Thickened, brittle, patchy toenails may be a sign of a fungal infection, says dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, M.D. Thankfully, it’s easy to do.
Target the trouble.
Caught early, natural approaches can wipe out fungal infections, says Dr. Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital. That’s because fungus sits near the nail’s surface, where it’s easy to zap.
His unexpected Rx: Rub on Vicks VapoRub ($9.79, Amazon). In one study, 83 percent of folks saw improvement within 12 weeks of daily use. “Vicks VapoRub is made of natural antifungals thymol, menthol, camphor and eucalyptus oil,” he explains, “and the thick ointment helps it coat and stick to the nails.”
Stop the spread.
Fungal infections hop from nail to nail, so when one is affected, all 10 require TLC to keep the problem contained. Dr. Zeichner recommends soaking in diluted bleach — a wacky cure that works!
“Diluted bleach contains hypochlorous acid, which helps prevent spread by killing fungus and lowering the load of infectious organisms on the skin and nails,” he explains. Plus, soaking allows the solution to get down under the nail, where fungal spores cluster, wiping out stray bad guys before they can jump to neighboring nails. As a bonus, bleach lightens and brightens yellowed nails. To do: Add no more than 1 Tbs. to a half gallon of warm water. A higher concentration could burn skin.
Break the chain.
Turns out, fungi can survive on soft surfaces like shoes for years, fueling a cycle that keeps infections roaring back. “Regular use of spray footwear sanitizer, however, can help kill fungus living in shoes and break the cycle,” says Dr. Zeichner. (Try: 10 Seconds Shoe Disinfectant, $20.99, Amazon) And trim nails, advises Dr. Zeichner: “Long toenails create a moist environment that gives fungus an extra place to hide.”
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.