Nails rarely get much medical attention. They just don’t seem as urgent as high blood pressure or diabetes. Despite this, nails are part of the way we present ourselves socially. Consequently, most people are quite concerned about the appearance of their nails. What should you know about keeping them healthy?

Nail Problems as Red Flags:

Although brittle nails that flake or split are distressing, most of the time this is not a sign of a serious disorder. Some nail problems can be due to nutritional deficiencies, autoimmune conditions or even malignancy, however, so ask a doctor to check a persistent abnormality. Infection and inflammation can affect the nail beds and nails just as they affect other parts of the body.

Nail Fungus:

People worry more about one common nail condition than is warranted. Nail fungus, which can turn nails thick and yellow, is NOT contagious. It can be treated, but in most instances treatment is not necessary. Early treatment is usually more successful than waiting, however. Athlete’s foot should be treated at the same time, since this is often the source of the fungus infecting the toenails.

Learn how to moisturize your nails and care for your cuticles. Find out about supplements (biotin) that may help strengthen weak nails.

Other Skin Problems:

Dandruff, jock itch and seborrheic dermatitis are other skin conditions associated with skin-dwelling fungi. Making the skin inhospitable to yeast is usually a good way to manage these conditions. We also discuss various treatments for rosacea, both oral and topical.

This Week’s Guest:

Chris G. Adigun, MD, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist who practices at the Dermatology and Laser Center of Chapel Hill, NC. Dr. Adigun is devoted to increasing public awareness of skin cancer and the harmful effects of U.V. rays—both medical and cosmetic. She has an academic specialty in nail disorders.

Listen to the Podcast:

The podcast of this program will be available the Monday after the broadcast date. The show can be streamed online from this site and podcasts can be downloaded for free. CDs may be purchased at any time after broadcast for $9.99.

Buy the CD

Download the mp3

Air Date:January 6, 2018

Get The Graedons' Favorite Home Remedies Health Guide for FREE

Join our daily email newsletter with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies AND you'll get a copy of our brand new full-length health guide — for FREE!

  1. Marilyn
    Silver Spring, Md.

    When you say “Podcast” that closes the subject or me and is always a big disappointment. I read these articles because I want to READ. Please PRINT your suggested material instead of steering your readers to another source for information.

  2. LMerritt

    I wish she had said a few brand names for her favorite moisturizers – especially the nighttime ones. Saying the chemicals they should have is not that helpful.

  3. Kelly
    North Carolina

    Regarding toenail fungus, vitamin E oil, squeezed out from the capsules found in the vitamin aisle (store-brand works fine) cured my four year-old nail fungus. I started it in March, and here, ten months later, only one-sixth of each nail remains orange (at the top). I am hopeful that the nails will be fully clear by summer, and I will continue to apply the oil daily. For now, I switch socks often, go sockless when I can (sandals in the house), and put on the oil twice daily (socks over them at night).

  4. Jen

    Years ago my husband went to a dermatologist about nail fungus. He got prescribed the medicine that we now know is dangerous to your liver. He had to have BW for his liver every month. It worked, but knowing what we do now, 15 years later, there is no way.

  5. Julie
    Front Royal, VA

    I find that Castor Oil cures almost anything that can go wrong with skin or nails. Rub it between your toes and all over your nails, and wear cotton socks to bed. With regard to wearing white gloves to sleep in at night for your hands — it’s a very good idea and works well. Those of us of a certain age wore those little white cotton gloves to church every Sunday for our entire childhoods! Thank you for an interesting episode!

  6. Jean
    South Carolina

    I would like to be able to read the article in completeness instead of listening to a podcast. Thanks.

    • Micki
      Plano TX

      I’m with Jean ! I like to read PERIOD…… I want to see important information and read it a couple times to gain better understanding….if & when necessary.

