A toenail fungus treatment provides a simple, convenient way for people to address fungal infections of the toenail.
Nearly 35 million American adults suffer from fungal infections of the toenail, with many convinced there is nothing they can do about it.
Fortunately, medical science has made impressive leaps in understanding this vexing condition, and there are now numerous OTC toenail fungus treatments that can provide relief.
We put dozens of the most popular brands to the test and concluded that the following represent the 10 best toenail fungus treatment options of 2021.
1. Derma-Ced Better Nail Maximum Strength
Deram-Ced Better Nail Maximum Strength harnesses the antifungal power of undecylenic acid to attack fungus embedded deep within the nail. It provides the strongest concentration of undecylenic acid you will find in an OTC nail fungus product.
What we like: Derma-Ced uses half a dozen natural oil extracts to penetrate the nail. Those oils deliver the undecylenic acid right to the fungus where it’s hiding. The result is fast, effective relief.
Flaws: Make sure it’s dry before putting on your socks and shoes.
2. Karlash Finger & Toenail Fungus Treatment Kit
Miconazole nitrate possesses potent antifungal properties that make it an ideal ingredient in this type of OTC nail fungus treatment. Karlash puts it to good use here, and the result is better-looking nails in just a couple of weeks.
What we like: Miconazole nitrate is suspended in a base of SDA 40B alcohol, which penetrates the nail and dries faster than oil-based treatments.
Flaws: Needs to be applied two or three times every day.
3. Perfect Nail Solution Toenail Fungus Treatment
Perfect Nail Solution is a 2-step treatment aimed at addressing the health of the nail and surrounding tissue. Step 1 is soaking your feet, and step 2 is applying the topical solution directly to the affected nail or nails.
What we like: Perfect Nail Solution is an all-natural product that uses tea tree oil, oregano, lemon, jojoba, vitamin E oil, and more to restore damaged nail tissue and create an inhospitable environment for the invasive fungi.
Flaws: The odor is not exactly pleasant.
4. Nonyx Fungal Nail Treatment
Nonyx Fungal Nail Treatment is a potent anti-fungal nail treatment that has been shown to get dependable results for most people. The Nonyx formula works slow, but it does work in most cases.
What we like: Nonyx relies on a safe and effective combination of deionized Water, ethanoic Acid, and xanthan gum. A formula that has been shown through rigorous scientific analysis to have robust antifungal capabilities.
Flaws: If you put it on after a bath or shower, make sure your feet are completely dry.
5. Ariella Nail Fungus Treatment
O-hydroxybenzoic acid is a powerful antifungal agent and is at the heart of the Ariella Nail Fungus Treatment formula. Ariella mixes it with other ingredients that attack the fungus cell walls and facilitate the activity of the O-hydroxybenzoic acid.
What we like: Ariella Nail Fungus Treatment goes after nail fungus with a potent one-two punch that weakens it and then takes it out. Other ingredients restore the nail tissue once it is free of the fungi.
Flaws: Must use two or three times per day in order to see benefits.
6. Hywean Toenail Fungus Nail Treatment
The Hywean Toenail Fungus Nail Treatment uses a four-step method to ensure effective treatment of nail fungus and complete recovery of the affected tissue.
What we like: The Hywean Nail Treatment system is very easy to use and often starts to show results in as little as two or three weeks. If the infection is not severe, your nail may be completely clear in eight weeks.
Flaws: Does a good job on less serious cases. Not so great on long-simmering cases.
7. Kerasal Fungal Nail Renewal Treatment
Rather than going directly after the fungus itself, Kerasal Fungal Nail Renewal Treatment slowly removes layers of damaged, infected nail. In a sense, it acts as an exfoliant for your nails.
What we like: The Kerasal approach is novel but has amassed an impressive record of liberating nails from fungal onslaughts. It leverages the keratolytic properties of urea to remove damaged tissue and then promotes the growth of new, healthy layers of the toenail.
Flaws: You don’t get very much in a tube.
8. Probelle 2-Step Fungal Nail Renewal System
The Probelle 2-Step Fungal Nail Renewal System is a bit more labor-intensive than some, but it’s hard to argue with the results. The treatment system calls for cleaning the nails every day along with morning and evening applications of the nail polish and nail gel, respectively.
