While there are many things we look forward to with aging — wisdom and having more time for loved ones — the increased risk of toenail fungus, or onychomycosis, isn’t one of them. As we grow older, our immune systems begin to weaken and nails can become more brittle. This makes them more susceptible to this issue, which causes thick, crumbly, and yellowing nails. While onychomycosis is a typically harmless — if unsightly — condition, those with poor immune systems or conditions, such as diabetes, may want to think about treatment. “For patients who are diabetics and those who are immune-compromised, it’s important to address those issues,” dermatologist Pamlela NG, MD, told the Cleveland Clinic. “The fungal infections can cause breakdown of the skin and lead to conditions like cellulitis or foot ulcers.”
What is the best treatment for toenail fungus?
If you’re one of the more than 3 million Americans suffering from this condition, you’re probably well aware that it can be extremely difficult to treat. Those seeking clinically effective solutions that won’t involve added health risks or painful, unwanted nail removal, have come to the right place.
Doctor-prescribed oral antifungals, which are typically for six to 12 weeks, are currently the medical treatment of choice for toenail fungus according to the CDC. But those same Rx’s can present some seriously unwanted side effects, including severe liver damage leading to liver transplant or death, loss of taste, numbness or tingling, and more.
Most over-the-counter creams you’ll find at the drugstore, such as terbinafine (seen in Lamisil, clotrimazole, and Lotrimin AF), meanwhile, can zap away infections of the skin or nail surface like athlete’s foot, but may do little to relieve what ails you in the fungus department.
“Topical prescription creams and liquids work about 10 to 15 percent of the time when used over many months on true toenail fungus,” Jessica J. Krant, M.D., M.P.H., and clinical assistant professor of dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York told Consumer Reports.
As an alternative, we’ve rounded up a slew of products that, with continued, diligent use, have shown promise when used to treat onychomycosis. Though they may not boast a guaranteed cure, studies and shoppers alike say they work to lessen growth from persistent fungi, offer protection against future infections, or weaken nail beds to allow topical creams to get down deep to the root of the problem. Keep reading for Woman’s World’s picks for the best at-home toenail fungus treatments!
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Best Natural Toenail Fungus Treatment
Healing Solutions Tea Tree Oil
Where to buy: $6.99 (Originally $19.99), Amazon
A 1994 study published in the Journal of Family Practice found that tea tree oil garnered similar results to oral therapy after six months of treatment, providing “improvement in nail appearance and symptomatology.” Though the study noted that both tea tree and oral therapy had high recurrence rates, the latter had the “added disadvantage of … potentially serious adverse effects” not seen with the more natural oil.This particular bottle, made by Healing Solutions, is made with 100 percent pure therapeutic-grade tea tree from Australia.
It has garnered more than 3,000 ratings on Amazon — 72 percent of which are five star — with many singing its fungus-fighting praises. "I had a fungus on my toes and my doctor said you usually can't get rid of this fungus," wrote one happy shopper. "I used tea tree oil and three months later, the fungus is gone."
Best Urea Toenail Fungus Treatment
PurOrganica PurSources Urea 40%
Where to buy: $15.99, Amazon
Part of the reasons that topical antifungal treatments are often ineffective is that toenails are made up of multiple layers that fungus can worm its way into and in between. High doses of urea, a urinary byproduct and colorless crystalline compound, can be useful in softening the nail plate. This allows topical terbinafines, such as Lamisil, to get through to the root of the problem. Several studies have shown that a combination therapy of the two can be effective.
This 40 percent urea cream, which also counts tea tree oil among its ingredients, is a hit with fungus patients on Amazon. “I have battled fungal toenails on one of my feet for over 15 years,” one happy shopper wrote of this cream. “I used it every day for two weeks, placing a BandAid over each toenail. I applied it to and went to sleep. … I can see that the fungus has stopped growing and spreading and my toenails are no longer black looking and THICK.”
Wrote another, “I have been using this on one toenail that is slightly infected with fungus. Two weeks with using it and the fungus part is coming out like butter.”
Best Drugstore Toenail Fungus Treatment
Vick’s Vapo Rub
Where to buy: $16.81, Walmart
Vick’s — yes, the same jelly-like ointment you apply on your chest for a cold — has long been touted as an effective alternative method of toenail fungus treatment. In fact, a 2011 study showed that a once-daily application “seemed to have some clinical effect in treating onychomycosis,” especially where specific organisms of Candida parapsilosis (a fungal species of yeast) and Trichophyton mentagrophytes (an organism that has been known to cause ringworm) were the fungal culprits.
Funginix Finger and Toe Treatment
Where to buy: From $19.96, Amazon
There’s a reason this solution has been previously recognized by the American Podiatrist Medical Association (APMA): it works as well as a topical solution can against long-lasting toenail fungus. This formula is made up of a blend of undecylenic acid (a fatty acid that prevents fungus growth) in combination with natural ingredients such as tea tree oil, camphor, lavender oil, and menthol, that aim to stop these harmful organisms dead in their tracks.
With a 90-day money-back guarantee, there’s little risk associated with its purchase, though many shoppers wrote that they didn’t need it.
“[This] product works,” wrote one. “It is not a miracle cure. Must be consistent and patient. Does not change discolored nail but creates hostile environment for fungus allowing clean new nail to grow out.”
Another concurred, “I have used Funginix consistently each evening and tea tree oil in the morning for a year now and it is amazing how my toes have improved.”
Puriderma Fungus Nail Repair Pen
Where to buy: $14.97, Amazon
A 2000 study published in the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology concluded that prescription ciclopirox nail lacquer with an 8 percent topical solution, which works like a fungus-busting nail polish, was “significantly more effective than placebo in the treatment of onychomycosis.”
While you’ll need an Rx to gain access to the real deal, the concept behind this No. 1 best-selling Puriderma fungus nail repair pen is much the same, coating the nail with a thin layer of potent ingredients, including hydroxybezonic acid (salicylic acid) that work to treat fungus and prevent its recurrence.
In addition to a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee, more than 1,200 five-star Amazon reviews from a whopping 85 percent of purchasers speak for themselves, reading, “The best solution I have ever tried,” “Amazing cure,” and “Clear toenails.” Apply three times a day for maximum results.