Q. For over 20 years I was plagued with dry flaky skin on the side of my nose and behind my earlobes. I went to several doctors, including dermatologists. We tried various salves to no avail. After a while this added up to big bucks.
I wondered if this ailment was caused by a fungus. As a chemist, I know that iodine is very, very effective on fungus and many bacteria. I applied tincture of iodine with my fingers (every two days for a week) and got cured within a week.
It’s been two months and the spots have not returned. The cost of treatment was less than $2. I previously had success treating toenail fungus with iodine. Since I am a man, dark toenails (stained by iodine) did not bother me.
I have suggested iodine treatment to many friends and the responses have been enthusiastic. Many have solved their nail problems after other pricey treatments were unsuccessful.

A. Iodine was discovered about 200 years ago. As a tincture, it has broad antiseptic activity. You are correct that it kills fungus.
Tincture of iodine is dark brown and it can stain, so not everyone will want to use it on the face. Other readers have also reported success applying tincture of iodine to fungus-infected nails.

Join Over 55,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

Each week we send two free email newsletters with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies and a preview of our award-winning radio show. Join our mailing list and get the information you need to make confident choices about your health.

  1. TM
    Reply

    I, too, would like to know how to treat the fungus. How and where do you apply the iodine? Does it go through the nail? How often and for how long should it be used? Does the clear iodine work as well as the brown one? I really would appreciate any help.
    Thank you in advance.

  2. mt
    Reply

    Years ago my daughter had ring worm on her arm. I was advised to use iodine. Within a few days after putting it on the affected area it was cleared up.

  3. Dee
    Reply

    Iodine really does work……….
    I’ve tried everything from vinegar soaks, hydrogen peroxide foot soak, vicks vapor rub (this helped but not enough to kill the fungus completely), foot creams, tea tree oil and even ordered fungicide used to kill fungus in swimming pools….nothing has worked and I have been battling this problem for several years. My neighbor told me to try iodine….. finally, it s been almost 2 weeks and I have noticed my feet don’t scale and itch on the soles like before and I don’t even use it on my skin, just the toenails and surrounding nail bed and both the nails and sole of feet appear to be improving already. The fungus had recently spread to both big toenails and both little toes and only a few toenails were left unscathed. I used to soak my toenails for 30 minutes every other day and have to use a metal nail scraper to remove the layers of toenail that kept piling up on an almost daily basis due to the fungus, but I have noticed the nails stopped piling up the dead layers and are finally healing once and for all….

  4. lp
    Reply

    I have a type of mold, cladosporium, growing on my feet and am wondering if iodine can kill it and what the application be. I do not have nail fungus. The dr. Wants me to go on oral meds cuz the Ketoconazole cream and vinegar soaks were only mildly effective.

  5. Donna B.
    Reply

    I’m looking for the kind of tincture of Iodine that doctors used to use, 50 years ago. I had a staff infection on an index finger & my Mom took me to the doc, who painted it with some kind of iodine that turned it black, burned like fire for a couple of minutes & had to wear off. No bandages & I didn’t worry about it coming off when I washed my hands. By the time it wore off, there was new skin under it & NO staff. I need to know if that kind of iodine is still available??

  6. Geogette
    Reply

    I’ve had a fungus on my right big toenail for about 8-10 years, turning half my nail yellow, thickened, and “dead”. I’ve routinely cut the “dead” nail back and scraped all the “gunk” from under it (the moist, whitened matter that collects under the dead nail, in an attempt to remove the fungus once and for all. Didn’t work. Not only did this amount to trimming half my nail away each time and digging out the thick dead edge, there was simply no way to get it all. The fungus remained under the “live” toenail which was way too sensitive to cut. That, of course meant the bad guys were still alive and kickin’ (just like on the commercials of the evil guys in their little lawn chairs setting up house) and just waiting to go forth and multiply as soon as the nail grew back.
    Then a week ago it dawned on me to try Iodine. Through the years I’ve read many articles on its marvels of healing for a wide variety of skin ills. Really remarkable articles going back to the 1800’s. I cut back the dead nail as usual and for a few days I applied the “red/brown” Iodine to the entire nail and the nail bed, letting it soak well into the edges. It believe it was working just fine. Only problem was it was hard to see the progress given the staining, so I could only judge when I bathed and/or the Iodine would wear off a little.
    Then I came across clear Iodine at Walmart, (four bucks / 2oz) and now I can see for certain it is indeed working GREAT. The new nail and surrounding area is as fungus-free as my other healthy nails. YEA!! No yellowness remains at all anywhere. I’ve no doubt the red/brown Iodine would have worked fine as well, it’s just that you can’t judge how it’s working so well under the staining.
    I am currently putting the clear Iodine on a wart on the side of my nose, too, having previously used the red Iodine on it for about a week prior. Slowly it’s working as well. Each day another blackened, dead layer of the wart peels off. I know it’s going to be a slow-go, but I’ve had this wart for a over decade. I can be patient. I reapply this clear Iodine 3-4 times a day to both wart and toenail fungus. On the nose, I will say the clear Iodine has a distinct eye-watering “ammonia” fume to it which the red did not have, and that’s the only draw back for the face. I keep it well away from my eyes, and recommend that it not be used close to them.
    The wart that is almost on the bottom of my nose, nearer to my mouth, is close enough, IMO. It has not been a problem for my eyes. The fumes evaporate almost instantly. So, other than those “fumes” the two versions of Iodine seem to be comparable in function, and I’m sure the 88-cent red would work as well as the four-dollar clear. I’ll let you know!