What we like: Probelle claims a 94% success rate and user statements more or less support that notion. The system not only reduces the extent of fungal infection, it also makes your nails look great.
Flaws: Cost more than many other OTC nail fungus treatments.
9. Funginix Finger and Toe Treatment
Funginix Healthy Nail Formula uses the known antifungal undecylenic acid to address nail fungi and send them on their way. There is also tea tree oil along with lavender oil to promote healing and restore nail integrity.
What we like: The one-two antifungal combination of undecylenic acid and tea tree oil does an effective job reclaiming your nails. At the same time, the other ingredients make sure that the new nail tissue is durable and attractive.
Flaws: Those with stubborn infections will need to be patient.
10. Maphie Nail Repair Pen
The Maphi Nail Repair Pen provides an affordable, surprisingly effective treatment for nail fungus. There is no muss and fuss, and if you use it as directed, you should start to see improvement in two or three weeks.
What we like: O-hydroxybenzoic acid is one of the most powerful non-prescription antifungals you can get. When combined with deacetylated chitin, it weakens the cellular structure of the fungal cells then eliminates them.
Flaws: Applying it three times a day means you may run out before the treatment period ends.
Who Needs a Toenail Fungus Treatment?
According to the CDC some 14% of American adults need a toenail fungus treatment. That’s how many Americans are thought to have toenail fungus. In numerical terms, that’s nearly 35 million people, just in the US. Many of these folks do not realize over the counter remedies exist and that some of them are quite effective.
If you notice even a tiny spot of yellow-greenish discoloration along the ridge of your toenail you should start treatment immediately. The sooner you catch the infection, the easier it will be to eradicate it. If you wait until it has taken over your nail and the nail is falling apart, you may be in for an extended period of treatment.
How We Ranked
Ranking toenail fungus treatments, especially over the counter ones, can be tricky. That’s because different people start treatment at different points in the life of the infection. As a result, two individuals may use the same product and come to very different conclusions about it.
One person may catch their infection early and enjoy rapid success with a particular product. While another person may wait until the infection is deeply rooted in their nail to begin treatment, then report that the same product doesn’t seem very effective.
Because of this, we needed to lean heavily on the science of what goes into the various toenail fungus treatments. Hydroxybenzoic acids are potent antifungals and always a welcome sight on the ingredient list. Undecylenic acid is another proven antifungal that the better toenail fungus treatments employ. Miconazole nitrate is another, as is tea tree oil, which tends to appeal to those looking for a natural alternative.
Products that leaned on unproven, or even disproven ingredients, did not make our list. Nor did products that provided only tiny amounts of what should be useful ingredients. We also did not want to see ingredient lists cluttered with lots of artificial colors or aromas.
Practicality and ease of application was another major area of concern. The appeal of this type of product is its convenience. If a toenail fungus treatment took a long time to apply, was messy, or ran out quickly, it did not rank for our list.
Finally, we did weigh user feedback. But we discarded feedback that did not include a description of what state the person’s nails were in when they started treatment.
Toenail fungus treatments are effective. Let’s start right off with the most important benefit of toenail fungus treatments: they work. Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, but they work. Granted, the sooner you catch the infection and begin treatment, the better and faster they work. But even for deep-seated fungal infections, they can generate remarkable improvement in fairly short order for fairly short money.
Toenail fungus treatments are simple. Compared to something like laser treatment, the OTC toenail fungus treatments on our list are the definition of simple. Most take only a couple of minutes to apply once per day. They do not require any special equipment, there is no muss or fuss involved and no pain. Simply apply the medication, give it a minute to dry, put your socks and shoes on, and get on with your day.
Toenail fungus treatments are affordable. The spiraling cost of healthcare is one of the biggest issues of our time (1). Even if a person has what they consider to be pretty good insurance coverage, the average deductible can be more than $4,000 per year (2). It is rare to find an effective treatment for a vexing problem that does not drain your bank account. Toenail fungus treatments are one of those rare healthcare deals.
Toenail fungus treatments remove a health threat. Toenail fungus may seem innocuous, but if left untreated it can open the door to a slew of other problems. Untreated toenail fungus often leads to athlete’s foot. The infection can also migrate to other toes and become nearly impossible to eradicate. Or it may migrate to the crotch area and produce jock itch. In those with compromised immune systems, toenail fungi can lead to systemic infections and septic shock (3), which is often fatal.
