This article on Epainassist.com has been reviewed by a medical professional, as well as checked for facts, to assure the readers the best possible accuracy.

We follow a strict editorial policy and we have a zero-tolerance policy regarding any level of plagiarism. Our articles are resourced from reputable online pages. This article may contains scientific references. The numbers in the parentheses (1, 2, 3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.

The feedback link “Was this Article Helpful” on this page can be used to report content that is not accurate, up-to-date or questionable in any manner.

This article does not provide medical advice.


Can Leaving Nail Polish On Too Long Cause Fungus?


According to a study in the United Kingdom, painting the nails is very common in females of almost every age group, whether it is school going girls, adults, middle-aged women. Still, nearly every 3 in 100 suffer from the problem of the Onychomycosis (fungal nails) at some point in their lives.

What nail fungus is? It is also known as Onychomycosis, an infection caused by fungi on the nail plate and surrounding areas. Generally, it occurs due to some trauma to nails and low maintenance of hygiene. Generally, fungal infections are more common on toenails as compared to the fingernails. General effects of nail paints for keeping them on for too long is causing dryness of the nail plate, draining out all the moisture, discoloration, minute pitting of the nail plate. specific studies and special nail Paints that are antifungal and are also used for various remedial purposes.[1]

In certain studies, it is said that applying dark colored nail polish for too long cause fungal growth because nails cannot breathe. It is also known scientifically; nail cells are dead and keratinized, so technically, nails do not live. In this article, we will try to understand the effects of nail paints on nails and their link with fungal infections and shed some light on preventive measures and treatments for nail fungal infections.

Can Leaving Nail Polish On Too Long Cause Fungus?

Section 1: Relationship Between Nail Paints And Fungal Infections

1.1 General Effects Of Nail Paints On Nails

Generally, nail paints are made up of a polymer (nitrocellulose mixed in a solvent (ethyl acetate), which when applied the solvent evaporates, leaving a layer of polymer on the nail plate. When kept for too long, this polymeric layer drains the moisture of nails, making them brittle and uneven. Making the nails more susceptible to fungal infections.

So a link can be formed between applying nail paint for a long cause fungal infection, as prolonged exposure to nail colors might cause pitting, which further can harbor various fungal infections. In an article by John D. Hollander DPM (Doctor Of Podiatric Medicine) in California, USA, the fungus can be caused by long-term wearing dark-colored nail paints. While applying the nail paint, some moisture might get trapped in the nail paint. When the nail paint traps that moisture, it might form some fungal colonies on the nail plate, as humidity is a suitable environment for fungal growth.[2]

According to an article by the American Academy Of Dermatology (AAD), specific individuals cover the pre-existing fungal conditions with layers of nail paints, which further aggravates the infection as covering the infection with a polymer coat traps the moisture within and it does not get the time to dry up increasing the fungal colonies.[3]

The above-given information states how nail paints can cause various fungal infections and how various fungal infections get aggravated with individual nail polishes for a prolonged period.

1.2 Remedial Effects Of Nail Paints On Fungal Infections

According to Bhapkar and Puttekar, for treating toenails and fingernails, onychomycosis oral antifungal drugs were administered, creating a high risk of toxicity. Hence, the use of certain topical nail lacquers is a safe and conveniwxcz3we3wedsweeedent way of curbing the problem of fungal infections on nails. They also state that nail lacquer containing antifungal medicine named ‘amorolfine’ treats most (but not all types of nail fungal infections. Also, another alternative medicine with antifungal properties known by the name of ‘tioconazole’, which, when applied like nail paint, helps eliminate the fungal infection gradually with time.[1][2]

1.3 Myths And Reality About Nail Paints And Fungal Infections

According to Dr. Kristin Titko, a podiatrist with offices in Cincinnati (USA) at the center for foot care, it is a misconception that painting your nails leads to fungal infections. The fungal infections are caused by prolonged entrapment of heat and moisture around the feet or direct contact with the fungus. However, applying nail paints on the fungal infection aggravates the infection. Damage is caused by nail polish when used for a long time without any base coat. Chemicals in nail paint wilt the nails, which leads to the brittleness of pins that can harbor fungus.[4]

Section 2: Prevention And Treatments For Nail Fungal Infections (Onychomycosis)

