Thick toenails look pretty absurd on your feet, and they often feel quite uncomfortable as well. In some cases, the condition might become even worse if you wear restrictive or narrow shoes such as high heels or boots with pointed tips. Not only do thick toenails prevent you from wearing your favorite footwear for that occasional party or trip, but they also spoil your daily bath and shower sessions by causing a feeling of constant discomfort on the tips and edges of your toes whenever you wet your feet. When your feet come in contact with water in the bathroom, the skin beneath your thick toenails will swell and cause the already loose nails to wiggle. In some extreme cases, a slight shock or bump might even cause one of your thick toenails to crack open or fall off.
While there is no fixed reason for why this condition occurs, and the symptoms as well as severity might vary greatly from person to person, one thing is for certain- more often than not, thick toenails are the result of improper foot hygiene/ usage of extremely restrictive footwear. If you don’t let your feet dry properly after working in a wet environment for extended periods, you have a much greater chance of contracting this annoying nail problem. Also, the usage of tight or hard-top shoes for activities such as running, volleyball, tennis, or any other physically intensive activity will cause your nails to constantly suffer short bumps against the shoe walls, and this is especially amplified in shoes with small toe boxes. And, it is even MORE amplified if you don’t clip and file your nails on a regular basis (sports and long toenails don’t get along very well). Heeled shoes with closed front boxes that are too narrow or hard will cause your big and little toenails to press against the walls, resulting in the gradual thickening of the frontal portion of both those toenails, and most of the time you’ll also notice ridge lines, cracks, spots, etc. along with increasingly thickening skin around the nails.
Reasons for having Thick Toenails :
1. Fungal Infections :
Fungal infections cause a special type of toenail infection in which the nail not only thickens, but also begin to turn yellow. A specific species of fungi known as Candida is responsible for toenail fungal infections, and these parasitic microbes love to live in the little cracks of your toenail where they continue to breed and defecate (that yellow color is due to dead fungus cells and excrement). They crave moisture and a mildly acidic surrounding.
2. Injuries or Physical Trauma :
If your toenail has suffered from something like a sudden physical trauma (may be a hammer fell on it, or somebody stepped on it), then the skin underneath the nail, as well as the surrounding skin layers tend to swell up, and the area will turn red. Don’t worry, since this is temporary and is not harmful to your nails or feet in any way, except for the fact that if your nail broke in the process, you’ll probably have to wait a while before it grows back again. And you’ll also experience some discomfort while walking.
3. Wearing Inappropriate Footwear :
If you wear shoes with hard tops and small toe boxes, then the first and last toenails of your feet will constantly rub against the walls of the shoe, resulting in a special type of condition which might get really severe over the course of a few years. The nails will first thicken towards the front, and then ridge lines will begin appear, along with a slight curve at the tip because the nails cannot grow straight forward and are being forced to head downwards.
4. Poor Blood Circulation :
If blood does not circulate properly in your feet, it could result in stunted growth of your toenails. They will look pale and chipped, with cracks and ridges all over the surface. Some nails might even feel like they are loosely attached, and will actually crack open or detach if a sudden shock is applied upon them. This type of toenail condition is especially common in people with heart conditions, diabetes, blood pressure irregularities, etc.
Homemade Remedies for Dealing with Thick Toenails (100% natural and easy to implement) :
While thick toenails can cause a lot of discomfort and are very annoying, you don’t need to visit the hospital for a surgery or anything of that sort unless your physician or dermatologist tells you to. We suggest that you give the following homemade remedies a try before you decide you throw in the towel and shell out hundreds of bucks for reconstructive surgeries, chemical therapies, etc. All of those are expensive treatment methods, and bombarding your body with chemicals isn’t the best choice either. Which is why, we included only natural oils and commonly found compounds such as baking soda, Epsom salt, etc. in this list.
1. The Apple Cider Vinegar Method :
This is a tried-and-tested method to get rid of fungal infections in the feet as well as toenails. Vinegar is a pretty harmless compound to humans and is commonly used in food preparation, but is also a fungicide (it kills fungi). Take a bucket or large trough and fill it with some apple cider vinegar, although you can also use white vinegar. Add two parts of water for every part of vinegar, and male sure that the end volume is enough for you to comfortable soak your feet. After 10-15 minutes, you can remove your feet and wipe them dry with a clean towel. Repeat twice a day for around 2 weeks, and if possible, clip your toenails and file them before soaking the feet.
2. The Tea Tree Oil Method :
Tea tree oil is a natural fungicide, and is also said to possess anti-bacterial properties. However, it is also a detoxifying agent and will purify the skin of your feet by removing all the soaked-up toxins from deep underneath the skin. As a result, both your toenails as well as surrounding skin layers will be freed of harmful fungi/bacteria and the thickening should gradually decrease over time as the skin around your toenail begins to release its toxins, resulting in accelerated blood flow around the nails, which culminates in increased production of new nail cells.