Toenail fungus treatments let you dress with confidence. Anyone with toenail fungus will tell you that it changes the way they approach dressing. Especially during the warm weather months when so many people head outdoors in sandals. In a word, toenail fungus is unattractive and can bring unwanted negative attention that can spoil outdoor activities. Toenail fungus treatments can restore your toenails and your confidence.
Toenail fungus treatments don’t interfere with your life. Many medical treatments require that a person take time out from their busy day to visit the doctor’s office or hospital. Not toenail fungus treatments. They can be done in just a few minutes in the privacy of your home. No wrestling with traffic, paying for parking, or waiting in line in the doctor’s office to be called.
Toenail fungus treatments prevent you from spreading the fungus to others. Toenail fungus is not highly contagious. That is, you cannot spread it to someone just by being near them. However, it is still contagious and is often spread within families (4) by sharing toenail clippers or towels, or walking barefoot in a bathroom used by other family members. Toenail fungus treatments help ensure you won’t spread the fungi to others.
Toenail fungus treatments are painless. Many medical treatments call for people to simply ‘grin and bear it’. Toenail fungus treatments are an exception. It is likely that from the time you start until the time you finish, you will never experience an uncomfortable moment created by the toenail fungus treatment.
Toenail fungus treatments have few side effects. It is rare that an important medical treatment does not produce noteworthy side effects (and make no mistake, it is important that you get treatment for onychomycosis). But for the vast majority of people, that is the case with toenail fungus treatments. There is no nausea, dizziness, constipation, headache, or any other side effects that are so common with many medications.
Toenail fungus treatments prevent a nail infection from spreading. A bit of discoloration along the tip of the toenail might not seem important. But the longer onychomycosis is left untreated, the more it will spread, and the more difficult it will be to eradicate. If you catch the fungus when it first appears you stand a good chance of getting rid of it before it can become a permanent part of your life.
Toenail fungus treatments save you money. When it comes to toenail fungus, people tend to take one of three approaches. Either they treat it as soon as they identify it, wait until it has burrowed in and spread before doing anything, or simply never treat it. The first approach is the cheapest and stands the best chance of success. The second will take time and may never fully succeed. And the third may wind up leading to expensive surgery, loss of the nail or nails, and expensive physical therapy.
Toenail fungus treatments should be in your medicine cabinet. Toenail fungus is not some rare, exotic condition. As many as 14% of adults in North America have onychomycosis. As such, the odds that you or one of your loved ones may develop a fungal infection of the nails are high. It only makes sense to have a toenail fungus treatment in your medicine cabinet in case you ever need it.
Toenail fungus treatments prevent athlete’s foot. When people leave toenail fungus untreated, they often wind up with athlete’s foot too. It happens because both conditions are caused by the same fungi called dermatophytes (5). Once the untreated toenail fungus spreads to the soft tissue and becomes athlete’s foot, it becomes even more difficult to eradicate. So, if you don’t want athlete’s foot, treat the toenail fungus as soon as it appears.
Toenail fungus treatments can be used by anyone. Because they produce few side effects and contain no controlled substances of any kind OTC toenail fungus treatments like those profiled above can be used by any otherwise healthy adult to achieve relief from this vexing condition.
Toenail fungus treatments start working fast. Okay, ‘fast’ is a relative term in this case. But in some cases, it is possible to experience noticeable improvement in the state of your infected nail or nails in as little as a week. Keep in mind, though, that the longer you wait to initiate treatment, the more dug in the fungus will be and the longer it will take to get rid of it. Still, most people should not have to wait long before seeing improvement.
Toenail fungus treatments do not require a prescription. These days, if you want any type of medication that is truly effective, it seems you need a prescription. Fortunately, that is not the case with toenail fungus treatments. Any of the treatments on the above list can be obtained legally and quickly with just a few clicks of your mouse or taps on your smartphone screen.
Toenail fungus treatments are low impact. Some medications can take the wind right out of your sails. Not OTC toenail fungus treatments. Simply apply them as directed and get on with your life. No warnings about driving. No blurry vision, fatigue, or headaches.
