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Nail fungus, or onychomycosis, is an infection that occurs under the toenail, or less commonly the fingernail. It can start when your nail comes in contact with one of the varieties of fungi capable of infecting the skin and nails. The fungus that causes athlete’s foot is also a common cause of nail fungus. However, there are several different types of fungal organisms responsible for nail fungus, including molds and yeasts. The most common organism that can cause nail fungus is called Trichophyton rubrum, which is a dermatophyte.

In the early stages of an infection, nail fungus typically appears as a yellow or white spot underneath the tip of the nail. If the infection continues to spread, it can cause the nail to become thick and yellow or dark in color. The nail may become distorted and crumble, break or crack. In some cases, people with nail fungus notice a foul odor.


Nail fungus occurs following direct contact with one of the fungal organisms responsible for causing skin and nail infections. These organisms can enter the nail through cracks in either the nail itself or the skin that surrounds the nail. One way infection can spread to a nail is through direct contact with someone who has an active infection. The infection can also spread from another part of the body to a nail. For example, if you have athlete’s foot, the infection can spread to a toenail, causing a nail fungal infection.

Nail fungus can also spread through a contaminated surface. People often get nail fungus from walking barefoot in public spaces with wet, warm surfaces such as swimming pools and locker rooms.

It’s also possible to get nail fungus from sharing personal items such as nail clippers and socks with someone who has an infection.

You can get nail fungus without coming into contact with an infected person or contaminated surface or object. If your feet are frequently in a warm and moist environment such as sweaty socks and shoes, fungus can begin to grow. This can lead to a nail fungal infection.

Some people have a higher risk for nail fungus. This includes people who have had a nail injury and those who are immunocompromised. Individuals with diabetes also have an increased risk of getting a nail fungal infection. If you have diabetes and you have symptoms of nail fungus, see your doctor right away.


There are a number of steps you can take to reduce your risk of nail fungus:

  • Wash your feet thoroughly with soap and water every day. Be sure to dry your feet completely before putting on socks and shoes.
  • Let your feet air out as often as you can. Wear open-toed shoes whenever possible.
  • Change your socks every day or more often if they become wet or sweaty. Opt for moisture-wicking socks.  
  • Avoid walking barefoot around public swimming pools and in locker rooms. Wear flip flops or sandals to avoid infection.
  • Rotate your shoes to avoid wearing the same pair two days in a row.
  • Keep your nails short, cutting the nails straight across. This can help prevent fungal organisms from entering under the nails.
  • Avoid sharing personal items such as nail clippers, socks and shoes with others.
  • Use antifungal spray powder in your shoes to eliminate fungus that could spread to the toenails.
  • Treat athlete’s foot immediately as the infection could spread to a toenail, causing nail fungus.


There are several different ways to get rid of skin tags. The following procedures can be performed in a doctor’s office, usually by a dermatologist:

There are a number of options for addressing nail fungus.

Dr. Scholl’s® Fungal Nail Revitalizer: Light-Activated Therapy is an at-home light therapy system that makes it easy and convenient to improve both the appearance and texture of nails. This simple, two-step system can help eliminate discoloration and brittleness over time with regular use.

See your doctor for treatment options. There are topical and oral medications available. In cases of severe or recurring infections, surgical nail removal may be recommended.



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Frequently Asked Questions

How to get rid of nail fungus

It can be very difficult to get rid of nail fungus. The earlier you begin treatment for a nail fungal infection, the better chance you’ll have of getting rid of it. There are currently no approved over-the-counter topical nail fungus treatments available.

If you have nail fungus, see your healthcare provider for prescription treatment options. Topical and oral prescription medications are available for nail fungus. Oral antifungal medications are typically taken daily and often require up to several months to get rid of the infection. However, some medications require up to a year in order to get rid of nail fungus completely.

In cases of stubborn nail fungal infections, surgical removal of the nail may be recommended. The nail may be temporarily removed so that a topical treatment can be applied directly to the fungal infection. In rare cases, permanent removal of the nail is recommended in order to get rid of nail fungus completely and to prevent recurring infections.

How to treat nail fungus

People can address the appearance of a nail infected with nail fungus at home with over-the-counter products.

When treating nail fungus, your healthcare provider may start by cutting any infected nails and scraping out as much fungus as possible from underneath the nails.

With milder cases of nail fungus, prescription topical antifungal treatments such as efinaconazole and tavaborole may be effective. These treatments are applied directly to the affected nails. Cutting back the nail can help these products reach the infection more easily. Your provider may suggest temporarily removing the nail in order to apply treatment directly to the infected area.

If your healthcare provider determines that a stronger treatment is necessary, they may prescribe oral antifungal medication such as fluconazole or terbinafine. Oral antifungal medication tends to work faster and more effectively than topical treatments, usually clearing infections after two to three months.

Is nail fungus contagious?

Yes, nail fungus is contagious. Nail fungus can spread in a number of ways.