Most of the time, the infection is localized to few nails, and initially, it is painless, but when left untreated, it might spread into other nails as well, causing thickening of the nail plate and nail plate detachment from the nail bed. In severe cases, nails may fall off, causing inflammation and scaling of the nail bed in the surrounding areas, causing walking uncomfortable.[1]

Treatment is not always successful. Curing rates are generally 60%-80%. In specific immune-compromised individuals with chronic diseases like Diabetes, vascular conditions, connective tissue disorders pose a risk of secondary bacterial infections exaggerating the infection.[1]

Following Are Few Listed Preventions And Treatment Protocols:

2.1 Preventive Measures

  • Avoid any trauma or injury to the nails to prevent any development of fungus.[2]
  • Try to wear footwear that thoroughly covers the feet in public places.[2]
  • Avoid sharing towels and clothes in public areas like community swimming pools and public toilets.[1][2]
  • Make sure to keep the feet and hands dry in the moist weather as the fungus grows when the nails are continuously wet.[1]
  • Nail paints must be applied after applying a protective layer to avoid pitting and discoloration to avoid lodgment of fungal colonies.[3]
  • Nail paints must be replaced after every few days, and nails must be left unpainted every few days.[4]
  • Always cut the nails short, use scissors and fillers to trim the nails, and avoid using the filing and trimming tools used by other people.[1]

2.2 Treatment Protocols

  1. Use of Natural Remedies: Application of natural agents like tea tree oils, apple cider vinegar, crushed garlic these act as natural antifungals and helps in curbing the fungus if applied in initial periods of infection.[1][2][3]
  2. Foot Spa and manicures: Home foot spas and footbaths by adding apple cider vinegar into tepid water helps with the fungal infections. Also, the use of hydrogen peroxide helps with infections.[1][2]
  3. Medication: use of oral antifungal drugs like Terbinafine, Itraconazole prescribed by the doctor; these medications can also be used topically on the affected nails and area.
  4. Antifungal nail paint(nail lacquers): Use of nail lacquers containing antifungal medicines like amorolfine and terbinafine helps to cure almost every fungal infection (not all). These are called medicated nail lacquers.
  5. Nail removal: if every other treatment fails, nail removal by a podiatrist is the only option to eliminate the fungal infection.

Section 3: Conclusion

Based on specific research papers, about 3in 100 individuals suffer from nail fungal infection, which has a reoccurrence chance every 2-3 years. According to various USA-based podiatrists applying nail polish for a prolonged period might be a secondary cause of fungal infections, as there are no direct links between nail paints and fungal infections.

So it can be inferred that nail polish, when left for a prolonged period, might affect the nail health, causing pitting, which can be a cause of fungus accumulation in those pits, secondly when a protective enamel coat is not applied on the nail before applying nail paint causes discoloration and due to entrapped moisture in it can be another cause of fungal infection.

Women generally apply nail polish coats to hide ugly nails already infected by mycosis, which leads to an exaggeration of the already infected nail and can turn into a severe infection, also causing inflammation of surrounding areas and nail bed.

The nail fungal infection can be avoided by specific home remedies when these remedies are implemented in the infection’s initial stages. Still, once the infection aggravates, a proper treatment protocol from a podiatrist or dermatologist must be followed, including certain antifungal drugs, including oral administration and a topical application (antifungal drugs include amorolfine, itraconazole, terbinafine). Now there are several medicated nail lacquers being made for the prevention and treatment of nail fungal infections.

Nail fungal infections can be prevented by maintaining proper hygiene, taking good care of cleanliness, and maintaining the right nails, moisture, and heat control. More recent and advanced researches are going on for the prevention of fungal infections. Certain brands have started adding natural antifungal agents like AVC (Apple Cider Vinegar), garlic extracts in their new range of nail paints to avoid fungal infection.


  1. Bhapkar, P. H., Puttewar, T. Y., & Patil, R. Y. (2013). Topic name–nail lacquers in nail diseases. IOSR Journal of Pharmacy, 3(9), 24-48.
  2. https://www.johnhollanderdpm.com/ugly-nails-after-removing-polish/
  3. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/a-z/nail-fungus-treatment
  4. https://cincinnatifootcare.com/toenails/never-removing-nail-polish-unhealthy-toenails/

Also Read:

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:December 29, 2020

Recent Posts

Related Posts