Toenail fungus treatments can improve your quality of life. A fungal infection of the toenail may seem like no big deal to someone who has never dealt with one. But those afflicted know that they impact the quality of life in ways both subtle and overt. Being able to rid oneself of this problem will restore confidence, open up social possibilities, and remove the specter of the infection leading to other health issues.
Q: What is toenail fungus?
A: Toenail fungus affects anywhere from 3-12% of the population, depending on which source you believe. Also called ‘onychomycosis’ (6), it is a fungal infection that typically starts off as a discolored spot along the edge of a toenail and slowly spreads to encompass more and more of the nail. In some cases, onychomycosis is mild and can be easily treated. If it has been ignored and allowed to spread, however, it can become devilishly difficult to remove.
Q: How does a person get toenail fungus?
A: The presence of certain risk factors increases the odds that a person will develop onychomycosis. Those risk factors include frequenting public swimming pools, wearing tight shoes, going to nail salons, skin conditions such as psoriasis, and circulation problems in the lower extremities. Nail salons are of particular concern since the same equipment is used on many customers. If the salon’s hygiene practices are not rigorous, they can spread nail fungus.
Q: What are the signs of a toenail fungus infection?
A: As we mentioned, the first sign of a toenail infection is typically a spot along the edge of the nail. This spot could be yellowish or white. As the infection settles in and spreads, the nail tissue will often dry out and begin to flake away along the edge. In some cases, it may spread to neighboring toenails where the process will repeat. It may also spread to the soft tissue of the toe and produce athlete’s foot.
Q: Can toenail fungus treatments cure onychomycosis?
A: Toenail fungus treatments are often successful at restoring the appearance of the nail. Completely ridding the nail of the infection is another story. The problem is, the fungi are microscopic, and removing them all can be like trying to rid your yard of ants. Even the most sophisticated treatments cannot guarantee they will be 100% effective (7). The longer you wait to begin treatment, the harder it will be to remove the fungi permanently.
Q: Is toenail fungus contagious?
A: Toenail fungus is contagious, but not highly contagious. For instance, if two people live together, one could have toenail fungus for years and never pass it to the other person. Transmission tends to occur from things like sharing nail clippers. Not from touching toes.
Q: Are seniors more susceptible to toenail fungus than younger people?
A: Yes, seniors are more susceptible to toenail fungus infections than young people. That’s because as people age, their immune system tends to lose some of its effectiveness (8). There are a lot of reasons for that, but the bottom line is that it leaves older folks vulnerable to opportunistic fungi, like that which causes toenail fungus infections.
Q: How fast do toenail fungus treatments work?
A: Most of today’s best toenail fungus treatments are applied to the nail much like nail polish. The medication soaks into the nail tissue and kills off the fungus. Keep in mind, however, that nail tissue is hard and it can take many applications before the medication penetrates all the way to the base of the nail and kills all the fungus. So patience is required. Just as the infection took time to take hold, it will take time to remove.
Q: Do toenail fungus treatments hurt?
A: In most cases, wipe-on treatments (like most of the ones on our list) are simple and painless. More intense prescription medications have been known to produce pain, and in some cases, soften the nail to such an extent that it may even fall off. Laser treatments – besides being expensive and no more successful than any other treatment – can also cause a painful burning sensation.
Q: What happens if I don’t treat toenail fungus?
A: To many people toenail fungus is little more than a nuisance. But in reality this is an infection which, if left untreated, could spread to other toenails or the surrounding tissue, or both. Ultimately, the infected nail may fall off or need to be surgically removed. In some cases, the infection may spread to the soft tissue of the foot and become athlete’s foot (9). An untreated fungal infection could also migrate to the crotch and become ‘jock itch’ (10).
Q: Is onychomycosis a sign of a bigger problem?
A: Diabetics and people with compromised immune systems may be more susceptible to toenail fungus than others. But in general, onychomycosis is not necessarily symptomatic of a larger underlying problem. It is just the result of opportunistic fungi taking advantage of lax hygiene practices and environments like public pools that are perfect breeding grounds for their species.
Q: Do toenail fungus treatments require a prescription?
A: There are prescription medications available to treat toenail fungus, but all of the treatments on the above list are available over the counter without a prescription. For most people, these OTC treatments represent the best option, especially if they catch the fungus early. The record of prescription treatments is simply not so much better that it warrants making a visit to the doctor and paying for something that is several times more expensive.
