tea tree olie bij kalknagels schimmelnagels

How does tea tree oil work against nail fungus / fungal nails?

How does tea tree oil work against nail fungus / fungal nails?

Nail fungus, medically known as onychomycosis, is a common condition where a fungal infection affects the nails. The nail is then infected with a fungus (usually a so-called trichophyton or candida fungus) or yeast.

2% to 14% of all adults will experience a fungal nail infection at some point. Sometimes people do not realize they have fungal nails because the infection progresses gradually. The fungus feeds on the keratin (a protein) in the nail, the part of the nail that remains is mainly made of hard material hence the name "nail fungus." Fungi thrive in a moist environment and penetrate the nail bed through the outer edge of the nail.

The fungal nail infection can cause the nail to thicken, which can become painful when wearing shoes. Sometimes, due to the fungal nail infection, the nail may even stop growing, or it can crumble or completely detach.

More frequently in feet

This infection can affect both toenails and fingernails but occurs more frequently in toenails. It often arises when athlete's foot spreads to the toenails or through contamination in a swimming pool or locker room. Fungi are present everywhere. They produce fungal spores; these are very small and spread easily. Athlete's foot is also called tinea pedis. There are also fungi that cause athlete's foot but not fungal nails.

How do you get nail fungus?

Nail fungus can easily be transmitted from person to person and is highly contagious. When you come into contact with the skin flakes of someone with nail fungus, the fungal particles can spread quickly. The risk of infection is especially high in wet and damp public areas where people often walk barefoot, such as in communal showers of sports clubs, swimming pools, and saunas.

Especially in elderly individuals

It's notable that fungal nails primarily occur in the older population. The chance of developing a fungal nail in older adults is about thirty times greater than in children. A possible explanation for this is that in older adults, nail growth slows down, which gives fungi more opportunity to grow in the nail.

Also, people with a reduced immune function, for example, due to the use of medications such as prednisone or with an HIV infection, and people with diabetes are more susceptible to getting fungal infections.

Toenails grow slowly:

Toenails grow much slower than fingernails, averaging 1.6 mm per month. A toenail takes twelve to eighteen months to fully grow out, whereas a fingernail only takes 4-6 months. The total treatment of a fungal nail on a foot can therefore take over a year in a stubborn case because the entire fungus needs to have grown out.

Fun fact: Nails grow faster in summer than in winter.

How to recognize a fungal nail?

The nail changes color (yellow, brown, or even green), becomes distorted, hardens, and flakes off. You'll especially notice the difference when trimming the nails.

Fungal nails are characterized by various symptoms, including:

  • Thickening
  • Discoloration
  • Brittle, crumbly, or ragged
  • Deformed
  • Detached from the nail bed
  • Odor

General tips to consider with fungal nails:

Change socks daily, wash socks at least at 60°C (30°C or 40°C is an ideal breeding ground for fungi). Allow your shoes to ventilate well and preferably wear a different pair of shoes every day to alternate.

Treating fungal nails with Tea Tree Oil:

There are various ways to treat fungal nails, including laser therapy or special lotions with antifungal properties. There are also oral antifungal medications such as itraconazole and terbinafine.

As a natural remedy, tea tree oil is highly effective due to its antiseptic and antifungal properties. Tea tree oil penetrates the nail and can be used undiluted.

Gently file the nail with a file and repeat this several times a week. Apply about 1 to 2 drops to the nail and check if the entire nail has come into contact with the oil. Make sure to treat the cuticle as well, as this is where the new nail comes from and it must be free of fungus.

Continue to occasionally file your nail(s) so that the product penetrates the nail(s) well. If you're going to a pedicure, ask them to grind down the top of the nail so that the oil penetrates the nail well. The thinner the nail, the more effective the treatment works. Pre-treating the nail with urea cream or salicylic acid cream speeds up the process. Both products soften the nail, making it thinner.

Simply apply some tea tree oil directly from the pipette to the affected nail every morning and evening. Preferably after showering when the nail is still soft, dry the nail well before applying the oil.

Scientific / Sources

Study by Buck, Cox, Rees et al. (1994): In a clinical study published in the "Journal of Family Practice," tea tree oil was compared to clotrimazole, a conventional antifungal, for the treatment of onychomycosis. The study found that tea tree oil could produce similar results to clotrimazole, suggesting it could be an effective alternative.

Research by Hammer, Carson, and Riley (1998): Published in the "Journal of Applied Microbiology," this study examined the antifungal effects of tea tree oil in vitro. The study concluded that tea tree oil contains active components that are effective against various fungal species that cause onychomycosis.

Clinical Trial by Satchell, Saurajen, Bell et al. (2002): Conducted as a randomized, controlled trial and published in the "Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy," this study showed that a 2% tea tree oil cream was effective in reducing the symptoms of fungal nails, although it was not as effective as conventional antifungal medication.

Study by Syed, Qureshi, Ahmad et al. (1999): This study, published in "Tropical Medicine & International Health," found that applying a 100% tea tree oil solution to fungal nails for a period of four weeks resulted in improvement in symptoms in about half of the participants.

Back to blog