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How Do I Prevent Yellow Toenails from Nail Polish?

Nicole Madison
Updated May 21, 2024
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Among the best steps you can take to avoid yellow toenails from nail polish are removing nail polish on a regular basis — at least once per week — and allowing your nails to breathe. Choosing an acetone-free nail polish remover may also prove helpful. Dark nail polishes, especially darker reds, are more likely to discolor nails, so you might want to stick to lighter colors if yellowing has been a problem in the past. Additionally, you can take steps to avoid toenail fungus, which is a common cause of yellowed toenails and may make nail discoloration even worse.

Nail discoloration can often be avoided by not wearing nail polish all the time. If you remove your nail polish on a regular basis and allow your natural nails to breathe, they may be less likely to turn yellow. Some experts recommend removing nail polish at least once each week and then cleaning the nails to prevent discoloration; you might find a solution of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda helpful for this purpose. The mixture should appear pasty when you spread it over your nails, and it can be rinsed off with warm water.

You may also find the type of nail polish remover you are using important when you are trying to prevent yellow toenails. Acetone polish removers are known to contribute to the yellowing of the nails, so you will likely want to avoid it. An acetone-free alternative may prove a better option if you want to keep your toenails clear and healthy looking.

In many cases, the polish choices you make might also help you prevent your toenails from turning yellow. For example, you may find it beneficial to avoid wearing very dark colors, such as those in the red, brown or black families, as they are known to contribute to the yellowing of nails. Likewise, you may benefit from protective layer of base coat polish before you apply the color you have chosen.

Unfortunately, yellowed toenails sometimes also develop as a sign that a person has a fungal infection. The nail might just appear yellowed at first, but it may eventually become thick and crumbly, as infected toenails often do. To make this less likely, keep your feet clean and dry, wear white, all-cotton socks, and avoid shoes that cause your feet to sweat. You may also want to avoid sharing toenail clippers and files, and wear footwear when you are in locker rooms, community showers, or pool areas. Additionally, avoiding ill-fitting shoes may help.

BeautyAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a BeautyAnswered writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.
Discussion Comments
By anon293442 — On Sep 25, 2012

Avoid some nail polish colors. Try clear or light colors!

By LisaLou — On May 12, 2012

It is hard for me to give my toenails a break from nail polish. My toenails are pretty yellow, and the best yellow toenails treatment I have found that works for me is to use lighter colors of polish.

I love the bold, bright colors, but now save these for special occasions. The rest of the time, I wear lighter colors and this has helped.

Those darker colors can be really hard on your toenails even if you use a base coat. The lighter colors don't have quite the same look, but I also don't want to have ugly, yellow toenails all of the time.

By sunshined — On May 12, 2012

I thought my yellow toenails were just from using polish all the time, but I actually had a fungal infection.

If you thought yellow toenails from too much polish were ugly, a fungal infection can really make your toenails look unsightly.

I didn't wear any polish for several months as I got the fungal infection cleared up. Once the infection was gone, I used antifungal nail polish.

Before I had this problem I had never heard of this type of nail polish before. It won't cure a fungal infection but it will prevent a fungus from spreading.

There aren't as many color choices available but this polish is safe to use and hypoallergenic. Since I got my infection cleared up and have been using this polish, I haven't had any more problems.

By andee — On May 11, 2012

@John57 - Do you use a base coat before you apply polish to your toenails?

I have found this to be one of the most helpful things when it comes to yellow nails from nail polish.

If I keep polish on all the time, using a base coat really makes a big difference. I would not think of putting polish on my nails without applying a base coat first.

Not only does this help prevent yellowing, but also helps keep your nail polish on longer. Some people use a separate base coat and top coat, but I use the same and have had good results.

I still try to give my toenails a chance to breathe every so often. Using a base coat will help prevent yellowing, but they still get a little bit of yellow tint to them if I never give them a break.

By John57 — On May 11, 2012

This article mentions some very helpful information. I had never heard about using an acetone-free polish remover before. This might be part of my problem.

I don't paint my toenails in the winter and give them this time to breathe and return to normal. By the end of summer, my toenails look very yellow and ugly.

It is hard for me to give them a break in the summer as I hate to wear sandals or flip flops if my toenails aren't painted.

This easily becomes a vicious circle because keeping them painted in the bright colors that I like is contributing to the problem.

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a BeautyAnswered writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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