Green nails are a major worry for acrylic nail users. Although not very common, it’s a well-known symptom of an underlying medical condition.
Worse still, no one wants to walk around with green nails, and you can only install new acrylics once you fix the problem. So, it starves you of options.
This guide focuses on how to get rid of green nails. However, we also explain how to catch the issue early, risk factors, and prevention tips.
How to get rid of green nails after artificial nails
The best way to get rid of green nails is to remove the artificial ones, trim, clean, disinfect the affected nail, and apply over-the-counter treatments.
Antibiotic or antifungal cream clears the symptoms in a few weeks, while home remedies like 1% acetic acid or 4% white vinegar take a little longer. See the doctor if the symptoms persist.
Why are My Nails Green After Acrylics?
You may have a bacterial infection if your nails are green after acrylics. Specifically, you may have a Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a common bacterium that attacks plants and animals. It causes various illnesses in humans, including pneumonia and blood infections. It may also cause lung disease.
Unfortunately, Pseudomonas Aerugonosa bacteria thrive under artificial nails in moist, oxygen-free spaces, secreting a dark green, greenish-blue, or greenish-black material easily visible under the nails.
What is Green Nail Syndrome?
When it attacks the nails, Pseudomonas aeruginosa causes Chloronychia, or Green Nail Syndrome (GNS).
It’s a rare condition, even among artificial nail lovers. However, poor prep work when installing acrylic and gel nails increases the risk of GNS. Similarly, you may get Chloronychia from fake nails due to poor hygiene.
It affects a small portion of the nail or the whole nail. Similarly, it affects just one nail in most cases but may spread to adjacent nails. The good news is that it’s painless unless accompanied by a nail bed wound.
Unfortunately, green nail syndrome doesn’t clear on its own. Instead, the symptoms may worsen and spread to other nails. So, you must treat it. Home remedies are effective, but get medical attention if the issue persists.
What Causes Green Nail Syndrome?
Green nails are mainly a bacterial infection resulting from Pseudomonas aeruginosa. The bacteria are found in many places, including soil and water.
But it rarely translates into an infection because it doesn’t thrive in high-oxygen environments, typical of clean skin and nails.
However, the bacteria quickly propagate, forming colonies if you block out oxygen. This explains why it thrives under artificial nails.
Tiny, moist, enclosed gaps between the nail plate and bed provide a conducive environment for Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
Do Acrylic Nails Cause Green Nails?
Not necessarily. However, you may get a nail infection if germs, yeast, fungus, or dirt are trapped between the acrylic nail and the natural nail plate.
Similarly, you may get green nails if damage to the acrylic nails causes injury to the underlying nail bed.
Do Press-On Nails Cause Green Nails?
Yes, press-on nails may cause a fungal or bacterial infection if the fake nails trap germs or dirt over the real nails.
Similarly, broken press-on nails may affect your real nails, resulting in infection. Finally, injuries to the nail plates or nail bed when removing false nails can trigger infections.
GNS Risk Factors
You’re at a greater risk of green nail syndrome if you have the following;
- Lifted natural nails (Onycholysis)
- Nail trauma (chewing, biting, or tearing)
- Occlusions and excess sweating
- Work in wet conditions
Signs of Green Nail Syndrome
Green nail syndrome is primarily characterized by green discoloration of the nail plate. It turns your nail green, greenish-yellow, greenish-brown, greenish-blue, or greenish-black. However, you may notice a few additional symptoms, including;
- Proximal chronic non-tender paronychia
- Distolateral onycholysis
How Long does Green Nail Fungus Last?
Antifungal treatments take 6-18 months for the affected nail to return to normal. However, the nail may not look the same as before the infection.
Also, medical treatments are only effective for 60% to 80% of green nail infections. So, your nails may not return to normal, necessitating surgery.
Do Green Nails Go Away on their Own?
Technically, yes. A green nail can go away independently if you remove the fake nails and improve your nail hygiene.
The microorganisms have nowhere to hide, eventually dying and freeing the nail. However, this can take a long time, sometimes up to two years. Or worse, it may not go away.
Should I Take My Acrylic Nails Off If My Nail is Green?
Yes, it’s best to take off artificial nails when dealing with green nails. A few nail techs advise otherwise, even claiming you can paint green nails or wear acrylics.
However, this is misleading and dangerous as wearing artificial nails over green nails provides the perfect conditions for the multiplication of fungi and bacteria.
