Sunlight just might be a natural and highly effective treatment against toenail fungus. Although it is not yet widely discussed in mainstream medical sources as being such, there are enough compelling anecdotal reports out there to make this worth a closer look.
On his website, Dr. Joseph Mercola relates an experience of contracting toenail fungus in college. He tried getting it treated with various methods for twenty years but nothing worked. Finally, he discovered by accident that daily exposure to daylight gradually made the infection go away. According to Dr. Mercola, it is the UVB in sunlight that is the key factor. UVB is a potent natural germicidal agent and therefore effective against toenail fungus.
Another experience of note is that of Andrew Saul (aka “The Megavitamin Man”) in which he also talks about how he tried many different things to get rid of his toenail fungus including soaking his feet in potassium permanganate solution and applying antiseptic to the affected area daily. Nothing worked and he became convinced that he would have toenail fungus forever… until he spent a single summer being outside which made the nail fungus go away.
Finally, a reader of Dr. Ray Sahelian’s website shares an experience in which he treated himself for toenail fungus using a magnifying glass and sunlight. We’re not advocating the use of a magnifying glass as a safe treatment for toenail fungus but the sunlight factor is once again significant.
If you look around on the web you will find other experiences in which people have safely and effectively treated their toenail fungus using the power of the sun.
Why is sunlight effective against toenail fungus?
Dr. Mercola suggests that it’s the UVB in sunlight that’s the primary antifungal agent, but actually the three types of UV rays–UVA (long wave), UVB (medium wave), and UVC (short wave) rays–are all effective against killing pathogens. Natural UVC rays from the sun do not reach us because the atmosphere blocks them out, but since they are effective at disinfecting, UVC-emitting artificial lights are often used for disinfecting surfaces in hospitals and other settings rife with germs. Although UVC rays have not been conclusively shown to cause skin cancer in humans, one study involving accidental exposure of UVC rays for 90 minutes on human subjects showed temporary but significant irritation to the eyes and skin. This is why even though HealthyDirections.com recommends using a UVC wand to treat nail fungus by waving it over your toes, I would not recommend that. There needs to be more research done on whether it is safe to use UVC rays on human skin in this way.
As I see it there are a couple of options for safely harnessing the power of UV rays to treat toenail fungus:
- Get outside and use natural daylight.
- Use an artificial source of UV rays
Using natural sunlight to treat toenail fungus
This is definitely the cheapest way. In fact, it’s free! The problem for most people is that in their busy lives it can be hard to find time to go outside. Going out to do errands is one thing. Going outside to bathe your feet in daylight is another thing altogether.
For those who do opt to use this method, either alone or together with the methods below, make sure to use a good, broad spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 30 or higher. Don’t put any on your toes because you do want the sun’s UV rays to fully penetrate that area. But put it on the rest of your body that is being exposed.
So let’s say this is enough anecdotal evidence for you to consider giving the sunlight treatment method a try. What’s the regimen you should use? Unfortunately, few people suggest a specific regimen, and the experiences of people like Dr. Mercola and Andrew Saul were unintentional and accidental, so they are probably unsure as to how much sun exposure for how many days, for how many minutes or hours each day, did the trick. However the common factor in all the experiences people have written about seems to be consistent, daily exposure for at least a few months.
So what are you to do if you want to try using natural daylight to fight nail fungus? A safe bet would be to probably start by experimenting with the Vitamin D Council’s guidelines for safe exposure times which range from 15 minutes to a couple hours, depending on your skin type. While Vitamin D isn’t our main concern here, these guidelines are designed to minimize damage to the skin so they would also apply to anyone wanting to use the sun to treat a fungal infection.
One site also states that it’s best to get outside and expose your feet between the hours of 10 am and 2 pm since that is when you’ll get the most exposure to the beneficial UVB rays.
Using artificial UV rays to treat toenail fungus
When I say UV rays, I mean UVA and UVB rays, not UVC. As I mentioned earlier, it is still unclear how safe using UVC directly on humans is, and there is enough casual evidence that it causes skin and eye irritation for humans. So it’s probably best to play it safe. And while UVA and UVB rays can also cause problems with too much exposure, these are rays that naturally reach us from the sun and we do need some exposure for health.
Artificial sources of UVA and UVB rays include the following:
- UV lamp
- Nail polish dryer
- Tanning bed
The tanning bed idea was mentioned by Dr. Mercola as a possibility, but unless you’re a frequent visitor to tanning salons, buying a tanning bed just for the purpose of treating nail fungus seems a bit extreme. The sensible, economical options therefore seem to be using a UV lamp or a UV nail polish dryer.
Keep in mind that when it comes to UV lamps, there is a difference between those light therapy lamps that people use to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and an actual UV lamp such as the KBD Sperti UV Lamp or the RAYMinder UVB Ultraviolet Lamp. Both these models, and other UV lamps like them, emit UV rays just like the sun. And they are designed to be used on humans for therapeutic purposes. So if your goal is getting rid of nail fungus then make sure that you get a lamp that emits UV.
On the other hand, light therapy lamps were designed for combating SAD but they were not designed to not emit UV rays. This is an important difference. If you buy a light therapy lamp, you might find your mood improving but it won’t do much good for your nail fungus! UV lamps are not designed to treat SAD like light therapy lamps, so it’s important not to try to combine SAD treatment and nail fungus treatment with one lamp. UV lamps do help, however, with Vitamin D production. So if your D levels are low you might be able to kill two birds with one stone with a UV lamp. (Also remember that while a possible link between SAD and Vitamin D deficiency has been shown, they are still two different things).
When using UV lamps, follow manufacturer instructions and follow safety guidelines.
Nail Polish Dryers
The nail polish dryer idea is recommended in a forum discussion on Patient.info in which a user shares her experience of using a UV nail polish dryer to successfully treat her toenail fungus. She used it 3-4 days a week, 30 minutes each session. After four months of this, her nail fungus went away.
The benefit of a nail dryer over a UV lamp is that it seems almost tailor made for the purpose of having a concentrated blast of rays hit your nails directly. You could put it on the floor, insert your toenails into the opening and just work at the computer or watch TV. Given that these machines are very affordable and also provide the additional use of drying nails, they definitely seem worth incorporating into any nail fungus treatment protocol.
- “Unusual high exposure to ultraviolet-C radiation,” National Center for Biotechnology Information
- “The Difference Between UVA, UVB and UVC Rays” UPMC Cancer Center
- “Effects of UVC on humans” Specialists in Radiation Protection
- “Health effects of ultraviolet radiation” Research Society of Physiological Anthropology
- “Understanding UV Nail Lamps” Schoon Scientific & Regulatory Consulting, LLC
- The Skin Cancer Foundation’s Official Position on UV Light and Manicure Safety
- “How do I get the Vitamin D my body needs?” Vitamin D Council