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There’s an ongoing dispute surrounding nail polish and the effects it could have when worn too long, especially on toenails. One of the most common beliefs is that toenails need to breathe in order to stay healthy. The fact of the matter is that different people will experience different results, but there are some basic guidelines that will help you know what’s best for your toes.

The Facts

  • First and foremost, nails are technically dead, which means they don’t breathe. Rumor has it that nails turn yellow when wearing nail polish for too long because they can’t breathe. Even though the nails can be stained, it’s more from the polish, not due to “breathing” issues.
  • Secondly, nail polish does not cause fungus. Toenail fungus is caused by heat and moisture being trapped against the feet for prolonged periods of time or direct contact with the fungus. However, wearing nail polish when you do have toenail fungus is not healthy.
  • Thirdly, nail polish can damage toenails and make them brittle when it’s applied without a base coat. Some of the chemicals in nail polish tend to dry out nails, which shouldn’t be a problem if you use a high-quality base layer before applying polish.

Things to Consider

  • Even though nails don’t breathe, they soak up moisture. Too much exposure to moisture and household chemicals can lead to stained and unhealthy nails, so always make sure they are dry before applying nail polish.
  • A base layer is very important because, without it, nail polish can be soaked up into the nail. This is why nails turn yellow or blue in some cases. When a base layer is applied then nail polish won’t have this effect.

Ultimately there is no evidence to prove that permanent use of nail polish on toenails is unhealthy, but not everyone will have the same experience. For this reason, most experts agree that there should be periods when your nails should be without nail polish, even if only for a few days. If anything it will help you to keep tabs on the condition of your nails and better able to see if there is a problem forming from some other cause.