Before you get confused, this is not a post about nail polish and mood changes. That kind of content belongs on a lifestyle website or in a waiting room for a salon. But, you’ve landed on my website, and I’m a podiatrist at Prairie Path Foot & Ankle Clinic in Elmhurst, IL. So this article is about something entirely different: what changing nail colors can reveal about your overall foot health.

What it Means if Your Nails Turn Yellow

While pretty in a spring-inspired pedicure, if your nails turn yellow when the polish This yellow nail has a fungal infection hiding underneathcomes off, that’s a sign of a problem. And, as it turns out, that problem could be directly connected to the type of nail polish you’ve been choosing.

Traditional nail polishes, and nail polish removers, are full of harmful chemicals. So, if you constantly keep your nails polished, and use harmful polish remover when it’s time to swap colors, those chemicals can damage your nails. In fact, if your nails appear to be yellow after removing your polish—especially a darker shade—that’s a sign leftover polish dyes have actually stained your nail. 

To avoid this problem, give your nails an occasional break from any form of polish. Or maybe take the entire winter off—I mean, how often do people actually see your feet in February’s Chicagoland? And, when you’re ready to return to polishes, choose brands that leave harmful chemicals out of their bottles. I especially like Dr. Remedy’s line of nail polish—not only is it free of harmful chemicals, it actually contains substances designed to strengthen your nails and improve their overall health and appearance.

Thick and Yellow Nails? That’s A Problem!

Now, if your nails are yellow but they are also thick or crumbly, your nail polish isn’t the only problem. It’s far more likely that you’re dealing with a fungal toenail. And the treatment plan will be more involved than simply skipping nail polish for a few weeks. Choosing better-for-you nail polishes can help prevent complications.

When treating fungal nails, we must get to the root of the problem. That’s because fungal nails start as an infection deep in your nail bed. That's part of what makes treatment so difficult: your thick, yellow, crumbly nail is actually concealing (and, to some degree, protecting) the actual source of the problem! So, in order to clear up the fungal infection, we will need to get access to that nail bed.

Now, at our practice, we offer a variety of treatment options designed to do just that. Depending on the condition of your nail, we may be able to treat the fungus with topical medicine; in other cases, we might need to remove your nail in order to clear up the infection. 

Other Changes that Could Mean Nail Trouble

If you’re noticing blue or white spots on your toenails, that could also be a sign of a fungal infection in your nail or nail bed. And if your nail turns yellow while also developing ridges, there’s a strong possibility that you’re dealing with psoriasis, a condition that’s often confused with fungal infections when it shows up on your toenails. Your doctor may suggest a biopsy of the nail to rule out either a fungal infection, psoriasis, or a dystrophic nail due to trauma or microtrauma (repetitive trauma) to the nail.  

With so many color choices and a wide range of potential problems, diagnosing your own nail condition can be extremely difficult. For that reason, if you notice changes in the color, width or texture of your toenail, it’s best to see your podiatrist right away. Doing so will be your best bet for avoiding long term discomfort. It will also provide your quickest path to restoring the healthy appearance of your toenails.