Q: Are there any side effects to toenail fungus treatments?
A: In the case of OTC treatments, side effects are rare. When they do occur, they are typically very mild. It is rare, but some people say they experience itching or burning. Others may experience a rash if the toenail fungus medication contacts the soft tissue around the nail. Again, though, these side effects are extremely rare. Most people tolerate OTC toenail fungus treatments very well.
Q: Will onychomycosis return at some later date?
A: Unfortunately, toenail fungus is a notoriously stubborn affliction. The fungi burrow in deep. And because nail tissue is hard, getting the medication to penetrate to that level is difficult. That said, most people will still see substantial benefits from using a toenail fungus treatment. That may include eradication of the infection. Or it may be mostly eradicated and return at some later date. Good hygiene will provide the best chance of keeping the fungi at bay.
Q: Who is at risk of getting onychomycosis?
A: People who frequent nail salons put themselves at risk. So too do people who frequent public pools, use showers in health club locker rooms, and those who do not take proper care of their feet. Many times, people with athlete’s foot wind up with toenail fungus. So they need to be extra careful. Finally, people whose immune systems are compromised by age, diabetes, HIV, or chemotherapy (11) are typically susceptible to toenail fungus.
Q: What can I do to prevent toenail fungus from ever happening?
A: The best thing to do is practice good hygiene and avoid high-risk activities. That means never going into a gym shower barefoot, never putting on shoes at the bowling alley without socks, and never using a nail salon if you suspect their hygiene is not up to snuff. Also, don’t go barefoot around a public pool, don’t share a nail clipper with someone else, wash your feet daily, and don’t put dirty socks back on.
Q: What about laser treatments for toenail fungus?
A: Some clinics and spas offer laser treatment for toenail fungus and tout it as a big breakthrough. The fact is, however, that laser treatments are expensive, and there is no compelling evidence they are any better than OTC treatments (12). They can also be painful, and may damage surrounding tissue. Also, you stand just as good a chance of the fungus coming back after laser treatments as you do with any other type of treatment.
Q: What can be done to prevent a relapse of toenail fungus?
A: Above, we looked at the steps to take to avoid ever getting toenail fungus. But what if you had it and eradicated it? What can you do to stop it from coming back? Perhaps not surprisingly, the steps you take to prevent it from coming back are very much the same. Don’t go barefoot at public pools or locker rooms, don’t share nail clippers, avoid unsanitary nail salons, and don’t wear dirty socks. Also, if you see the fungus returning, act quickly.
Q: Why don’t nail salons do a better job protecting their customers?
A: Equipment costs money. Sterilization machines cost money. Vigilance takes time, and time is money. Many nail salons work on paper-thin profit margins. Doling out money to ensure every file, nail clipper, scissor, nail buffer, and tweezer is always completely sterile may seem like too much for some salon owners, who need to save money any way they can. Is it right to skrimp on hygiene? No. But it’s understandable from a bottom line perspective.
Q: Is a toenail fungus dangerous?
A: People with compromised immune systems need to be vigilant when it comes to onychomycosis. Allowing the infection to take hold could create serious problems down the line. If the infection is left untreated, it may spread to surrounding tissue and wind up causing sepsis (13), a systemic infection of the bloodstream. Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that causes death in 40% of those afflicted.
Q: Can athlete’s foot powders cure toenail fungus?
A: This is a pretty common question, and it’s understandable where it comes from. After all, both toenail fungus and athlete’s foot are produced by the same nasty fungi called dermatophytes. So it seems reasonable that if certain powders work on athlete’s foot that they would work on toenail fungus too. The problem is, in order to treat toenail fungus, a medication needs to be able to soak into the nail, right down to the base where the fungus likes to hide out. Athlete’s foot powders simply sit on the surface and are not able to penetrate the nail.
Toenail fungus affects nearly 35 million Americans. Over the counter toenail fungus treatments can help those people turn the tide and reclaim their afflicted nails.
Toenail fungus treatments are easy to use, convenient, affordable, and produce few if any side effects. They can be applied in minutes and may start producing noticeable results in as little as a week.
If you are one of the millions suffering from a toenail fungus infection, don’t wait for it to spread to other nails or the soft tissue around the nail. Instead, use the above information to choose a toenail fungus treatment and set yourself on the road to recovery.
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