Ugly toenails, often characterized by discoloration, thickening, brittleness, and other unsightly changes, can be attributed to various underlying factors.

These factors are typically related to fungal infections, trauma, poor hygiene, and certain medical conditions.

Here’s a breakdown of the potential causes:

  1. Fungal Infections: One of the most common causes of ugly toenails is a fungal infection, known as onychomycosis. Fungi thrive in warm and moist environments, making the feet a susceptible area. These infections can lead to changes in nail appearance, including discoloration, thickening, and a brittle texture.
  2. Trauma: Stubbing your toe or experiencing repeated minor trauma can damage the nail matrix, which is responsible for nail growth. This damage can result in irregular nail growth, deformities, and changes in nail appearance over time.
  3. Ingrown Toenails: When a toenail grows into the surrounding skin, it can cause inflammation, pain, and changes in nail shape and texture. This can lead to an unsightly and uncomfortable condition.
  4. Psoriasis: Psoriasis, a chronic skin condition, can affect the nails and cause pitting, ridges, and discoloration. Nails affected by psoriasis can become brittle and develop an undesirable appearance.
  5. Medical Conditions: Underlying health conditions, such as diabetes, circulatory problems, and immune system disorders, can impact nail health. These conditions may lead to changes in nail texture, color, and overall appearance.
  6. Poor Foot Hygiene: Inadequate foot hygiene can contribute to the growth of fungi and bacteria, leading to infections and changes in nail appearance. Regular cleaning and proper nail care are essential to prevent such issues.
  7. Aging: As we age, our nails naturally undergo changes. They can become thicker, more brittle, and may develop ridges or discoloration. These changes can contribute to an overall less attractive appearance of the toenails.
  8. Nutritional Deficiencies: A lack of essential nutrients, particularly biotin, zinc, and iron, can affect the health of your nails. Deficiencies in these nutrients can lead to brittle, discolored, and weak nails.
  9. Tight Footwear: Wearing shoes that are too tight or don’t provide proper ventilation can create a warm and damp environment that encourages fungal growth. This can ultimately lead to changes in nail appearance.
  10. Genetics: Your genetic makeup can also play a role in the appearance of your toenails. Some individuals may be more prone to certain nail conditions and changes due to their genetic predisposition.

Addressing the root cause of ugly toenails is essential for maintaining overall foot health and appearance.

Practicing good foot hygiene, wearing comfortable and well-fitting footwear, and seeking medical attention when necessary can help prevent and manage the various factors that contribute to unsightly toenails.

If the issue persists, consulting with a podiatrist can provide personalized guidance and treatment options tailored to your specific situation.


  1. Bakotic B, Shavelson D: The Pathogenesis of Nail Unit “Dystrophy”;
  2. Gannoum M, Isham N: Fungal nail infections: A Never Ending Story :

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