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    Saturday, August 8, 2020

    Does Antifungal Nail Polish Actually Cure Infections? Here’s What Doctors Say

    It’s happened to most of us—you wake up one day to discover a nail has become achy, misshapen, or mysteriously discolored. Perhaps you noticed it changing but shrugged it off, or you vaguely recall bashing a toe against a chair or picking a rogue cuticle and figured it would heal on its own.

    Many nail injuries will do just that—heal before you even notice there’s a problem—but there’s also a chance that fungus can take hold or bacteria can sneak in, causing an infection, especially if you have diabetes or an immunosuppressive condition like lupus.

    There are plenty of over-the-counter products that claim to help with nail infections, including antifungal nail polish—but do they actually work? Here’s what the experts say.

    Nails are tricky to treat.
    Unfortunately, fungal or bacterial infections of your nail bed are hard to treat. “Prescription drugs range from 35%-65% success rate, so anything OTC would likely be even less than that,” says Jane Andersen, D.P.M., podiatrist in North Carolina and spokesperson for the American Podiatric Medical Association. Why are these types of issues so hard to treat? Because nails, especially toenails, have lots of layers, so there are more areas for the fungus or bacteria to penetrate, and if it gets into the cells responsible for growing the nail, it’s even harder.

    Can OTC products like antifungal nail polish cure an infection?
    “Substances like tea tree oil, coniferous resin lacquer, snake root extract, or ozonized sunflower oil have shown antifungal activities in invitro studies, but their action is minimal and not recommended,” says James McGuire, D.P.M., associate professor at Temple University’s School of Podiatric Medicine. “In general, you are probably wasting your money and would do better to consult your podiatrist when you first notice a problem arise.”

    Unfortunately, antifungal nail polish is almost a definite no-no. “If you have a fungal infection you want treatment, and nail polish is not treatment,” says Dr. Andersen. It can even block light and air, which helps fight the infection, and it can make it harder for any topical treatment you are using to penetrate and do its job.

    The one time it’s OK to paint one on: For a night out. “This is when you could use an antifungal polish product,” says Dr. Andersen. “They provide a better environment than general nail polish, but don’t use them for treatment and remove as soon as you get home.” For special events, try Dr.’s Remedy polish.

    So what should you do if you develop a nail infection?
    Your first step should be to see a doctor. It can take weeks to fully clear an infection, says Dr. Andersen, so it’s crucial to get treatment as soon as possible.

    “Oral medication is the most effective treatment of all,” says Dr. McGuire. “Topical prescription treatments may also help.” There’s a laser treatment that has a higher success rate—about 65% to 70%, says Dr. Andersen—but it can be pricey.

    Other steps that can help you heal faster is to wear shoes that don’t put pressure on your nails and keep your feet clean.

    How to prevent a nail infection in the first place
    Trim your nails carefully—ingrown nails can arise from cutting nails too short at the edges, since as they grow out they can catch skin. Cut nails straight across and get rid of any pointy corners. And never share clippers, as this can spread infection from person to person; even consider bringing your own tools to a professional mani or pedi.

    It’s also important to wash your feet with soapy water, being sure to get in between your toes, to prevent fungus or bacteria from building up; and be sure to dry them thoroughly, since fungus loves a moist environment. Wear breathable socks and use antifungal spray or powder if going sock-less.
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