Having to deal with nail fungus, whether it's on your fingernails or toenails, is an unpleasant experience. Known officially as onychomcosis, it is primarily caused by moisture trapped in a warm, dark place—a warm, dark place that is more commonly affected by shoes—an environment that fungus thrives in. Though it's still referred to as nail fungus—nail mold or nail yeast just doesn't have the same ring to it—it can occasionally be caused by mold or yeast.
What Does It Look Like?
A white or yellow patch on the nail tip is typically the initial sign of a fungal infection of the nails. The nail may thicken, become brittle, crumbly, or ragged as it develops, change shape, darken in color, or become dull. Onycholysis is the term for when the nail begins to split from the nail bed, and it can be very painful. Toenail fungus may never go away if left untreated. It can recur intermittently, even after treatment.
1. Tea Tree/Orange Oil Rub
Tea tree oil is a natural disinfectant, possessing fungicidal and anti-bacterial properties that make it popular in treating toenail fungus. Orange oil has also shown promising results when it comes to getting rid of fungus, and can be added to the mixture as well. Always remember to dilute the essential oil before applying to the nail.
You will need…
- -1 teaspoon of tea tree oil
- -1/2 teaspoon of orange oil (optional)
- -1/2 teaspoon of grapeseed or olive oil
- -Cotton balls
As soon as you notice the tell-tale signs of nail fungus, mix together 1 of tea tree oil, ½ teaspoon of orange oil, and ½ teaspoon of grapeseed or olive oil. Soak a cotton ball in the mixture and apply to affected nail pressing it on gently but firmly so the liquid comes out. Let this dry naturally.
Alternatively, you can place 4-5 drops of tea tree oil in enough water to soak your feet in, and do that for 15-20 minutes. Both treatments should be done faithfully morning and evening.
2. Baking Soda and Vinegar Soak
Baking soda is not fungicidal-that is, it does not kill the fungus. It is, however, fungistatic, which means it can prevent fungus from growing and spreading. The reason it acts like this is because it is alkaline-the opposite of acidic-and fungus is able to flourish when its environment is more acidic. It seems counter-intuitive then, that using vinegar to kill nail fungus would be a good idea, but vinegar is a fairly weak acid, and will help kill off the fungus without altering the Ph. of the environment in a harmful way.
You will need…
- -4-5 tablespoons of baking soda
- -1 cup of white vinegar or apple cider vinegar
- -Something to soak your feet in
- -Paper towels
First, mix 1 cup of your chosen vinegar with enough water to soak your feet in. Soak for 15 minutes, and then pat dry with paper towels. Follow this by adding several tablespoons of baking soda to enough water to soak your feet in, and soak for 15 minutes. Pat feet completely dry with paper towels. Do this twice a day. The idea is that the vinegar will kill off the fungus, while the baking soda will then inhibit the growth of more.
3. Just Coconut Oil
Bear with me-I am about to get a little bit scientific here, but I find this to be an exciting way to combat fungus without using harsh chemicals. Medium chain fatty acids are almost miracles in how they work as natural fungicides. The fungal membrane is crucial to maintaining the “life” of the fungus, which is why many antifungal treatments target the fungal membrane. Fatty acids, such as the ones found abundantly in coconut oil, naturally insert themselves in the lipid (fat) layer of the fungal membrane and disturb it, leading eventually to cell disintegration and the ultimate destruction of the fungus (to put it in a nutshell.)
You will need…
- -A bit of coconut oil
- -Gloves or a sink and soap to wash hands between applications
Wearing gloves or washing your hands between applications (if you have more than one affected nail) rub coconut oil onto the area and let it absorb and dry naturally. There is no need to gob a whole bunch on-a thin layer will do. Repeat 2-3 times daily.
Like athletes foot, you can work towards preventing enail fungus by keeping feet clean and, most importantly, dry. Don’t re-wear socks, and stick to open toed shoes if possible. It takes time and patience to get rid of toenail fungus, and for the nail to grow back healthy and normal again. Be diligent about applying your treatments (I can’t stress that enough, it’s really the key to getting these to work the best they can) and don’t overlook preventative methods to keep the fungus from coming back.
Tip for best results: Before using these treatments, trim back as much of the effected nail as you can with a clean nail clippers (don’t peel with your fingers!)
Make sure to disinfect the clippers after using them to prevent the fungus from spreading. Rinse feet in warm water, and pat dry.