A close-up shot captures the elegance of a woman's hand, showcasing perfectly manicured brown nails with pristine white tips, exuding sophistication and style.

Brown Nails With White Tips: Causes And Treatments

If you’ve noticed white tips on your otherwise brown nails, you may be wondering what’s causing this change and whether it’s something to worry about. The good news is that while discolored nails can result from various medical conditions, most cases of brown nails with white tips are harmless.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Brown nails with white tips are usually caused by minor trauma or injury to the nails that damages the nail bed and matrix where cells produce keratin for new nail growth. The white tips occur as the damaged part of the nail grows out.

It’s generally harmless, but may sometimes indicate a fungal nail infection.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll discuss the various reasons you may be experiencing white nail tips, when it could signal an underlying condition that needs treatment, and what you can do to help restore healthy nail color and growth.

What Causes White Tips on Brown Nails

Minor Physical Trauma

Minor injuries to the nail or cuticle can cause white tips on otherwise healthy brown nails. Things like manicures, biting your nails, picking at your cuticles, and even excessive cleaning under your nails can cause irritation and damage that may look like white discoloration.

The nails may turn white where they meet the skin if the cuticles are damaged. And physical trauma directly to the nail plate can cause patches of white. Often, these white spots start small and get bigger over time if the trauma continues.

The good news is that once the source of irritation is removed, the nails will usually return to their normal brown color as they grow out. Talk to your manicurist about being gentler on your cuticles and avoid bad nail habits that can lead to injury.

Fungal Nail Infection

A fungal nail infection, also called onychomycosis, can cause white or yellow staining on nails. Fungus lives under the nail and causes changes in color and thickness as it multiplies.

In addition to white tips, nails with a fungal infection may become brittle and ragged with debris collecting under them. It usually starts at the end of the nail and spreads back toward the cuticle over time. Your nails may also smell foul.

This stubborn fungal infection is contagious and sometimes painful. Medicated polishes or oral antifungal medications from your doctor are needed to treat it. Without treatment, the infection won’t go away on its own and can spread to your other nails.

Skin Conditions

Certain chronic inflammatory skin conditions are associated with white tips on the nails, including psoriasis and eczema. The nails can be an extension of the skin. Environmental factors like irritants or allergens that aggravate your skin can also affect your nail growth.

With psoriasis, people often have pitting, ridges, and crumbling of the nails along with white spots. Eczema may similarly cause brittle, discolored nails with a white or yellow hue.

Treating the underlying skin condition should help improve the appearance of your nails. Your dermatologist can suggest topical creams, light therapy, or medications to reduce skin inflammation.

Vitamin or Mineral Deficiencies

Lack of certain vitamins and minerals in your diet can manifest as white patches on the nails. For instance, not getting enough zinc, calcium, iron, or vitamin C, B vitamins like biotin may be associated with white discoloration.

Particularly, low calcium levels have been linked to white nail tips according to some research. Nutrient deficiency can make the nails weak and more prone to developing irregularities in color.

Eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, protein, and healthy fats can provide proper nutrition for strong, healthy nails. Targeted supplements may also help correct any deficiencies that are leading to discoloration.

Determining the Cause and When to See a Doctor

Examining Nail Changes

When you first notice white tips on your brown nails, carefully examine the nails to help determine the cause. Look for any pitting, crumbling, or thickening of the nails as these can indicate fungal infections or nail trauma.

Also note if only one nail is affected or if multiple nails have white tips, as well as whether any nails are painful or sensitive.

Ruling Out Nail Fungus

One of the most common reasons for white nail tips is a fungal infection, so it’s important to rule this out. Fungal infections often begin as white or yellow spots but can spread to cause thickened, brittle nails with white tips over time.

If you have additional symptoms like nail pitting, foul odors, or nail crumbling, see your doctor to test for fungal infections.

Testing for Nutrient Deficiencies

Certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies can also manifest as white spots or streaks on nails. For instance, zinc or calcium deficiencies may present with white bands or spots on nails. To test for deficiencies, your doctor can order blood tests to check levels of key nutrients like iron, zinc, and calcium.

Nutrient Deficiency Symptoms
Zinc White spots or bands on nails
Iron Spoon-shaped nails with white tips
Calcium Dry, brittle nails with white spots

Seeking Medical Care

Schedule an appointment with your doctor if nail changes persist more than 2-4 weeks, affect multiple nails, or are accompanied by pain or discomfort. Early treatment can help resolve many underlying causes and prevent lasting damage to nails.

Your doctor may scrape nail clippings to test for fungus, order blood tests to check for nutritional deficiencies, or conduct other assessments to diagnose the cause. Once the underlying issue is identified, they can provide specialized creams, oral medications, or dietary changes tailored to your needs.