Instead, begin the rehabilitation process by removing all nail enhancements. Then trim the nails using a nail file, wash them with warm water, and disinfect the infected nails with hydrogen peroxide or apple cider vinegar.
How to Treat Green Nails
There are three main ways to eliminate green nails and green nail syndrome. The first option is home remedies, including white vinegar and acetic acid. These are effective but typically take longer to eradicate the symptoms.
Therefore, most patients turn to over-the-counter treatments like antibacterial and antifungal creams. Over-the-counter (OTC) treatments are highly effective. However, not all GNS cases respond to OTC drugs. In that case, you should see a doctor.
Below we explain how each approach works, how to get started, and when to seek advanced treatment.
At-Home Remedies for Green Nails
At-home remedies are the least invasive and most cost-effective solution for green nails. For one, the approaches involve products we readily have in our homes.
More importantly, these products are safe for humans, even in higher than usual concentrations. So you don’t have to fear adverse effects.
The main concern is that home treatments take longer to bear results. For instance, you may wait months for mild symptoms to disappear. In addition, severe green nail cases may not respond to at-home remedies. In that case, consider medical treatment.
The following are three at-home remedies to consider if you have a mild green nail syndrome problem;
Treating Green Nails with Antifungal Essential Oils
Daily drops of antifungal essential oils can clear green nails within a few months. The best essential oils for green nails are eagle, citronella, geranium, lemongrass, palmarosa, peppermint, and eucalyptus. Alternatively, consider the ever-reliable tea tree oil.
The following is a step-by-step guide to treating green nail syndrome (GNS) with tea tree oil.
- Remove the false nail by soaking your fingers in acetone.
- Mix 1-2 drops of carrier oil (olive or coconut) with 1-2 drops of antifungal essential oil.
- Apply 1-2 drops of the mixture to the affected nail, covering the entire plate.
- Allow it to settle for 10 minutes so the oil mixture can penetrate the nail plate.
- Gently scrub the oil into the nail using an old soft toothbrush.
- Repeat the process once a day for at least three months.
The symptoms begin to clear in the second month and are usually gone by the middle of the third month. If symptoms persist, seek medical treatment.
Note: Avoid essential oils if you have diabetes. Alternatively, speak to your doctor before you begin treatment.
Treating Green Nails with Snakeroot Extract
The Indian Snakeroot (Rouvolfia Serpentina) is an evergreen shrub native to Southeast Asia. It’s from the sunflower family but contains several ingredients with antifungal properties.
Indeed, clinical studies show that snakeroot extract is as powerful as most topical antifungal creams, with a 2009 study showing it’s as effective as topical Ciclopirox.
The best news is that you can easily order snakeroot oil online, including from Amazon. It’s very affordable too.
Once you have the extract, the next step is to apply it to the affected nails regularly until symptoms diminish. Here’s how to apply snakeroot oil to green nails;
- Remove acrylics, nail polish, and other artificial nails.
- Clean the nails thoroughly by washing them with clean water and soap. Then dry them with a towel.
- Apply snakeroot oil extract to the affected nails using the provided applicator. Alternatively, use earbuds or a new nail polish brush. Ensure it covers the entire nail.
- Repeat the process 2-3 times daily for three months or as the user manual indicates.
Again, the symptoms begin to ease within a month and clear by the end of the third month. Seek medical attention if symptoms persist.
Treating Green Nail Syndrome with Baking Soda Paste
Baking soda has endless applications, including nail fungus treatment. It dries the nail bed, depriving the fungus of moisture and slowly choking them. A few studies even show it slows down the growth of fungus.
In addition, baking soda is a renowned bleaching agent. It absorbs color pigment, leaving your green nails white and beautiful.
The best part is that you likely have baking soda in your kitchen. All you need to do is create a paste and apply it to the affected nails. Here’s how to proceed;
- Mix a teaspoon of baking powder with a quarter cup of warm water and stir to form a light paste.
- Apply the paste to the nail plates with an old toothbrush.
- Allow it to sit for ten minutes, as the baking soda works magic.
- Rinse the paste off your nails with warm water and dry the nails with a towel.
- Repeat the process 2-3 times daily for a full year.
Unfortunately, it takes several months to see meaningful changes and up to a year to treat green nails with baking soda.