  7. notdeadyet
    Reply

    I just had the same experience. If you use the clear, don’t apply any product that contains hydrogen peroxide on the same day if you want to avoid the nails turning rusty brown where you have applied the clear iodine. I was trying some boric acid/hydrogen peroxide contact lens solution because I was reading about the possibility that boric acid applied topically might help when I noticed the reaction and remembered that I had read it here! Too late. Oh well!

  8. Sarah
    Reply

    Thanks so much for posting this! I put regular iodine on hand and in a day, it’s almost cleared up!!!! This is after suffering for several months because first I thought it was eczema and just kept putting thick moisturizing creams on it (which probably caused it to spread over almost my entire palm). Then I realized it’s probably fungus and put tea tree oil on it which seemed to help a little but not much. I tried econazole cream – same thing – helped maybe a little but not much.
    Was about to cave in and go to the dermatologist when I saw your post. Went and got regular dark iodine at CVS – put it on, let it dry, put a little coconut oil on top (since my skin was cracking from being parched). This did it! I can’t believe the difference in just one day! I slept with my hand in a thin cotton glove so that I wouldn’t stain the sheets with the iodine. I am SO happy! THANK YOU!!!!!

  9. GH
    Reply

    Being male and mostly having to keep my feet covered, also being more concerned about clearing the nail fungus than vanity… realizing to be careful of staining things, there is no reason you can’t simply use regular iodine… correct? The skin will eventually clear… correct?

  10. Kathleen P.
    Reply

    I have three small dry spots – one under my jaw, one of forehead, and one on cheek. I’ve tried lavender, tea tree oil, cortizone, and non-petroleum jelly, none have worked. Would you say these dry spots are fungus? If so, should I try iodine?
    thank you,
    KP
    People’s Pharmacy response: It’s helpful to have a diagnosis to know what the treatment should be.

  11. Nail Fungus
    Reply

    To kill nail fungus quickly, use the dark iodine you buy at the local drugstore or in the first aid section of your local supermarket. (It might be Tincture of Iodide–I don’t have the bottle handy.)
    Take a drinking straw and cut it into 2 short straws. This makes it easier to handle.
    Take one of the short straws and on one end of it, cut it into a shovel shape.
    Put the shovel end of the straw into the bottle of iodine and put your finger over the top of the straw.
    Put the shovel end under your nail and slide it in as far as you can go. Fungus will loosen the nail from the nail bed, so be gentle. Let the iodine pour in over as much of your nail bed as possible.
    Do this two or three times a day. Within 2 or 3 days, the fungus should be dead.
    Keep in mind that iodine stains. You might want to do this while sitting on the edge of the tub.

  12. bmessy
    Reply

    I tried the discolored iodine for the treatment of toenail fungus and it is working. I have tried several things to get rid of it including very pricey prescriptions and nothing worked. I have been using it for about 2 months and my nail is about half way grown out and is clear so the iodine is definitely working.
    I couldn’t find uncolored iodine so I ask CVS Pharmacy to order a couple of bottles for me. They were 2oz and was about $5.99 a bottle. I use it twice a day and put it at the end of my nail so it can go underneath my nail and down the sides. I trimmed the nail as short as possible because it just kept lifting up. It is the first time anything has worked this well.
    I have tried prescription, tea tree oil, oregano oil that a physician recommended, and several other items. I am so excited to finally be getting rid of the toenail fungus. The iodine doesn’t sting or stain. I let it dry for about 3-4 minutes before putting socks on. Thanks for letting me know about the iodine, I will be forever grateful as I have had this for fungus for about 4 years and trying that long to get rid of it.

  13. Walter P.
    Reply

    The white iodine mentioned is “Tincture of Iodide” (Potassium Iodide) and is non staining. Thought you might like to know.

  14. Rocket Scientist
    Reply

    I apparently picked up a bacteria from a lake. I had groups of sores that would clear up and reappear in other spots. I was probably spreading the bacteria myself. The dermatologist had me use the OTC soap Hibiclens (chlorhexidine gluconate soln 4%). It got rid of what I had.

