Toenails Turning White

Fingernails and toenails are typically mostly clear with white tips forming as they grow past the nail bed. Their primary purpose is to protect specific areas of your toes and fingers that are more prone to sensitivity or injury. A protein called keratin is the main component of these hard defenses. When your nails change from mostly clear to mostly white, there may be an underlying ailment. This may be especially concerning if there are other changes like thickening of your toenails, formation of streaks or discoloring in specific areas. In serious cases, you may need to see your doctor.

Why Are Your Toenails Turning White?

1. Fungus

Oftentimes changes in your toenails can be attributed to a fungal infection. Fungus is normally found on our feet, toes and even in the shoes we wear. If you injure your toenail, it leaves it open for fungus to invade. When this happens, your nail may turn white and thicken.


Treatments for a toenail fungal infection are fairly simple:

  • For mild infections, you can use Clarus or other similar topical medications.
  • For moderate to severe infections, oral medications like Lamisil are effective.
  • For severe infections, a newly introduced laser treatment has been successful.

As your infection clears up, your toenails should return to clear in appearance.


The best way to avoid toenails that turn white from a fungal infection is prevention. Tips include:

  • Change socks daily, especially after strenuous or physical activities.
  • When it is warm, wear socks which absorb moisture.
  • Wear breathable shoes in hot weather, like sandals.
  • Use antifungal powder or spray as needed.
  • Do not trim the skin about your toenails and keep them short.
  • Throw away old socks and shoes, air out the ones you do wear.
  • Do not walk barefoot around pools, in gyms or other public areas.
  • Avoid sharing nail clippers, slippers or towels with other people.

2. Injury

Another common cause is minor injuries to the nail area, as well as the nail cuticle. When a toenail is chipped, it can leave a harmless white mark. Also, if an injury occurs during nail growth, a white mark may form at the site of injury or may become more apparent as the nail grows out. When injury is the cause, typically only a small spot or area will be white. If your toenail is almost completely white, it is more likely a fungal infection.


If your toenail is turning white due to an injury, the best course of action is to prevent further damage and allow time for a healthy nail to grow and replace it. There are several things you can do to deter injury in the first place. They include:

  • Wear properly fitting shoes and allow wiggle room for your toes so they are not too cramped.
  • Avoid pedicures as oftentimes your cuticle area can get damaged and white spots will appear when your nail grows out.
  • Keep your nails cut straight and short if you play sports.
  • If you work in construction or around heavy equipment, wear steel-toe boots.

Remember when your nail is injured, it is more apt to suffer from a fungal infection. It is important to clean the area and keep moisture to a minimum. If you notice your toenails turning white, seek treatment to prevent further injury or infection.

3. Nail Polish

Sometimes toenails appear white due to the use of harsh toenail polish and remover. These products contain chemicals which dry out your healthy nails. Chemicals such as formaldehyde, acetone and tolune have damaging effects on toenails.


The best way to combat nail damage from polish use is to use nail products free of these harsh chemicals. Some polishes and removers even include natural antifungal elements and vitamins that help keep your toenails healthy.

4. Liver Disease & Failure

Toenails turning white can also be caused by chronic liver disease. Though less common, it can occur in the later stages of the disease. Along with white toenails, you will most likely experience yellowing skin, vomiting, nausea or abdominal pain. If your nails are white but you are not experiencing the other symptoms listed, then is unlikely it is liver disease causing the issue.

5. Terry's Nails

White nails with dark or reddened tips are referred to as Terry's nails. You can attribute several medical conditions to the cause, including:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart, kidney or liver failure
  • Liver cirrhosis
  • Malnutrition
  • Anaemia – iron deficiency
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Side effect of chemotherapy

6. Drugs and Chemicals

Some types of drugs and chemicals can cause your toenails to turn white. Over exposure to arsenic can cause white nails because of a toxic reaction. Drugs that fight cancer, such as chemotherapy, can cause white bands to appear on your toenails. Once you remove these toxins, your nails will grow back out healthy.

When to Worry About Your Nails

You should see a dermatologist if you have toenails turning white. Since fungal infections are the most common cause for white nails accompanied with peeling, thickening and cracking, a dermatologist can prescribe you the medications needed to rid you of the ailment. It is very important to seek medical attention right away if you are experience pain, swelling in the area or a nail is dislodging.

Another reason why it is important to visit your doctor is these types of changes in toenails can also be signs of skin cancer. You many also see dark streaks beneath your nails, bruising, holes in your toenails and warts on your nails. You need to be screened to eliminate the possibility of melanoma.

Toenail Appearance: Signs of Underlying Conditions

Toenail Changes

Possible Conditions

White nails

Hepatitis and other possible liver diseases

Half pink/Half white nails

Kidney problems

Yellow, slow-growth nails

Emphysema and other lung ailments

Yellow with hint of blush at nail base


Pale nail beds


Rippling nail surface

Inflammatory arthritis or psoriasis

Red nail beds

Heart problems

Irregular red lines

Connective tissue disease

Inversion or clubbing around nails at end of fingers

Lung diseases

Dark lines


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