Over-the-Counter Toenail Fungus Treatments: Do They Work?
Nearly 40 million Americans suffer from some degree of nail fungus. It can be very itchy and even painful when left untreated, but mostly, it's embarrassing for sufferers who are often ashamed to wear sandals in public and don't want anyone to see their feet. Because of nail discoloration, flakiness and foul odor in severe cases, people want to get rid of the infection as fast as possible, and very often, they turn to an over-the-counter toenail fungus treatment.
Trying to find the right nail fungus treatment can be confusing. Should you take oral prescription medications, spend top-dollar on a laser treatment, use natural home remedies, or apply an over-the-counter (OTC) topical solution?
How do you know which treatment is really effective and does not incur the risk of serious side effects?
For this report, we decided to do extensive research on the most popular treatments for nail fungus, with special attention given to over-the-counter toenail fungus treatments. Our findings will give you a good idea of which treatments actually work and which don't.
Out of 15 treatments we researched thoroughly, only 3 proved to be very effective and free of side effects. Read on to find out why so many remedies were discarded and which solutions worked the best for most people affected by nail fungus.
Table of Contents
- Symptoms of Toenail and Fingernail Fungus
- Evaluation Methodology
- Prescription treatments are potent but they have serious side effects
- Laser treatment is expensive and has no proven track record
- Applying home remedies is time consuming and rarely effective
- Some natural treatments proved to be effective but not all of them
- Which OTC treatments should you apply on your nails?
- Top Three Over-the-Counter Toenail Fungus Treatments
Symptoms of Toenail and Fingernail Fungus
Symptoms of nail fungus infections, or onychomycosis, are pretty easy to spot:
- Brown or yellow discoloration in the nail
- Thickening of nails, causing pain when wearing shoes and walking
- "Toe jam" under and around the edges of the nail
- Brittle nails that crumble or break
- Foul odor coming from nails
If left untreated, a fungal nail infection will spread to the entire nail and to other nails. In very severe cases, surgical removal may be the only option. If it hasn't reached that stage, you can find treatments that may eliminate the infection. The sooner you get started, the better your chances of getting rid of toenail fungus once and for all.
Nail Fungus Treatments – Evaluation Methodology
We studied over 15 different nail fungus treatments that can cure your finger or toenail infection. For the purpose of writing this report and ranking these products, we completed extensive research about toenail fungus causes and ways dermatologists, homeopaths, naturopaths, herbalists and other industry professionals advise to address them. We also conducted in-depth research about each product and recruited site visitors having nail problems to share their experience with these treatments.
The criteria used to study and rank nail fungus treatments included:
- Speed of results
- Ease of use
- Product guarantee
- Manufacturer's reputation
- Customer service
The products that were discarded had:
- Significant negative feedback
- Poor customer service
- Pricing that was too high considering their actual results
Prescription treatments are potent but they have serious side effects
Oral prescription medications, such as fluconazole (Diflucan®), itraconazole (Sporanox®), and terbinafine (Lamisil®), are very potent. These treatments tend to be very expensive and may cause serious health problems for people suffering from liver problems or for those with a history of congestive heart failure. In the case of Lamisil, there may be diarrhea and an upset stomach, and it can potentially damage the liver or cause liver disease.
There are also two topical prescription treatments available called Ciclopirox (Penlac®) and Amorolfine (Loceryl®). These treatments use fungicide ingredients that are very powerful chemicals to kill fungus. Unfortunately, Ciclopirox (Penlac®) can cause uncomfortable burning, stinging and redness, and it is quite costly. Amorolfine (Loceryl®) can also cause skin irritations such as burning, drying, scaling, itching and weeping.
The side effects that come with prescription medications are, for most people, a strong incentive to look at affordable alternatives, such as over-the-counter toenail fungus treatments, or to invest in costly laser procedures.
