professional podiatrist periodically – they will be able to provide individualized advice about how best you should take care of your particular nail health needs.

How to Lighten Dark Toenails

If your toenails have become dark or discolored, there are a few things you can do to try and lighten discolored toenails;

Use Specific Toenail Lightening Treatments

Toenail lightening treatments can be used to help treat discolored toenails. Discoloration of the nails is usually caused by a fungal infection or an injury, but it can also be genetic.

Toenail lightening treatments use specific ingredients that work together to reduce discoloration and bring back the natural color in your nails.

The first step would be to consult a doctor who could diagnose why your toenails are discolored, so they can determine which treatment is best for you.

Many topical antifungal creams are available over the counter and may be effective in treating milder cases of fungal infections. For more serious cases, prescription topical antifungals might need to be prescribed by a physician.

In some cases, laser treatments may also be an option for getting rid of discolored toenails due to fungal infections or injuries.

A certified technician would need to do this procedure under medical supervision, as it involves using lasers designed specifically for nail care.

These lasers will destroy the affected area without damaging the surrounding healthy tissue or causing pain during or after treatment.

At-home bleaching kits are available from various beauty retailers and pharmacies that contain instructions on how to use them properly and safely at home without medical supervision when there’s no risk of infection or injury present.

However, these kits may not provide desired results if your nails have been badly stained due to dark pigmentation caused by certain types of fungus, such as black spots on toes known as melanonychia striata, which tends to require professional intervention (such as surgery).

Use Hydrogen Peroxide and Baking Soda

Hydrogen peroxide is often used to lighten dark toenails. Although there is no scientific evidence that hydrogen peroxide can significantly lighten the color of your nails, some people have reported successful results with this method.

To use hydrogen peroxide to lighten dark toenails, you’ll need a bottle of 3% concentrated hydrogen peroxide, cotton pads or balls, and an emery board.

Start by filing down the surface of your nail with the emery board – you want it to be as smooth as possible for maximum effect. Next, take a few drops of hydrogen peroxide on a cotton pad or ball and rub it over your nails in gentle circular motions until they are completely covered.

Once that’s done, you will want to give them some time to soak – 10 minutes should do the trick – before rinsing off with cold water and thoroughly drying them with a towel.

While consistent use over time may help lighten dark nails, don’t expect dramatic results after just one application; it can take weeks or months for gradual lightening, depending on various factors such as the sensitivity of your nails and how often you apply hydrogen peroxide.

Use Baking Soda

Use Baking Soda

Baking soda can be used to lighten dark toenails. It is an effective, easy and natural method of brightening the appearance of your nails.

Firstly, mix equal parts baking soda and water into a thick paste. Apply this paste generously over the surface of your toes, rubbing it in completely before allowing to sit for 10–15 minutes.

Afterward, gently scrub away any remaining paste from the nail with a soft brush or cloth. Then wash off the mixture with warm water and pat dry using a clean towel.

If you repeat this process once or twice each week, you should begin to see results within two weeks as your nails become lighter in color and healthier looking overall.

Use Lemon Juice And Baking Soda

Lemon juice is another household product that can be used to lighten discolored toenails.

The citric acid in lemon juice can help to brighten the nails. To use, mix a tablespoon of lemon juice and water in a bowl. Soak your nails in the mixture for 10-15 minutes, then rinse off with warm water.

You can also make a paste by mixing lemon juice and baking soda. Apply the paste to your nails with a cotton swab, and let it sit for 10-15 minutes before rinsing off.

Use Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil has antifungal properties and can help to reduce the growth of bacteria on the nails.

To use it, simply mix a few drops of tea tree oil with water and apply it to the affected nails with a cotton ball. Leave it on for several minutes before rinsing it off.

You can do this once or twice a day until you see results. Keep in mind that tea tree oil can cause irritation in some people, so it’s always best to do a patch test first.

If you experience any redness, itching, or burning, discontinue use immediately.

Use White Vinegar

If you’re looking for a natural way to lighten dark toenails, white vinegar or apple cider vinegar may be the answer.

The acidity in vinegar can help to brighten yellow nails that have been stained by dark polish or shoes.

To use, simply mix equal parts vinegar and water in a bowl. Then, soak your nails in the mixture for five minutes.

Once you’re done, rinse your nails with hot water and apply a foot moisturizer. You can repeat this process once a week until you see the desired results.

Use Toenail Fungus Treatment

Toenail fungus is a common problem that can cause yellowing, thickening, and darkening of the toenails. To treat this type of infection, there are several options available.

One option is the use of topical treatments such as creams and ointments. These treatments must be used regularly to be effective, and may need to be combined with oral medications or light therapy for more severe cases.

Another option is toenail fungus treatment with lasers, which aims to reduce the discoloration caused by fungal colonization in the nail plate.

The laser light destroys many of the fungal cells that lead to discoloration, making nails lighter in color, restoring healthy nails.

Finally, it may also help to keep feet clean and dry, trim nails regularly, and wear properly fitting shoes to prevent further infection from developing or worsening existing unsightly infections can cause.

How Can Laser Treatment Help Discolored Nails?

Laser treatment is an effective solution for discolored nails, such as yellow and brown stains caused by fungal infections, if home remedies aren’t being effective.