With appropriate treatment guided by your doctor, white tips on brown nails often resolve within a few months as healthy new nail growth occurs. But leaving nail issues unchecked can allow them to worsen over time, so don’t hesitate to seek medical care if you have persistent changes in your nail appearance or texture.

Treatment Options for Brown Nails with White Tips

Allowing Nails to Grow Out

One of the simplest and most effective treatments for brown nails with white tips is to just let them grow out naturally. As the nails grow, the discolored parts will eventually grow off the nail bed and be clipped away. This allows new, healthy nail to grow in and replace the problematic area.

It may take several months for the nail to fully regrow, but letting them grow out avoids using medications and chemicals.

Antifungal Medications

If a fungal infection is the cause of the discolored nails, using oral or topical antifungal medications can help clear up the infection and allow new, healthy nail to grow in. Oral medications like terbinafine or itraconazole are commonly prescribed.

Topical creams, polish, or drops with ingredients like ciclopirox or amorolfine can also be used directly on nails affected by fungus.

These antifungal treatments may take several months to fully clear up fungal nail infections. It is important to continue using the medication for the full treatment course to completely eliminate the fungus from the nail bed.

Oral Supplements and Diet

In some cases, nutritional deficiencies or poor diet can contribute to nail discoloration and brittleness. Taking oral supplements that provide nutrients important for nail health – like vitamin E, zinc, iron, and biotin – can help strengthen nails and reduce discoloration over time.

Eating a balanced diet high in vitamins and minerals is also recommended. Foods like fish, nuts, seeds, eggs, citrus, avocados, and leafy greens provide key nutrients for strong, healthy nails.

Nail Polishes and Cosmetic Options

While topical medications treat the underlying cause, nail polishes and other cosmetic products can temporarily mask the appearance of discolored nails while treatment is ongoing.

Products like nail strengtheners with hydrolyzed wheat protein and horsetail extract can improve nail hardness and help reduce breakage. Buffing nails can thin out white tips so they are less noticeable. Opaque polishes in colors like reds, nudes, and neutrals can hide discoloration.

However, cosmetic products do not treat the root cause of nail discoloration. They should be combined with other treatment methods for best results.

Caring for Nails to Restore Healthy Growth

Preventing Further Nail Trauma

To encourage healthy nail growth, it’s important to prevent further trauma to the nails. This means being gentle with your nails and avoiding picking, biting, and consistent hitting or banging of the nails, which can damage the nail bed.

Wear gloves when washing dishes or cleaning to keep nails protected. Use caution with nail tools as well to avoid lifting or tearing nails. If you get acrylic or gel polish, make sure removal is done properly by a professional to avoid pulling off layers of the nail.

Practicing Good Nail Hygiene

Keeping nails clean and dry is key for healthy growth. Wash hands with a gentle soap and rinse nails thoroughly, getting under them as well. Make sure to fully dry hands and nails after washing. Trim nails regularly using sterilized nail clippers and files.

Don’t share nail tools with others to prevent spreading infections. Use a daily moisturizer on hands and nails to prevent cracking and splitting. Consider applying a strengthening clear coat regularly to protect nails.

Eating a Nutritious Diet

Incorporating certain vitamins and nutrients into your diet can help with nail growth. Biotin, zinc, and iron have been shown to help produce strong, healthy nails. Great dietary sources include:

  • Biotin – eggs, fish, nuts, seeds, sweet potatoes, spinach
  • Zinc – beans, chickpeas, lentils, tofu, cashews, oatmeal
  • Iron – red meat, eggs, dark leafy greens, dried fruits like raisins

Increasing protein intake can also benefit nail health. Aim for 20-30 grams of protein at each meal from sources like poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products or plant-based proteins.

Staying Hydrated

Drinking adequate fluids is vital for overall health, including that of your nails. Water helps nutrients properly reach nail beds through improved blood circulation. The recommended daily fluid intake is around 11 cups (2.6 liters) for women and 15 1⁄2 cups (3.7 liters) for men.

Getting sufficient water ensures protection against cracking, brittleness and discoloration. Herbal teas, juices, smoothies, fruits with high water content and broth-based soups also contribute to fluid consumption. Use thirst, urine color or daily weighing as guides to proper hydration.


In most cases, white tips on otherwise brown nails are harmless and will grow out over time. But occasionally, they may indicate an underlying nail fungus or nutrient deficiency warranting treatment.

By examining your nails closely, ruling out fungal infection, making healthy lifestyle choices, and taking steps to prevent further trauma, you can help encourage healthy regeneration of the nail matrix and bed.

If the discolored tips persist without improvement or you notice other changes in nail color or texture, consult your doctor or dermatologist.

With proper care, your nails should return to their normal brown color and uniform appearance as new, healthy nail tissue emerges and replaces the damaged part.

Similar Posts