Can Nail Polish Actually Turn Your Toenails Yellow?

When the warm weather hits, those of us who live in areas with seasons happily trade in our thick winter jackets, hats, and gloves for sundresses, shorts, and flip-flops. Besides rehauling our wardrobes, many of us spruce up our skin as we get ready for spring.

Makeup and skincare routines change as we go from heavier moisturizers and foundation to lighter formulations, and it's a great time to exfoliate dull skin to make it soft and supple. It's also the perfect time to tend to areas that may have gone by the wayside. Feet are one body part that typically needs some regular TLC, and a good restorative pedicure can get feet in tip-top shape.

While many forgo keeping nail polish on their toes during winter months, many people do, and those who live in warm weather climates tend to get regular manicures year-round. Just like neglecting your feet can have effects, so can keeping nail polish on your toes all the time. You may have heard about it turning toenails yellow, so can it?

How yellow toenails and regular polish go hand-in-hand

You might think that keeping your toenails adorned with fresh pedicures is the best thing you can do to keep your feet and nails in good shape, and in many ways it is. Regular pedicures remove dead skin, clean up cuticles, and keep feet and toes clean and moisturized. However, applying on-stop coats of nail polish can affect the toenails. When your toenails always have nail polish on them, they don't get the air they need, and when you remove nail polish, you may find they look yellow.

"The pigments sometimes react with the top layer of the nail plate, creating a yellow stain," says board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Anar Mikailov in an interview with Byrdie. This happens when natural keratin in the nails is met with the chemicals in the polish.

The darker the polish, the more likely the nails are to react by turning yellow. However, it's not permanent. "It should go away by itself after a few days if your nails are kept bare," explains Mikailov.

Nail polish isn't the only thing that causes yellow toenails

Besides nail polish, other things can turn toenails yellow. Yellow toenails can also be an innocent result of aging and no treatment is necessary. However, yellow toenails can also be a sign of certain medical conditions like jaundice, according to MedicineNet.

However, the most common cause is a fungal infection. When toenails are infected, they not only have a yellow hue, but they can appear very thick. A type of fungi known as dermatophytes is usually responsible; these depend on keratin to survive, so they tend to congregate in nails, as well as skin and hair, per American Family Physician

In most cases, a basic antifungal cream from the pharmacy will do the trick. The medication works best if you file down thick nails so they can absorb better. However, stubborn cases benefit most from seeing a dermatologist. Likewise, if you have yellow toenails and think they stem from nail polish, but after leaving your toes bare for a few weeks, they still appear yellow, it's time to see your doctor.