3. Olive Oil Treatment :
Olive oil or even olive lea extract can act as a potent fungicide as well as purifying agent, just like tea tree oil. In fact, you can even use both of these oils together by dipping a cotton swab in a mixture that contains equal parts of both. Rub this swab gently on the affected nail and repeat the process for 2-3 times daily. You should notice an improvement within 2-3 weeks if your condition is related to a fungal infection or some sort of skin diseases such as eczema/psoriasis. But remember- in case you have any skin condition you should probably consult your physician for proper medication prior to trying out any of these methods.
4. Epsom Salt Treatment :
Epsom salt is the common name of magnesium sulfate. It is a type of sea-salt and its skin-related benefits are well known. Both magnesium as well as sulfate are easily absorbed through the skin, and are extremely crucial to some really essential functions such as enzyme production and regulation, as well as muscular and nerve functioning. Mix a couple of tablespoons in half a tub of warm water and soak your feet in it. If your toenails have thickened due to some sort of physical trauma or lack of blood circulation, then this method will definitely help.
5. Use some Vapor Rub :
Vicks Vapor Rub has been known to heal dry, chipped skin, as well as inflammations. Theoretically, the same should also apply for nails even though they are not the same as skin. However, nail is made from the same stuff as hair and some parts of the skin- keratin. Now, nails may feel lifeless and hard, but they are actually living cells which need to be supplied with nutrients in order to grow. Vapor rub will heal the skin around your toenails and make it better suited to blood circulation, so that your nails can rejuvenate faster and heal from any damage that they might have incurred over the course of time.
6. Use Mildly Acidic Gels :
This method is only going to work if your thickened toenails are the result of a fungal invasion or some sort of bacterial infection. You can even substitute corn meal solution to get similar effects, because if your toenails are yellow and thick, then it almost certainly the result of a fungal infection. Cornmeal contains a special type of fungus that is harmless to humans but is actually deadly to Candida, the main species of fungi that is responsible for toenail thickening. Mildly acidic gels will also kill Candida cells by destroying the protective layers that shield the cells of these microbes, and then complete cellular disintegration occurs. Use any sort of mildly acidic soap lotion or gel for this purpose, and make sure that you clip your nails with a clipper and file them with a nail file prior to this treatment in order to enjoy faster results.
Some Precautions that Can Help Prevent Thickening of Toenails :
1. Wearing Proper Footwear and Socks :
If you use shoes that are too tight or restrictive, your nails will suffer in the long run. To give you an idea, if you wear high heeled shoes for more than 8-10 hours daily then you have a 50-60% higher chance of suffering from problems such as bunions, thickened toenails, cramped toes, etc. So how do you deal with it then? Well, we are not asking you to abandon fancy footwear altogether, just use them wisely for limited periods of time (try not to use them daily). While engaging in any form of physically intense activity, make sure you’re wearing footwear that is suited to that particular task. For sports, you usually want shoes with flexible, lightweight, breathable tops, and large toe boxes.
2. Using the Right Soap and Lotion for Feet :
Clean your toenails, the spaces between your toes, as well as the rest of your feet with good quality soap every day, especially after you return from a walk, gym visit or sports/workout session. Use a solution that is slightly acidic to wash your feet, and if you have suffered from fungal infections in the past try soaking your feet in an apple cider vinegar solution like we have mentioned in the list of remedies above, and then dip your feet in a solution of baking powder. The baking powder solution is alkaline in nature and will make sure that any leftover cells or spores of fungi never get the chance to spread or multiply.
3. Clipping and Filing Nails Regularly :
This will help protect your nails from shocks and bumps within tight shoes, and remember that you should never wear shoes with pointed feet or high heels if you have long toenails. Nail polish might look pretty on long nails, but the pressure against your nails increases as they grow longer, and sudden physical shocks will have even more effect on the base of your toenails if they are longer than normal. This will result not only in thickening of your toenails, but abnormal growth patterns which will be irreparable in the long run. For example, if you always wear tight shoes on top of long nails then they will grow thick as well as curve downwards in order to compensate for the lack of space for growth. Also noticeable in this case, will be large crack lines and ridges on top of the abnormally thickened nail surface.
In the end, we can’t stress enough how important it is to maintain proper hygiene for your feet and hands. Use cotton socks, do not keep your feet wet for long periods of time, and always wash the nails and toe spacing thoroughly with some soap or pH-neutral (could even be slightly basic) solutions. If you’re going to engage in sports or other physical activities, always remember to wear shoes designed for that specific sport or activity. Shoes made from light and breathable mesh are the best if you have sweaty feet, and these will prevent the growth of fungus since all of your sweat is instantly evaporated though the breathable mesh layers. Also ensure that you’re not wearing shoes with pointed tips or high heels for more than 3-4 of hours a day, and that too only on rare occasions. Clip your toenails with a clipper on a regular basis, and file them with a properly sanitized nail file.
Also remember- always consult with your dermatologist or physician if you notice that he problem isn’t going away after trying any of the above mentioned remedies. Whatever you do, DO NOT attempt to scrape, cut, or slice the affected toenails by yourself as that could lead to further complications. If the condition becomes too severe and the nail begins to detach itself from the toe, then the doctor might recommend surgical removal of the affected portion or laser therapy. The above mentioned treatments are strictly for early-medium stages of fungal development in your toenails.