Can Nail Fungus Spread Through Nail Polish?

Nov 16, 2020

If you’ve started to notice some unsettling discoloration, thickening, or even deformation of one or more of your toenails, your first instinct might be to paint over it immediately. Maybe if all your toes are bright pink, nobody will notice the one that’s a little funky—right?

We understand why you might feel that way. Unfortunately, it’s not a great idea for a number of reasons. Let’s talk a bit more about some of the common questions, concerns, and myths surrounding fungal nails.

nail fungus

Can Toenail Fungus Spread Through Nail Polish?

The answer here isn’t so clear cut. It’s kind of a yes, but maybe not in quite the way you might expect.

In terms of direct spread of the fungus from nail to nail (or person to person) through a bottle of polish, the chances of this happening are fairly low. A bottle of polish isn’t exactly the most conducive environment for fungal growth.

However, while the risk is low, it isn’t exactly zero, either. We would still strongly recommend you not share nail polish with any other person, whether at home or at the salon.

The bigger concern is that simply wearing nail polish in the first place can make your toenails more susceptible to fungal infection. Even a clear coat of polish can make nails more brittle, crumbly, and less breathable, especially if you keep your toenails painted for more than a week at a time. This makes you more likely to contract toenail fungus, especially if you already have athlete’s foot (which is caused by the same group of fungi) or a fungal infection on a different toenail.

Our final verdict, then, is that you should only use nail polish in moderation (no more than one week on, one week off, at the absolute most), and you should avoid sharing your polish with anyone else. If you want to be extra safe, you can get separate bottles for your infected and non-infected toes.

What About Other Nail Care Tools?

It’s a similar scenario here. As we wrote in last month’s blog, nail and skin care tools like toenail clippers, nail files, and the like should never be shared from person-to-person. We also recommend you use separate clippers for toenails and fingernails, and clean and sterilize your tools after use.

Check out last month’s blog for more in-depth tips on preventing toenail fungus!

Bonus tip: although it’s tempting to try to deal with a fungal toenail by attempting to trim it as short as possible, this is usually counterproductive. Cutting your nail too short usually means more trauma to the nail bed and a greater opportunity for further infection.

Can I Go to the Salon at All?

Unfortunately, there’s no way to be 100 percent guaranteed that you’ll be protected from contracting or spreading nail fungus if you go out for a pedicure. Fungi like to hide in foot baths, jets, and tools that haven’t been completely cleaned.

If you do want to take your toenails to the salon, whether you have an ongoing fungal toenail infection or not, following these tips can help make you safer:

  • Make sure the salon and all technicians are fully licensed.
  • Choose salons that fully sterilize all tools using either an autoclave or UV light between guests. Tools or products (such as polish) that can’t be sterilized should be single-use only.
  • If possible, choose a salon that uses pipeless foot baths, as fungi can linger in pipes even if the basin is thoroughly sterilized between patients.
  • Try to schedule an appointment earlier in the day, as there’s less opportunity for baths or tools to be contaminated by other guests.

The Best Thing to Do About Your Fungal Toenails Is Treat Them

The best way to keep fungal toenails from worsening or spreading is to treat them as early as possible. And thanks to laser treatment technology, eradicating your fungal infection is a lot safer, more convenient, and more effective than it used to be.

To learn more about how we treat fungal toenails at our office, be sure to check out our service page. And if you’re ready to request an appointment with Dr. Patel or Dr. Harpaz, just give us a call at (203) 876-7736 or fill out the form below today!