  7. Terry

    I was actually surprised that nothing was mentioned about wearing nail polish while you have a toenail fungus. I try not to because when I take it off, the nail looks worse but no polish looks even more so. I use a polish that I buy at the doctor’s office and is made with tea tree oil but don’t know if it really makes any difference.

  8. Jeanette

    The part of the country in which I live has hot, humid summers. I’m an outdoor person and two summers ago, this went beyond discomfort to a nasty patch on my groin. Using common sense I largely cleared it up in less than 48 hours Firstly, I patted the spot with witch hazel and made certain it thoroughly air dried. Then I powdered it with standard baby powder. I was scrupulous about cleanliness. drying thoroughly after bathing, using baby powder, and wearing loose clothing for air movement. I did not use anything ‘medicated’, OTC or otherwise.
    I also was very conscientious about eating gluten or casein. In fact, my #1 suspect for virtually all things, external or internal, are those two proteins. We have contaminated our food and damaged our bodies by the addition of wheat and corn to just about everything in pursuit of profit.

  9. Crystal

    Can’t you just post the info here so I don’t have to sit and listen to a podcast? Thanks!

    • Claire

      I agree with the lady who prefers reading the information right here rather than having to listen to a podcast.

      • Bobbi

        Posting info vs podcast would be most welcome.
        Thanks for considering this method.

  10. JimP
    Winchester, VA

    This is the first I have heard that athlete’s foot fungus can infect your toenails, but that appears to be what happened to me. Over two years ago, I had wide-spread athlete’s foot on the soles of my feet. I also had fungus on 4 toenails. I applied econazole nitrate cream to the soles of my feet every night for 3 months. I also applied it to my toenails with the fungus and worked it into the nail bed. Not only did the athlete’s foot clear up, so did the nail fungus.

  11. Lois
    Oceanside, California

    I have been taking HAIR, SKIN AND NAILS — a Pro Caps product — for about 8-10 years. I am 94 years old and have healthy hair, skin and nails. My nails are strong — never break — nice and pink color — no ridges — do not peal. My hair grows almost too fast — full — no bald spot on the top of
    my head. Skin is excellent — this product, along with Nutragena products (three containing Retinol) keep my face practically wrinkle-free. I pass for a 60-year-old. Don’t waste your money on the other products on the market. Try Andrew Lessman’s Hair, Skin and Nails for great results!!!!

  12. Ann

    Wondered if anyone could recommend a good treatment for toenail fungus. I haven’t had luck with products on the market. I’d appreciate hearing from you. Thanks.

  13. Mary
    Central Florida

    When I was a child, my mom’s nails were beautiful. At some point (in her 50’s?) they became heavily ridged, brittle and prone to flaking apart. She has asked every GP & dermatologist she has had in the intervening 30 years for advice, to no avail. Though Biotin is under her sink, I don’t know that she has seen any benefit from using it. Any advice on what avenues to pursue to remedy this?

  14. sylvia
    South Carolina

    I have had weak brittle nails all my life (I am 75 years old) and I discovered that the ONLY thing that strengthens them is by eating fresh water cress. My nails improved tremendously when I began to eat water cress, (which has higher antioxidants than kale.) However, not being used to having good nails I find it a bit of a chore now to take care of them!!

  15. Bob
    Chapel Hill, NC 27517

    Perfect time for a discussion on fingernail health. Biotin is a widely promoted supplement to improve nail health but just recently the FDA put out a warning that Biotin could interfere with the accuracy of lab tests. (See Consumer Reports Health News Dec 2017)

What Do You Think?

We invite you to share your thoughts with others, but remember that our comment section is a public forum. Please do not use your full first and last name if you want to keep details of your medical history anonymous. A first name and last initial or a pseudonym is acceptable. Advice from other commenters on this website is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. Stopping medication suddenly could result in serious harm. We expect comments to be civil in tone and language. By commenting, you agree to abide by our commenting policy and website terms & conditions. Comments that do not follow these policies will not be posted. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Your cart

Shipping and discount codes are added at checkout.