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Understanding Chemo Nails

Comprehensive Guide to Chemo Nails: Tips and Treatments

by Dr.Bahman Sotoodian
The information provided in this blog is for educational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice. It is not intended to replace professional medical consultation, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making any decisions regarding your health. Read more

Many people are not aware that nails can be damaged by chemotherapy. What can be done to help nails during chemotherapy? This article will discuss the effects of chemotherapy on your nails, provide essential nail care tips, and look at treatments available in Canada for managing or improving chemo nail condition.

How Does Chemo Affect Nails?

Chemotherapy medications are developed to attack quickly dividing cells, mostly cancer cells. But these medicines also influence other fast growing cells in the body like those in hair and nails. Consequently, this unintended effect can cause different visible changes as well as common troubles on your nails while you are under chemotherapy treatment.

Nail Discoloration

The most usual alteration is the change in color of the nails. Nail varnish may turn yellow, brown or even black during chemotherapy. It is common for this to be for a short time only and the intensity could differ with the variety of drugs taken for chemotherapy as well as the duration of treatment.


One of the side effects of chemotherapy is that it can dry out your nails and make them brittle. This can make them break or split more easily. If a person’s nail bed is exposed due to splitting or other damage, this could be very uncomfortable and might increase the risk of a nail infection.

Ridges and Lines

Your nails may have horizontal or vertical ridges, which are also known as Beau’s lines. They suggest that there was an interruption in the growth of your nail for a short time, because chemotherapy affects the new tissue of the nail that is produced by rapidly dividing cells. 

Nail Detachment

In rare situations, chemotherapy can cause onycholysis – where the toenail separates from its bed. This is often followed by developing a new nail; however, if left untreated, it may result in infection and severe pain. A more severe condition that results from the treatment and needs urgent medical attention is separation of nails from their beds.

Nail Care Tips for Chemo Patients

To manage these side effects and keep nails healthy during chemotherapy, proper nail care is essential. The following are some suggestions for taking care of your nails:

Daily Nail Care Routine

Having a regular nail care routine is one of the best ways to prevent injury and infection. Some of the important needs are listed below:

  1. Short Nail Maintenance: This helps in preventing the breaking off of nails as well as prevents the entanglement of nails in objects. Trim your nails in the necessary fashion always.
  2. Moisturize: Nails tend to become weak when they are dry hence there is need to use oil or cream so that they can retain their natural moisture. Apply these two products on your cuticles as well for the same purpose.
  3. Wear Gloves: Gloves protect hands during activities such as gardening, washing dishes among others which may lead to breakages due to lack of care for skin around nails.
  4. Avoid Harsh Chemicals: Nail polish removers that contain acetone should be avoided because it makes the nail brittle hence use non-toxic ones.
Moisturize Chemo Nails
Moisturize chemo nails to improve appearance

Diet and Nutrition

In order to improve nails wellness the best way is to eat various vitamins and minerals. Do the following:

  • Biotin: Eat food rich in biotin– eggs, nuts, whole grain products. This substance is famous for making your nails tougher.
  • Iron: Include foods that are rich in iron such as spinach and lean meats this will prevent your nails from becoming brittle.
  • Protein: Since keratin is made up of proteins ensure that there is enough protein in your diet for healthy strong beautiful nail growth.

Treatments for Chemo Nails

There are many ways to relieve symptoms of chemo nails. Before starting any new medical treatment, make sure you contact a professional

Over-the-Counter Treatments

There are ways to ease or fix chemo-related nail problems without seeing a doctor. The following are some over-the-counter products that can bring relief and improvement:

  1. Nail hardeners: These usually contain calcium, and sometimes keratin as well, which make brittle nails stronger.
  2. Antifungal Creams: If you get a fungus on your nails, use antifungal creams. Look for ones that work on nail fungus specifically.
  3. Nail Fungus Treatment: Patients can also benefit from online nail fungus treatment options for medical consultations from healthcare professionals. Nail fungus treatment can usually include:
  • Topical Solutions: Many antifungal nail lacquers like Penlac (ciclopirox) or Loceryl (amorolfine) are available in Canada.
  • Oral Medications: If you live in Canada, there are pills such as Lamisil (terbinafine) and Sporanox (itraconazole) that can be prescribed by physicians.

Professional Treatments

Severe problems on nails caused by chemotherapy can be solved by professional treatments. Below are reasons why you should have professional advice for a targeted and effective care: 

  1. Dermatologist Consultation: A dermatologist can give tailored solutions for severe nail challenges.
  2. Nail Salons: When it comes to nail salons, try to select ones that have had previous experience with chemotherapy patients. Also, make sure they follow strict cleanliness rules in order to prevent nail infections from occurring.

Can I Wear Nail Polish During Chemo?

Wearing nail polish is a personal choice, but there are some things you may want to consider:

  1. Choose Non-Toxic Polishes:­ Only use nail polish products that do not contain harmful chemicals like DBP, toluene, or formaldehyde.
  2. Avoid Using Nail Polish Too Often: Allow your nails time to recover between applications so that you can notice any changes.
can i wear nail polish during chemo
Can I wear nail polish during chemo? If you insist, go to professionals experienced in chemo nails.

Nail Disease Chart: Recognizing Chemo Nail Issues

A nail disease chart can be a helpful tool in identifying and understanding various nail conditions caused by chemotherapy. Here are a few typical indicators to watch out for:

  • Yellow Nails: Possible fungal infection or reaction to medication.
  • Black or Brown Streaks: This might mean more serious trouble or bleeding underneath them. 
  • Cracking and crumbling: These are unmistaken signs of impairment caused by chemotherapy – Splitting your nails is often simply a consequence of weaker nails post-chemo. 
  • White Spots: Most of the time these are harmless things we notice, like if our bed accidentally gets smaller (ouch) but sometimes it could be something.

Final Thoughts

Even though keeping healthy nails through chemotherapy may be hard, it can be done if right practices are followed. The most important things are keeping informed, asking for help from doctors and following a strict nail care schedule. Always remember that there are organizations in Canada ready to help you in this journey so don’t feel alone.


 1. Does chemotherapy also have an impact on toenails?

Chemotherapy may affect toenails. As a result of chemotherapy, fingernails can become discolored, brittle, or otherwise altered.

 2. How can I prevent nail infections while undergoing chemotherapy?

Use gloves when doing anything that might expose them to dirt; keep them clean and trimmed; do not bite your nails. To maintain healthy cuticles and nails, apply moisturizer frequently. 

 3. Do changes in nails caused by chemo indicate a more serious health issue?

Yes, although many changes are normal, you should contact your doctor if you are having a lot of pain or if they are bleeding all the time. Let your doctor know right away about any unusual or severe symptoms that you have noticed. 

4. After chemotherapy, how long will it take for my nails to heal?

The recuperation period after chemotherapy greatly depends on the individual, but it can take several months to a year for nails to grow back to their original state.

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