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YELLOW FINGERNAILS - Causes, remedies & yellow nail syndrome!

Compiled by: Martijn van Mensvoort (first publication: june 2005, last update: november 2018)

Fingernails are not only a barometer of your general state of health, your nails also reflect behavior habits and the way you care for your nails on a daily basis. Yellow nails are often caused by: smoking, regular use of nail polish (dye), and also some medications (including: tetracycline & 5-fluorouracil) can also cause a yellow discoloration of the nails. However, sometimes there is an underlying medical condition involved with the development of yellow nails.

Yellow nails are also associated with 'slow nail growth' and the (rare) yellow nail syndrome. Thus yellow fingernails aren't uncommon, but aren't in fashion either. Have you noticed that your fingernails have taken on a yellowish cast lately? More details on the 4 most common causes of yellow nails are presented in this article.

6 Home remedies are discussed for what you can do to get rid of your yellow fingernail are presented. Also featured, a description of the yellow nails syndrome + at the end of this article multiple references to the NAIL TUTOR are given - which shows that yellowish discoloration is even possible in at least 4 parts of the nail unit!

Yellow fingernails - example 1
Yellow fingernails - example 2
Yellow fingernails - example 3


- Yellow fingernails: 5 major causes! -

Have you noticed that your fingernails have taken on a yellowish cast lately? Here are the most common causes + what you can do to get rid of your yellow fingernails:


Smoking can cause yellow fingernails. If you're a smoker and you've ruled out other medical conditions and the possibility of a fungal infection, chances are your smoking habit is the cause of your yellow fingernails. The ideal solution for both your nails and your general health would be to quit smoking.

If this isn't a possibility, you may want to try a few home remedies for whitening yellow fingernails. These include soaking your nails in fresh lemon juice. Some people swear by denture tablets to whiten yellow fingernails. You can also buy cosmetic pencils at your local drugstore designed to whiten the tips of yellow nails.

Excessive Nail Polish Wear?

If you constantly wear nail polish, you may be depriving your nails of the oxygen they need to maintain a natural color. Yellow fingernails can be the result. One solution is to let your nails go natural periodically instead of covering them with polish. Another option is to apply a clear base coat before applying your chosen nail polish. This appears to reduce the incidence of yellow fingernails.

Nail Fungus?

One of the early signs of a nail fungal infection is a yellow or brown discoloration of the fingernails. Fungus once embedded under the nails can produce a variety of pigments which can color the nail yellow. Eventually, you may see more symptoms if the cause of your yellowing nails is fungal. These include flaking of the nail as well as an unpleasant odor as the fungus breaks down the components of the nail. If your fingernails are yellow due to a fungal infection, you'll want to see your doctor to get an oral antifungal medication. Over the counter and topical medications don't work as well as the ones your doctor can prescribe for you.


Since 2009 the medicines tetracycline & 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) have been recognized to represent a potenitial cause of yellow nails. Yellow fingernails is a common side-effect to the topical use of 5-fluorouracil for the treatment of nail psoriasis; yellow lunulae have been spotted after tetracycline therapy.

An Underlying Medical Problem?

Fingernails that are yellow can be an indication of a medical disorder in some cases. These include liver disease, lung disease, diabetes, kidney disease, and nutritional deficiencies, most notably iron and zinc. Although most cases of yellow nails are not caused by an internal disorder, underlying medical problems should be ruled out if your nails have suddenly changed in color. Simple blood tests can generally rule out most causes of a yellow fingernail.

- Yellow fingernails: 6 home remedies! -

The following information provides home remedies for whitening yellow fingernails. Depending on the source of yellow fingernails, specific home remedies work for some and not for others. If you have yellow fingernails caused by smoking or frequent nail polish use, try these home remedies to whiten and brighten your nails. You have nothing to lose but yellow tinted nails.

NOTE: It might be important to understand the underlying cause before using cosmetic methods to reduce their appearance. If there's any doubt as to the cause of your own fingernails, see your doctor for evaluation and reassurance.

Remedy 1 - Denture Tablets

Denture tablets can not only whiten and brighten dentures, they can also whiten and brighten yellow fingernails. Simply follow the instructions for dissolving denture tablets in water, and soak your nails for several minutes. Repeat the process until your nails are lighter and brighter in color.

Remedy 2 - Lemon Essential Oil

If you want to moisturize your nails and cuticles while whitening yellow fingernails, try lemon essential oil. Simply pour your favorite lemon essential oil into a shallow bowl, and soak your fingertips for several minutes. Repeat this process whenever you need to whiten, brighten, and condition your nails.

Remedy 3 - Real Lemon Juice

Lemons are good for more than making lemonade and other sweet and tangy lemon treats. Real lemon juice can help whiten and brighten yellow nails. Slice open a fresh lemon, and squeeze the juice into a shallow bowl, or use reconstituted lemon juice. Soak your nails in the lemon juice for several minutes, and repeat this treatment as often as necessary. Wash and rinse your hands after treating, and apply lotion to replenish valuable moisture.

Remedy 4 - Light Buffing

Fingernails can be lightly buffed to remove light discoloration, but care should be taken when buffing. Besides removing discoloration, buffing encourages nail growth by increasing circulation. Buff in one direction, and use quality buffing materials. Too much buffing or incorrect buffing can actually weaken nails, and if nails end up breaking it won't matter what color they are.

Remedy 5 - Withening Pencils

If you're unaware of whitening pencils, check the fingernail product section of your local discount store or pharmacy. There you'll find pencils for whitening the tips of fingernails. Whitening pencils are inexpensive, easy to use, and they're a quick and simple way to whiten yellow fingernails.

Remedy 6 - Base Polish

Nail polish is the most common culprit when fingernails turn yellow. Before polishing your nails in the future, consider using a clear base polish that will add a layer of protection between fingernails and colored polish. Your fingernails will be healthier, thicker, and they will be less likely to turn an undesirable shade of yellow.


- The yellow nail syndrome! -

The 'yellow nail syndrome' is characterized by yellow to yellow-green, thickening, slowgrowing nail changes - with absent lunula and cuticle. The underlying pathological process is thought to be related to impaired lymphatic drainage.

Yellow nail syndrome is a very rare disorder with fewer than 100 reported cases (reported by Dermatology Online Journal in 2006). It was first reported in 1964 by Samman and White, who described it by the presence of dystrophic, thickened, and slow-growing yellow nails in association with peripheral edema.

Medical science today associates it with: primary lymphedema, pulmonary problems, and systemic disease. The most typical examples are: lymphoedema, pleural effusion, bronchiectasis, compromised respiration, and chronic sinus infection.

Approximately 40% will also have bronchiectasis. It is also associated with chronic sinusitis and persistent coughing. It usually affects adults.

Normal treatment for swelling and any respiratory problems is appropriate. Nutritional supplementation with Vitamin E in some studies has been shown to be effective in controlling nail changes.

Sources: (no longer available)

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Yellow fingernails!

The NAIL TUTOR describes the most common causes for
yellowish discoloration of various parts of the nail unit:


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