How to finally fix white spots on your nails

Rhalou Allerhand
·7-min read
Photo credit: seksan Mongkhonkhamsao - Getty Images
Photo credit: seksan Mongkhonkhamsao - Getty Images

From Netdoctor

Plagued by white spots on your nails? Contrary to popular opinion, white marks on the nails is rarely the sign of a vitamin or mineral deficiency and you don't need to drink more milk. The most common cause of white spots is actually damage to the nail bed.

White marks on the nails are harmless and usually nothing to worry about, but they can ruin a good manicure or you might have a fungal nail infection - which is easy to treat. We spoke to Celebrity Podiatrist, Youtuber, and Nail Expert Marion Yau, and GP and Foot Health Practitioner Dr Kenny Win Leung Siu, about white spots on the nails treatment and prevention tips:

What are white spots on the nails?

White spots on the nails, also known as Leukonychia, is a condition where white lines or dots appear on your fingernails or toenails and occasionally form white bands across the nail width.

According to Yau there are three types of Leukonychia:

  1. Longitudinal Leukonychia: appears as white line(s) that runs down the nail plate.

  2. Punctate Leukonychia: appears as white dot(s) on the nail plate.

  3. Striate/ Transverse Leukonychia: appears as horizontal line(s) across the nail plate.

What causes white spots on the nails?

Leukonychia is a common nail condition which can be caused by a number of things. 'The most common of these being trauma and fungal nail infections,' says Yau. 'Trauma can be caused by direct injury to the nail matrix (the area where the nail starts to grow from) or on the surface of the nail plate. The most common trauma is caused by having manicures, pedicures and the use of chemical based nail polishes.'

Although trauma and fungal nail infections are the most common causes of Leukonychia, according to Yau other health concerns can lead to white marks on the nails, including the following:

  • Leukonychia can be hereditary.

  • Systemic diseases, such as liver cirrhosis, chronic renal disease and hypoalbuminemia.

  • Drug induced Leukonychia, such as systemic chemotherapy.

  • Allergic reactions caused by chemicals in nail polishes, hardeners and removers.

  • Dermatological conditions such as Psoriasis and Eczema.

  • Mineral and vitamin deficiency.

Photo credit: Nadya So - Getty Images
Photo credit: Nadya So - Getty Images


Are white spots the sign of vitamin deficiency?

If you frequently notice marks on your finger and toenails, you may have heard this indicates a vitamin deficiency and you need to drink more milk. But white spots on the nails is rarely the sign of a vitamin or mineral deficiency. 'While a lack of zinc, calcium or iron can be a cause for Leukonychia, it is exceedingly rare that this is the case,' says Yau. 'Especially if a well-balanced diet is maintained.'

'If you suspect it could be due to a vitamin or mineral deficiency then the advice would be to speak to your family doctor or GP to request a blood test,' advises Dr Kenny. 'This will be useful to be able to identify if there is a deficiency and what treatment, supplement or action is recommended. If you have a well-balanced diet however, then it is exceedingly rare that the Leukonychia would be caused by a deficiency.'

Is it safe to buff the white areas?

If you have white marks on your nails it's tempting to try and buff them away, but proceed with caution before you do this.

'If the white area is not deep within the nail plate or nail bed, then you can safely buff away the white marks,' says Yau. 'These white areas should easily buff away with a few strokes of a file, particularly if these marks were caused by using nail polish or by a superficial fungal nail infection.'

Take care not to overdo buffing to prevent further nail damage. 'It is then recommended to put a good nail solution, oil or topical antifungal treatment on the nail afterwards, to protect the buffed nail plates,' adds Yau. 'Care should be taken to never over buff the nail plate as this can cause the nail plate to become thin and lead to weakness, deformity and lifting of the nail plate.'

How to treat white spots on the nails

It may be possible to get rid of white spots on the nails, depending on what caused them in the first place.

'If the white spots were caused by trauma and the damage is not permanent, then the white spots will grow out as the nail grows,' says Yau. 'The length in time it takes for this to happen will be dependent on the location of the white spots. A white spot at the base of a fingernail may take 12 to 16 weeks to grow out but for a toenail it may take up to a year.'

If the white spots are caused by a fungal nail infection, treatment differs. 'Treating the nail with laser, topical or oral medication may help to get rid of these spots,' says Yau.

'In other conditions that cannot be resolved such as long term systemic medical conditions, Leukonychia may not be able to be resolved and the white marks will remain,' says Dr Kenny. 'Should this be the case it is advisable to discuss this with your doctor.'

Photo credit: Cecile Lavabre - Getty Images
Photo credit: Cecile Lavabre - Getty Images

White spots on nails prevention tips

According to Yau, white spots on the nails can be prevented by adopting simple nail care habits including the following:

✔️ Direct trauma to the nail plate can be caused by having your nails buffed, cuticles pushed up too hard and too often, so try and avoid this where possible.

✔️ To prevent an allergic reaction to chemicals in normal nail polishes try using a water-based nail polish that will reduce the risk of any issues.

✔️ If you are prone to fungal nail infections, then the use of a topical nail lacquer may help to prevent the development of infections.

✔️ Where possible, try to avoid any trauma to the finger and nail plate by wearing protective gloves.

Products to reduce white spots on the nails

There are a variety of products that can be used to reduce or remove the white areas, as advised by Yau:

• Antifungals

If the Leukonychia is caused by a fungal infection then the use of an antifungal medication, topically or orally can be used to treat it. Leukonychia can also be buffed away with use of topical antifungal or nail solution.

• Curanail

I would personally recommend the use of Curanail. Curnail contains Amorolfine to kill the fungus and individual nail files that can be used to buff the nails.

• Emtrix

I would also recommend Emtrix, which is another antifungal that has a keratolytic and antifungal effect. Emtrix kills the fungus and gently smoothens the top layer of the nail plate which can then lead to the Leukonychia being reduced or removed.

• Flexitol Nail Revitaliser Gel

If the cause of the Leukonychia is due to trauma or the use of nail polish and the damage is superficial then I would recommend the use of Flexitol Nail Revitaliser Gel. Flexitol Nail Revitaliser Gel can be effective in the treatment of the white spots as it contains an optical brightener to remove discolouration, as well as Urea to soften thickened nails and Keratin to condition and restore nail quality.

• Anti-nail-biting solution

Biting of the nails can also cause significant damage. If this is the cause of the white spots then I would recommend the use of anti-nail-biting solution. This is a natural product that creates a bitter taste to the area applied and may prevent biting.

• M.Y Health Water based Nail Polish

Nail Polishes such as M.Y Health Water based Nail Polish is recommended as an alternative for those suffering from nail polish allergies.

• Imedeen

If you are looking for a supplement to help the nails grow, I would recommend using Imedeen, which should help the trauma to grow out faster.

Foods for nail repair

According to Yau, some nutritional options may help with nail repair. 'Nails are made up mostly of keratin therefore eating high protein foods such as meat, fish, nuts and pulses can nourish the nail bed and nail plate,' she says.

'Taking a nail supplement that contains Zinc, biotin and B-Vitamins as well as a silica supplement will also help to preserve healthy and strong nails and help prevent damage,' adds Yau.

Last updated: 15-02-2021

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