Why your nails are yellow

Why your nails are yellow and home treatments

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Yellow nails are probably the most common occurrence that you can experience on your nails. This phenomenon can have many causes, most of which are quite harmless. There are however other causes that you will have to see your doctor about.

Table of Contents

Common reasons for yellowing nails
More serious reasons for yellowing nails
  • Nail polish
  • Smoking 
  • Spices
  • Chemical stains
  • Medication
  • Fungal infection
  • Underlining health condition
  • Vitamin deficiency

Some common reasons your nails might be turning yellow:

Nail polish

Wearing dark nail polish without a base coat for extended periods can stain your nail plate. Darker colors are known to do this. It is one of the most common causes of yellowing nails.

When I was younger I was told that yellowing nails are due to a lack of oxygen. This is however not true as nails are made out of dead cells which do not absorb oxygen from the air.

The best way to prevent this from happening is to use a base coat before you apply the nail polish. Refrain from over-filing your nail to try and remove the stain. You can gently buff it but if it doesn’t come off instantly don’t keep buffing as this will thin out your nails.


The tar in cigarettes stains your nails and surrounding skin yellow. Smoking for long periods will also thin out the skin around your nails, which will cause the skin to lose elasticity. 

It can take quite a while for your nails and skin to return to their regular color once you’ve started treating them. The best way to get rid of these stains is to stop smoking altogether.

Other ways to prevent discoloration you can hold your cigarette in different ways, and try not to hold the back of the cigarette with your fingers when drawing in smoke.


Certain spices like turmeric can stain your nails yellow. Your nails don’t have to come in contact with these spices for long periods before staining sets in. You can minimize the stains by washing your fingers with water mixed with lemon juice. 

After soaking your nails be sure to wash your hands and apply moisturizer to prevent your nails from getting dehydrated.

Chemical staining

Certain chemicals can cause your nails to discolor. Certain ointments and wound treatments, as well as hair die, are also culprits of staining your nails. These chemicals will also stain your skin.

It’s always better to wear gloves when working with chemicals. Not only does it protect your

nails from becoming stained, but it also protects your skin from damage.

All of the above-mentioned causes for yellow nails are not permanent and should go away after some time. If your nails remain yellow after treating them for two weeks there might be something more serious wrong. In this case, it will be best to consult a doctor.

Please note that I am not a health practitioner all of the information provided is purely informational and should not be substituted for medical advice. If you notice any health problems don’t hesitate to contact your doctor and seek medical advice.

More serious reasons your nails might be turning yellow:


Certain medications are known to affect the appearance of your nails. If you see your nails changing in shape or color consult a doctor to determine if it is a side effect of your medication or something else.

Fungal infection

Fungal infections will change your nails in color varying from yellow, white, brown, and black. Your nails will also thicken, separate from the nail bed, and become extremely brittle. 

The best thing to do is to consult a medical professional to determine what type of fungus you have. It can then be treated accordingly.

Underlining health condition

Just like with your hair, your nails can be a good indication of what is going on in your body. Some illnesses can affect your nails. Things like liver problems, diabetes, and psoriasis can all cause your nails to turn yellow. To determine what causes your nails to look a certain way please consult a doctor, as you should never ignore obvious warning signs your body is giving you.

Vitamin deficiency

It is important to have your doctor run the needed tests to determine if you have a vitamin deficiency, like Zink or vitamin B12. Your nails are usually clear indicators for when your body needs something.

Some things that can help treat certain causes of yellow nails:

Lightly buffing your nails

If your nails are yellow after having nail polish on you can lightly buff your nails. Do this gently and never over file your nails as this will leave them feeling thin and even sensitive.

Lemon juice in water

The acidic juice will help get rid of newer stains. Simply dip your nails in some lemony water for a couple of minutes. Remember to always hydrate your nails afterward by using cuticle oil.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is beneficial for your nails and hair. It can help your nails grow out healthier and stronger. It might take some time for your nails to look better as you’ll have to wait for your nail to grow out. The new nails will however be stronger and healthier.

Hydrogen peroxide and baking soda

Hydrogen peroxide helps to remove stains that have already been set deep within your nail plate. Along with baking soda, you can easily remove deep stains without potentially damaging your nails. 

You can make a paste and cover your nails with it for a couple of minutes or soak your nails in water with the mixture added.

Teatree oil

Teatree oil has anti-fungal properties. It is therefore great for killing funguses and bacteria that cause stains on your nails. It will also prevent the growth of some fungi.

Teatree oil is best used with another oil like coconut or with something like aloe vera. These will act as carriers that will dilute the tea tree oil and protect your skin from negative reactions due to sensitivity.

Note that if the fungus has progressed it is better to seek medical advice.

Check out 13 Common nail diseases and disorders for more information.

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