Laser treatment is expensive and has no proven track record
Laser treatment for toenail fungus is a new way to treat a nail infection by focusing laser energy directly onto the infected area. The laser light passes through the toenail and is supposed to kill the fungus without causing damage to the nail or surrounding skin.
This new technology looks very promising and has given great hope among nail fungus sufferers. Unfortunately, a deeper look at toenail fungus laser treatment reveals significant drawbacks that should be considered before selecting this option.
- Clinical trials aimed at testing the effectiveness of laser treatment were done on a very limited scale (e.g., only 39 toenails were tested for Noveon!). These clinical trials are not statistically valid. It is well known in health research that new treatments performing well in small studies fail very frequently when applied in large studies with strict test protocols.
- The cost of a one-time treatment is typically $1,000. Recurring treatments cost about $500 each. In some cases, a full course of treatment may require 3 to 4 visits, so the total cost can reach $3,000.
- This cost is not covered by health insurance and must be paid in full by the patient.
- One treatment lasts only 30 minutes but there is no guarantee the toenail fungus will not recur.
- Moreover, this treatment isn’t pain free as frequently advertised, and patients will have to wait 4 to 6 months for a healthy nail to grow out.
Recommendation: Toenail fungus laser treatment is expensive and still immature. We do not recommend risking thousands of dollars on this new and unproven treatment. You would be better off trying cheaper options before (read on to learn more).
Applying home remedies is time consuming and rarely effective
Many of the supposed do-it-yourself remedies are from common household items. Lavender oil, oregano, apple cider vinegar, beer, chlorine bleach and even Vicks VapoRub have been touted as possible treatments for nail fungus. Let's quickly review them before explaining why we found them to be a waste of time.
Chlorine Bleach Soak
Treatment: Soaking the feet for about ½ hour a day (preferably 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening) for 15-30 days in a solution of one part chlorine bleach to 10 parts water (strong solution) or one part chlorine bleach to 100 parts water (more diluted solution).
For better treatment, it's advised to do it for two months. After each treatment, fully dry the affected area (you can use a hairdryer).
Warning: Chlorine bleach is a hazardous chemical. It is corrosive and will damage any skin that has been exposed while bleaching the toenail fungus infected area. Do not inhale the fumes and avoid contact with eyes. Keep out of reach of children.
Preparation: One liter of room temperature dark beer, half sachet of acidophilus and one liter of white vinegar mixed in a container.
Treatment: Soaking your feet or fingers for ½ hour at least once a day for one month. For better results, it is advised to do it twice a day for two to three months. After each treatment, fully dry the affected area (you can use a hairdryer).
Treatment: Apply drops of apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar directly on the infected area three times a day (preferably after taking a shower). Do it every day for several months. Once a week, soak your nails for 20 minutes in a tub with vinegar.
Background: Vicks VapoRub is a cough suppressant topical analgesic, but some people use it to treat nail fungus.
Treatment: Rub your infected nails with a generous dose of Vicks two times a day for 6 to 16 months.
Warning: Vicks VapoRub is not approved by the FDA or by its manufacturer for use as a nail fungus treatment.
Most popular oils: Tea tree oil, oregano oil, lavender oil.
Treatment: We found many recipes for using these oils separately or blended together. What's common to all is that you need to apply it at least twice a day for three to six months.
Warning: Essential oils might cause allergic reactions. Test it first on a small area of your body to ensure you are not allergic.
Background: Listerine is an alcohol-based mouthwash. Its active ingredients are menthol, eucalyptol, methyl salicylate, and thymol.
Treatment: Fill a small basin with Listerine. Soak the affected nails for 30 minutes. Repeat soaking twice a day. Do it every day, for six months at a minimum.
Warning: Since Listerine is an alcohol-based solution, it can be quite painful if you have any cracks on your feet.
Our study found these home remedies to be a waste of time for the following reasons:
- These treatments are very time consuming and most people found them extremely difficult to perform when they come as a regular task on a daily basis and for a long period of time. Many nail fungus sufferers drop these treatments after 1-2 weeks because they were too busy and found them incompatible with their life.
