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FOOT HEALTH Skin and Nail Problems

Is Vicks Vaporub Effective for Toenail Fungus: The Truth About Nail Fungus

Toenail fungus, also known as “Onychomycosis,” is a common nail disease that affects millions of people worldwide. The prevalence of nail fungus is 12-18% (1). It can cause your toenails to become thickened, discolored, and brittle. Fortunately, there are many treatment options available, including the use of Vicks Vaporub, a product that contains menthol and camphor.

Small studies have demonstrated that Vicks VapoRub is effective for toenail fungus. Many subjects who used Vicks VapoRub for toenail fungus noticed a complete clinical cure of nail fungus. In addition, a majority of the subjects stated that they noticed an improvement in the appearance of their toenails from using Vicks VapoRub. 

In this article, we’ll discuss the benefits of applying Vicks VapoRub for toenail fungus, how long you should use it, and what results to expect. 

Understanding Toenail Fungus

Toenail fungus is a condition that is caused by the overgrowth of fungi in the nail unit. It is more common in older adults and people with certain health conditions, such as diabetes. If left untreated, toenail fungus can cause the nail to become deformed, thick, and discolored. In severe cases, it can also cause pain and discomfort, making it difficult to walk or wear shoes.

How Effective Is Vicks Vaporub for Toenail Fungus?

Vicks Vapor Rub contains Camphor 4.7%, Menthol 2.6%, and Eucalyptus oil 1.2%. It is typically used for external use on the chest and throat to help alleviate cough and muscle aches. 

A study done in 2011 by R. Derby in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine studied 18 participants with nail fungus and evaluated them at 4, 8, 12, 24, 26, and 48 weeks after using Vicks VapoRub for their fungal toenails. 

What they found was that 83% of subjects showed positive treatment effects, with 27.8% of subjects showing full clinical and mycological cures (2). The study also found that all subjects were satisfied with their nail appearance by the end of their treatment.

Another study done in 2010-2012 by M. Snell in the Journal of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care studied 15 subjects with HIV and nail fungus. 

After 48 weeks of using Vicks VapoRub, they found that 53% of subjects had a stable or improved clearance of their toenails. Not only that, 94% of subjects reported being satisfied with their toenails by week 24 (3).

Although these studies are small, the findings are encouraging! 

Toenail fungus can be difficult to treat, even with the best prescription medications. These studies confirm that an over-the-counter medication like Vicks VapoRub can be beneficial for nail fungus. Not only that, Vicks VapoRub is affordable, and easily accessible.

cotton swab on toenail

How Should You Use Vicks Vaporub for Nail Fungus?

To use Vicks Vaporub for toenail fungus, cleanse your toenails with soap and water to remove any debris. Use a cotton swab or your finger (while wearing gloves) to apply a layer of Vicks Vaporub onto your toenail once daily. You can also rub some Vicks underneath your toenails too. Wait a few minutes for the toes to dry before putting on socks and shoes.

How to Know if the Fungal Toenail Is Dying

Healthy nails look pink and transparent.

With toenail fungus, you will notice white, yellow, or brown discoloration in the toenails. Toenail fungus also causes your toenails to become thick. Debris will accumulate underneath the nails. 

After using the Vicks for several weeks, you should look for a healthy, pink translucent nail growing out from the base of your toenail. This will happen very slowly. 

When Can You Expect to See Results From Daily Use of Vicks Vaporub?

In most cases, you will need to wait at least a year to see satisfactory results using Vicks Vapor Rub.

As mentioned previously, on average, toenails take 12 to 18 months to grow out. If you have moderate-to-severe nail fungus, you will need a prescription antifungal to try and clear the nail fungus. 

infected toenail

What Are the Side-Effects of Using Vicks Vaporub?

There are no reported side-effects of using Vicks VapoRub on the toenails. However, if you experience pain or burning in the toes after application, discontinue using the medication.

If you notice redness, continued pain, or pus make sure to contact your doctor immediately.

Does Vicks Vaporub Help Cure Thick Toenails?

Thick toenails can be caused by toenail fungus, psoriasis, trauma to the nail, and even the diabetic foot. Although Vicks Vaporub can be effective in managing toenail fungus, there is no evidence to suggest that Vicks Vaporub can treat thick toenails. 

To treat thick toenails, one can use nail softening agents such as Urea topical solution.

Urea breaks down the hard keratin in the skin and nails. When applied daily, it can help soften the nails. It will generally take up to a year to see results. 

Can Vicks Vaporub Be Used as a Treatment for Ingrown Toenails?

There is no evidence that Vicks Vaporub can treat ingrown toenails. Although the menthol and camphor in Vicks Vaporub does have anti-inflammatory properties, it is not effective in treating ingrown toenails in the feet.

Ingrown toenails occur due to the nail growing into the skin. This needs to be treated with soaks, antibiotic ointment, and in some cases a chemical matrixectomy which involves permanent removal of the ingrown toenail. 

What Are Other Antifungal Options for Toenail Fungus?

There are three topical FDA-approved medications (Jublia, Tavaborole, and Ciclopirox 8% Nail Lacquer) that are effective in treating toenail fungus. They must be applied to the toenails daily for up to a year to see results. 

Oral Terbinafine is another effective option to treat moderate to severe nail fungus. It requires a series of blood tests to monitor for liver toxicity, and can also have side effects.

Make sure to talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of oral antifungal therapy. 

Conclusion

Toenail fungus is difficult to cure, however in most cases, it can be cured if caught early enough. More detailed clinical trials are needed to determine whether Vicks Vaporub can effectively cure toenail fungus in a large patient population. 

However, if you are looking for home remedies for your foot care, Vicks VapoRub is an easy, cost-effective, solution to help treat toenail fungus.

If used daily, it can have positive benefits on the appearance of toenails. 

Related article:

Prevent Foot Fungus From Returning: 7 Steps to Prevent Toenail Fungus

Ingrown Toenail Surgery: The Surgical Procedure and What It Entails

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References

  1. Gupta AK, Jain HC, Lynde CW, Macdonald P, Cooper EA, Summerbell RC. Prevalence and epidemiology of onychomycosis in patients visiting physicians’ offices: a multicenter Canadian survey of 15,000 patients. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2000 Aug;43(2 Pt 1):244-8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10906646/
  2. Derby R, Rohal P, Jackson C, Beutler A, Olsen C. Novel treatment of onychomycosis using the over-the-counter mentholated ointment: a clinical case series. J Am Board Fam Med. 2011 Jan-Feb;24(1):69-74. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21209346/
  3. Snell M, Klebert M, Önen NF, Hubert S. A Novel Treatment for Onychomycosis in People Living With HIV Infection: Vicks VapoRub™ is Effective and Safe. J Assoc Nurses AIDS Care. 2016 Jan-Feb;27(1):109-13.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26585031/
  4. Al Aboud K. The founder of Vicks: Lunsford Richardson (1854-1919). Skinmed. 2010 Mar-Apr;8(2):100-1.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20527143

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Vaishnavi Bawa
Dr. Vaishnavi Bawa is a Podiatrist who specializes in treating foot and ankle pathology. LifesLittleSteps mission is to educate the public about foot health in an easy-to-understand manner using evidence-based medicine.
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