During the treatment procedure, a focused beam of light is directed at the affected area. The laser energy works to disrupt the fungus responsible for discoloration, thus killing it and allowing your nail to grow back healthy and clear.

This method can also help stimulate new nail growth if necessary. This type of treatment is generally safe with minimal side effects as long as it is administered correctly; however, if done incorrectly or too frequently, skin damage can occur.

Laser treatments may require multiple sessions to obtain maximum results, depending on how severe the staining or infection has become.

Results are usually seen within a few weeks after completion of treatment.

Although laser treatment helps improve the appearance of disfigured or discolored nails quickly and effectively, it should be used with other antifungal treatments prescribed by a doctor to prevent recurrence of infection in the future.

Wear Correct Fitting Shoes

Wear Correct Fitting Shoes

Wearing shoes that fit correctly can help prevent toenail discoloration, as can clean socks.

Ill-fitting shoes can compress the toes, causing the nails to bend and become misshapen.

This can cause the nails to become discolored, as the blood flow is cut off and oxygen cannot reach the nails.

Shoes that are too tight can rub against the skin of the toes, causing irritation and inflammation. This can also lead to discoloration of the nails.

By contrast, shoes that fit properly will not compress the toes or rub against the skin.

This allows for proper blood circulation and oxygenation of the nails, which helps to keep them healthy and free from discoloration.

How to Lighten Dark Toenails Naturally

If you’re looking to lighten dark toenails naturally, there are a few things you can do.

First, try scrubbing your toenails with a mixture of baking soda and water. This will help to remove any dead skin cells that may be causing the discoloration.

You can also try applying a paste of lemon juice and baking soda to your nails, letting it sit for a few minutes before rinsing it off.

Lemon juice is a natural bleaching agent, so this can help to lighten the color of your nails.

Finally, make sure to wear socks and shoes that fit well and aren’t too tight. If your shoes are too tight, they can cause your toenails to rub against the inside of the shoe, which can lead to darkening.

Can Dark Toenails And Nails Discoloration Be Fixed?

Yes, dark toenails can be fixed! The most common cause of darkening is a fungal infection, which can be treated with topical antifungal medication.

Depending on the severity of the infection, your doctor may prescribe an oral antifungal as well. Keeping your feet clean and dry, wearing protective shoes when exposed to damp environments, and elevating your feet when resting will help prevent future infections.

If you have diabetes or another condition that affects circulation in your legs, it is important to take extra steps to keep your feet healthy, like checking for changes in skin color and texture often.

So any problem areas can be addressed quickly. With regular treatment and care, dark toenails can often be reversed back to their original state.

Can You Wear Nail Polish On Discolored Toe Nails?

What Causes Yellow Discolored Nails?

Yellow discolored nails can be caused by a variety of things. Usually, the yellow discoloration is due to an external source such as nail polish, smoking, or exposure to certain chemicals.

Nail polish with yellow pigments can seep into and stain the nail bed, while smoking and exposing your hands to harsh chemicals (like detergents) can also cause staining and yellowing of the nails.

Another common cause of yellow discoloration is a fungal infection such as psoriasis or eczema.

Fungal infections are usually signified by dark yellow patches on and around the nails which have a raised texture and may also contain other symptoms like redness, inflammation, swelling, or pain.

Psoriasis tends to occur in response to an immune system dysfunction which causes inflamed skin plaques, while eczema is often associated with allergies or irritation from contact with soap or fabric softener.

Poor circulation to the extremities can also lead to poor oxygenation in the toe-nails leading to a yellowish coloration over time.

Dehydration could affect nail health, leading them towards a more brittle texture and eventually turning them yellower than their normal color.

Certain medications that are taken for extended periods of time (such as antibiotics) have been linked to causing abnormal discolorations of nails, though this symptom tends to be rare if administered appropriately by your healthcare provider.

Can You Wear Nail Polish On Discolored Toenails?

Yes, you can wear nail polish on discolored toe nails. However, it is important to keep in mind that the color of your toenails may affect how well certain colors or types of polish look.

For example, yellowish nails may make dark colors appear dull and murky, while pinkish nails could enhance any type of base polish applied.

It’s also worth noting that if you’re trying to camouflage discolored nails with a colored nail lacquer, it might actually require multiple coats to fully cover them up.

When choosing a color for discolored toes, lighter shades are more likely to both hide the stains and still create an attractive finish than bolder hues will.

While this doesn’t mean avoiding bright colors altogether; they simply need to be applied more carefully on stained nails.

A light layer would also be wiser than one heavy coat, as this can lead to chipping or peeling off quicker from the pressure placed on them when walking or running around.

Lastly, it is best practice to buff your toe nails before applying any compound coating in order for it to remain intact longer and achieve the desired effect without exacerbating the existing staining problem further, and will help whiten your nails and any discoloration you might be suffering with.


If you have dark toenails, there are a few things you can do to lighten them. First, try scrubbing your nails with a mixture of baking soda and water.

You can also try applying a paste of lemon juice and baking soda to your nails, letting it sit for a few minutes before rinsing it off.

Finally, make sure to wear socks and shoes that fit well and aren’t too tight.

If your shoes are too tight, they can cause your toenails to rub against the inside of the shoe, which can lead to darkening. treatment and oral medications. 

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