- These products may be hazardous and are not necessarily free of side effects. For example, chlorine bleach is a chemical that can seriously damage your skin, and we received a lot of negative feedback about tea tree oil causing allergic reactions like rashes and blisters on feet and dermatitis on hands.
- After extensive research, we came to the conclusion that people rarely achieve a definite cure for their nail fungus with such do-it-yourself recipes. They may feel a temporary improvement without solving the root of the problem because these natural ingredients are not fully effective when used in non-therapeutic doses.
- These products are considered to be cheap but when used daily, several times a day and for 3 to 12 months, they may be quite expensive.
It would be better for a person to use over-the-counter toenail fungus treatments that use natural products in a therapeutic dosage. Such OTC treatments are developed and tested by healthcare companies specializing in natural products (read on to learn more).
Some natural treatments proved to be effective but not all of them
Some natural treatments proved to be highly effective in treating nail fungus, but certainly not all of them. The best over-the-counter (OTC) nail fungus treatments that passed our tests have no known side effects and they are more affordable than prescription treatments.
These topical solutions penetrate the nail, strengthen your body's natural ability to fight off fungus and kill the fungal infection. All this is done without the use of potentially harmful chemicals or pharmaceuticals. For these reasons, these natural nail fungus treatments were preferred by most people.
Using these natural treatments for 6 to 12 weeks is enough to stop the infection and get your nails clear and shiny. However, in severe cases (about 15% of people suffering from nail infections), it can take 3 to 6 months.
So, if you want clear nails and no more fungal infections, these OTC treatments without harsh chemicals but only natural ingredients are the best option out there.
However, you should be cautious about which natural treatment you decide to apply on your nail. Not all natural treatments are created equal and popularity isn’t a guarantee of effectiveness! Read on to learn which over-the-counter treatments actually work and which don't.
Which OTC treatments should you apply on your nails?
There are many over-the-counter (OTC) nail fungus treatments currently available on the market. These products don't require any prescription and can easily be purchased at your local pharmacy or on the Internet.
Prior to the writing of this consumer report, no survey was conducted about OTC toenail fungus treatments. To fill the gap, we collected information through an anonymous consumer survey among people who had tried these products. We also conducted extensive online research to validate our findings.
The best OTC toenail fungus treatments passed the following tests:
- These products were found effective for many people who tested them.
- People at all stages of nail fungus development, from mild to moderate and severe, experienced a noticeable improvement in their condition.
- These treatments were overall affordable in the perspective of a full treatment.
- No serious side effects were reported by people who tried these treatments.
Top Three Over-the-Counter Toenail Fungus Treatments
As a result of our research, the best over-the-counter toenail fungus treatments are the following:
Emoninail represents the best alternative to scary prescription drugs, expensive laser procedures, and ineffective home remedies reviewed above. Emoninail offers a powerful anti-fungal topical solution along with unique customer care unmatched by any other company in this industry. We highly recommend it.
Learn why we found Emoninail to be the best over-the-counter treatment available today for nail fungus:
Funginix is the #2 nail fungus treatment in terms of effectiveness and consumer satisfaction. While more conventional than Emoninail in terms of customer care, Funginix has an excellent track record and a good reputation in the industry.
Learn why Funginix is today the #2 over-the-counter toenail fungus treatment:
Zetaclear has led the OTC toenail fungus treatment market for years. Its topical solution is very effective and many people achieve good results using it. Unfortunately, we were aware of complaints from unhappy customers who were unable to communicate properly with this company after their purchase. It is still a good product to use but not the best company to deal with.
Learn more about Zetaclear:
Toenail fungus is difficult to treat, and modern medicine has a hard time addressing the issue effectively. To address this condition safely, effectively, and in an affordable way, we recommend using an over-the-counter toenail fungus treatment. Out of all the ones available on the market, we picked up the three best topical treatments that you should consider. They are free of side effects, easy to use, and really work.