Should You Give Your Toenails a Break from Polish?

Many women enjoy getting pedicures from the spa or salon and sporting vibrant colors on their toes all summer long. We get it. Who doesn’t want to look cute in sandals for a few months each year? But did you know that all that polish can actually harm your toenails? Our foot experts at Rocky Mountain Foot and Ankle Center in Wheat Ridge, Granby, Evergreen, and Arvada, Colorado have seen it all. Find out why they recommend giving your toenails a break from all that polish, so you can keep your feet happy for years to come.

Do toenails need to breathe?

This isn’t exactly true. Toenails don’t get any nutrients or oxygen from the air; they get it from your bloodstream. So, they don’t need to breathe, but they do need a break from polish for other reasons.

Damage caused by toenail polish

Many nail polishes are made from harmful chemicals that seep into your bloodstream through your toenails and nail beds. That alone is a good reason to skip it once in a while. But covering your toenails with nail polish all the time can also lead to other problems. Here are a few.


Take a close look at your toenails the next time you remove the polish. Are they discolored and yellowish? If so, it’s time to give them a rest. The discoloration will eventually go away, but it takes months for nails to grow out. 

Keratin granulation

If you remove your nail polish only to find that part of your nail is white and dry underneath, you may have this common condition. It’s caused by wearing toenail polish for too long. If you have this, it’s best to let your nails heal for a while. 

Acetone overuse

Acetone is a chemical found in nail polish remover that can dry out your nails and cause them to crack or peel. When your nails are in a fragile state like that, they’re at higher risk of a bacterial or fungal infection. If your colored nail polish was laid on thick, you know it takes some elbow grease and lots of acetone to remove it. And let’s not even talk about gels. Take a break from nail polish and remover to let your nails heal and look their best naturally.

How long should toenails be polish-free?

It’s a good idea to remove your toenail polish every two months or so for up to three weeks. 


When you go to a spa or salon for a pedicure, make sure they sterilize all tools and clean the footbath between clients. Also, ask for one of the less-toxic brands of nail polish, or take your own if they allow it. 

Finally, be sure to visit us yearly for a comprehensive foot exam or contact us anytime if a problem develops. Make an appointment with one of our experienced foot doctors by calling 303-423-2520 today.

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