"Nail polish is a leading cause of toenail fungus," says Doug Tumen, DPM, FACFAS, a board-certified podiatrist based in New York’s Hudson Valley, pointing to many of the preservatives and chemicals in polishes as the leading culprits. "If upon removing nail polish you see white spots, yellow discoloration, or thickening of the nail, you may have a fungus forming." In other words, if you'd planned on swapping out polishes and catch a glimpse of something that looks unusual, it's probably best to skip polish for the time being.
Luckily, there are a few options in the meantime. For starters, consider a buff. To do this, nail technicians repeatedly go over the nail with a buffing block. This whittles down the tops of nails until they have a shiny effect that almost appears like clear polish. Alternatively, try nail stickers, which can add just a bit of decoration to your toes.
Once you notice that your nails look back to normal, and you're ready to opt for polish once again, Dr. Tumen recommends choosing salons that offer less chemical-laden polishes and double-checking that the establishment's tools are sterilized. "New anti-fungal, non-toxic nail polish is now available. Consider switching to a safe anti-fungal nail polish to help avoid developing fungus toenails," he says. That way, you don't have to deal with a gnarly case of toe fungus come fall.
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