  15. barbarajarnold74
    Reply

    Dear People’s Pharmacy,
    I am having trouble with fungus and a skin rash on my chest, under my arms and on my neck from a club swimming pool.
    Should I drink vinegar, wash with vinegar or use Listerine?
    What would be the best solution amount?
    Is there a type of soap I can use when I get out of the pool?
    Should I rub something on my skin before getting into the pool for water aerobics?
    I love the water aerobics exercise program and I don’t want to give it up. I have lost 25 lbs and am in the best shape of my life – but my skin looks awful and is so itchy when it flares up.
    Please help.

  16. Rocket Scientist
    Reply

    The iodine is clear because additional chemical(s) have been mixed in. The mixture may not be too stable so shaking a container you can’t see into is a good tip.
    I made the mistake of applying hydrogen peroxide to a spot I had clear iodine on. The combination of those two clear substances turned that icky iodine brown-red.

  17. CTW
    Reply

    I seem to recall from childhood the tincture of iodine bottle having a skull and cross bones. Is there any risk from trans-dermal absorption during long term use as with treating a nail fungus?
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE:
    YES, SOME PEOPLE ARE ALLERGIC TO IODINE. THE PRIMARY POISONING DANGER IS FROM SWALLOWING IT, BUT APPLYING IT TO BROKEN SKIN MAY ALSO RESULT IN TOO MUCH IODINE (IT AFFECTS THE THYROID). IT SHOULD NEVER BE USED BY ANYONE WHO HAS DEVELOPED A RASH OR OTHER ALLERGIC REACTION TO IT.

  18. MPL
    Reply

    I, too, would like to know how to treat the fungus. How and where do you apply the iodine? Does it go through the nail? How often and for how long should it be used? Does the clear iodine work as well as the brown one? I really would appreciate any help.
    Thank you in advance.

  19. Ron
    Reply

    How often do you apply the iodine to the nails, and for how long?

  20. bmessy
    Reply

    Tell me how you treat the toenail fungus. Do you put the iodine under the nail or on top of the nail to cure the fungus? Please describe in detail how to apply to a nail to get rid of the fungus and how long it will take to get rid of it. What are the signs that the fungus is gone? My father has a toenail fungus and he has tried everything to get rid of it and it never goes away.
    Someone also mentioned white iodine which is a clear iodide and is also known as decolorized iodine. Does the white iodine work the same as the brown iodine? Where do I find white iodine? If it works the same then that would be ideal for using on a nail so it doesn’t stain it.
    Please advise. Thanks in advance for your answer. It is much appreciated.
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: USUALLY THIS TYPE OF REMEDY IS APPLIED TO THE NAIL AND ALL AROUND THE EDGE OF THE NAIL ON THE SKIN. WE HOPE SOMEONE WILL TRY THE CLEAR IODINE AND TELL US IF IT WORKS. WE ASSUME IT WILL.

  21. S.H.
    Reply

    I was able to find “colorless/ clear” Iodine at a small town, old fashioned pharmacy/drug store. I asked around a few times before I found the clear iodine at my pharmacy. (note: I noticed that the iodine turns dark if it sits a while; I shake it well.)

  22. international professors
    Reply

    Thank you for these many gems, most easily worth a try!
    Will have this one tried in China and Vietnam.
    International Professors Project

  23. Jill W.
    Reply

    I love your column and have found it so helpful in solving the many health issues that arise as one “seasons.” I discovered iodine years ago as a helpful remedy for nail fungus, and there’s a clear version that I use since I am fair skinned. It’s difficult to find but a good pharmacist should be able to get it. It’s so good for anti-biotic needs as well, I will always keep it on hand.
    Thanks so much for your great information!
    Jill
    Garland, Texas

  24. Clifton
    Reply

    This article about iodine is really great, I have dry places behind my ears also so will try this, thanks..

  25. Rocket Scientist
    Reply

    Decolorized iodine is readily available. It is clear. Some brands label it “White Iodine.”

  26. cpmt
    Reply

    Also vicks vapor rub and tree oil may help (it helped me).

  27. S.H.
    Reply

    Tincture of Iodine can be obtained in a “clear” formula. I had to ask my pharmacist for it; I specifically asked for “clear Iodine”. It is worth the effort. I noticed that after a month or so unless I shook the bottle well before application, it would sometimes be a little dark in color… don’t know WHY it would darken up and then clear up after gentle shaking; I didn’t care….

What Do You Think?

Share your thoughts with others, but be mindful of protecting your own and others' privacy. Not all comments will be posted. Advice from web visitors is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. In posting a comment, you agree to our commenting policy and website terms and conditions.