Treating Green Nails Syndrome with White Vinegar
Finally, white vinegar can treat pseudomonas nail infections if you’re persistent. It contains acetic acid with antifungal and antibacterial properties that slow down a fungal infection, eliminate odors, and soothe the nail bed.
This explains why vinegar is a common treatment for athletes’ feet. Soaking the affected feet in 4% to 5% white vinegar daily for about three months clears mild symptoms. You can do the same for green fungus with exceptional results.
Follow the steps below to treat green nails with white vinegar safely.
- Remove the fake nail on the affected nail (where applicable).
- Wash the natural nail thoroughly with soap and water. Then wipe it with a towel.
- Prepare a vinegar solution by mixing two parts of warm water with one-part white vinegar.
- Soak the infected nail in the solution for 20-30 minutes.
- Repeat the process once a day or more frequently, as desired. It takes up to three months to diminish the symptoms. Fortunately, diluted white vinegar is harmless, so you don’t have to worry about nasty side effects.
Medical treatment is the best solution for green nail syndrome if you’ve struggled with the problem for more than three months. Also, consider a doctor’s appointment if your nails are thick or painful.
The doctor will provide a diagnosis and prescribe appropriate medication depending on the severity of the problem. The following are a few things to expect from the doctor’s visit.
A culture of the nail is common but not mandatory. For instance, dark to bright green discoloration of the nail plate is enough evidence of an underlying dermatophyte infection.
The doctor may recommend a pseudomonas culture to rule out other infections. The doctor uses a gram stain to look for gram-negative rods during nail culture.
Don’t be surprised if the doctor recommends white vinegar to clear the greenies. A mixture of one part white vinegar and 4-10 parts water applied at home allows better nail care for more permanent results.
Alternatively, the doctor may prescribe lotions, creams, or ointments for fungal infections. Lotions are the best as they dry faster and work their way underneath the nail plate more effectively. Or they may prescribe oral treatments.
Topical Antibiotics and Antifungals
If the doctor believes the infection might respond to light treatment, they’ll ask you to get topical creams, lotions, and ointments. The most effective topical treatments against green nail syndrome are;
- Ofloxacin 0.3% solution: Apply 1-2 drops of the solution to the affected nail twice daily for the recommended period. Unfortunately, it’s an expensive medication.
- Gentamicin 0.3% solution: Apply 1-2 drops to the affected nail twice daily for as long as the doctor says.
- Neomycin + Polymyxin B + Gramicidin: Apply 1-2 drops of the Neosporin solution to the affected nail twice daily for as long as the doctor says.
Prescription pills are the most effective treatments for green nail syndrome, though they take several weeks to work. Terbinafine, used to treat nail fungus, is especially popular. Take your tablets every day to treat the problem.
Speak to your doctor about side effects, like rashes and liver issues. Also, inform the doctor if you’re on antibiotics, heart medications, or antidepressants.
Most patients recover quickly and fully. However, the doctor may advise a few lifestyle changes to accelerate healing. These often include;
- Minimizing wet work
- Keeping the nails dry
- Avoiding nail trauma until you heal
Call the doctor at the end of the first month for a follow-up. You can discontinue medication and follow preventive measures without further follow-up if the infection clears within the first month. Otherwise, you must continue with the medication. The doctor will advise appropriately.
Nail avulsion (removing the nail plate from the natural nail bed) is a therapy of last resort but may be necessary in severe cases.
How to Prevent Green Nails
The good news about Green Nail Syndrome is that you can significantly reduce the risk of infection by following basic prevention tips as follows;
- Wear gloves (ideally rubber gloves) when handling cleaning products or washing dishes.
- Wash your hands with rubbing alcohol before applying artificial nails at home.
- Avoid unprofessional nail salons or nail technicians with poor hygiene habits.
- Trim your nails and keep them clean. Trim the nails at least once weekly.
- Occasionally take a break from false nails. A two-week break after every nail salon visit will do you a world of good.
- If you’re prone to fungal infections, use antifungal sprays regularly to ward off germs.
- See the doctor if you notice strange discoloration on your nails, such as green spots.
Green Nail Syndrome (GNS), commonly known as green nails, is an infectious bacterial infection characterized by greenish discoloration of the nail plate. It’s common in people with acrylics and those working in wet environments but may affect others too.
Fortunately, you can easily treat green nails with various home remedies, such as vinegar or tea tree oil, or over-the-counter treatments. Seek medical advice if the symptoms persist.