  • If you have athlete’s foot, the infection can spread and invade the toenails, causing a nail fungal infection.
  • You can get nail fungus by walking in a moist, warm environment where someone who has a fungal infection has been walking around. Nail fungus spreads commonly in locker rooms and around public pools.
  • You can develop a nail fungal infection following direct contact with someone who has an active infection.
  • You can get nail fungus by sharing personal items with someone who has a fungal nail infection, such as socks and nail clippers.

What is a home remedy for nail fungus?

There are quite a few home remedies used for nail fungus. These include tea tree oil, oregano and vinegar just to name a few. More research is needed to confirm if any of these home remedies are effective.

There are no approved over-the-counter treatments for nail fungus.

It can be helpful to keep the nails trimmed and filed. This can also make it easier for topical remedies to reach the infection.

You can consider using therapies designed to improve the appearance of nails suffering from a fungal infection. It’s often difficult for prescription treatments to improve the appearance of nails. Dr. Scholl’s® Fungal Nail Revitalizer: Light-Activated Therapy is a simple system you can use at home. It’s a two-step process that can help promote whiter, smoother and healthier looking nails when used regularly.

How to get rid of green nail fungus

Nail fungus doesn’t typically cause nails to become green in color. Green nails may be caused by a condition called green nail syndrome, which isn’t a type of fungal infection but rather a bacterial infection. See your doctor if you suspect you have green nail syndrome.

It’s often possible to get rid of green nail syndrome by soaking nails in a diluted bleach or diluted vinegar solution. The nails should be kept dry as much as possible when they’re not soaking in solution.

Healthcare providers can prescribe topical or oral antibiotics for green nail syndrome. If these treatments aren’t effective, in rare cases, it may be necessary to remove the affected nails.

What does nail fungus look like?

Nail fungus can alter the appearance of nails in a number of ways. The infection often starts as a visible spot underneath the tip of the nail. The spot may be white or a yellowish-brown color. As the infection progresses, the nail often thickens and becomes discolored, usually exhibiting a yellow color. The nail may become very brittle and crumble. The nail may also start to detach from the nail bed.

How to cure nail fungus

It can be very difficult to cure nail fungus completely. Seek treatment as soon as you can for the best possible outcome. You will likely need to see your healthcare provider for an evaluation and prescription since there is no approved over-the-counter nail fungus treatment.

Your provider will propose a treatment plan based on a number of factors. Prescription antifungal medications taken by mouth offer the highest cure rates for nail fungal infections. However, your provider may recommend a topical treatment first. With any antifungal medication, following treatment instructions carefully and consistently is essential for a positive result.

In addition to medications, your healthcare provider may recommend temporary removal of the nail to assist with treatment. In rare cases where infections recur and other treatments aren’t effective at curing the infection, permanent nail removal may be recommended.

How is nail fungus treated?

Nail fungus is treated in a number of ways. Some people start by trying antifungal products available over-the-counter. However, many people require prescription treatment from their healthcare provider. Some people receive treatment from a dermatologist rather than a primary care provider.

A dermatologist may cut and thin the infected nail in order to eliminate some of the fungus. They may also sweep under the nail to clear additional fungus.

Some prescription nail fungus treatments can be applied directly to the nails. A dermatologist may temporarily remove the affected nail so that topical medication can easily reach the infected area. There are also antifungal drugs that are taken orally. Oral medications have a higher success rate and are often prescribed for more serious infections.

With severe infections that are particularly difficult to treat and in cases of recurring injections, a dermatologist may permanently remove the problematic nail. However, this is not a common practice.

How to get rid of toe nail fungus

Getting rid of toenail fungus can be challenging, even more challenging than getting rid of fingernail fungus, which is less common.

Antifungal treatments can be used to eliminate toenail fungus although they’re not always effective for all people. Getting rid of toenail fungus requires treatment from a healthcare provider.

Prescription topical antifungals are often able to get rid of mild toenail infections. Some doctors will trim and thin infected nails or temporarily remove the nails in order to improve the efficacy of topical treatment.

Prescription antifungal pills offer the best chance of getting rid of toenail fungus. These pills eliminate fungal infections more quickly than topical treatments although they require a little longer for toenails compared to fingernails. It typically takes three months for antifungal pills to get rid of toenail fungus.

Rarely, it might be necessary to remove the infected nail permanently in order to get rid of toenail fungus.

How to treat nails with fungus

There are several options for treating nails with fungus. Most infections require care from a doctor.

Some nail fungus can be eliminated in a doctor’s office by cutting back and thinning nails. The doctor may also clear out some of the fungus by scraping under the nail. Topical treatments are often prescribed for nail fungal infections that aren’t too severe. These medications are more effective if the nail with fungus has been cut back or removed temporarily.

Overall, prescription oral antifungal medications are the most successful at treating nails with fungus.

Occasionally, nails with fungus may require permanent removal in order to successfully treat the infection and prevent recurrence. However, permanent nail removal is rare.