How To Soften Your Toenails

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Toenails are meant to be durable and hard. But you still want to be able to easily clip them with nail clippers. Due to certain situations and conditions of your nails, they can become too hard or too tough to clip and shape the way you want.. 

In that case, you have to figure out how to soften your toenails so that you can still trim them and keep them hygienic. There are several ways to do that. You can soak them, apply creams or use home remedies. We’ll discuss each in detail below.


What Causes Toenails To Be Too Hard?

Thick and hard nails can be a challenge to trim. However, you shouldn’t just let them grow out of control.

In fact, just letting them grow unhygienically is the worst decision. 

Simply cutting them by brute force isn’t a great idea. It could cause toenails to crumble. You could create jagged edges which could cut the skin and cause an infection.

Sometimes, your nail clippers might not be able to take it and break. 

Softening the nails is a great solution. Before you do that, let’s first figure out why the nails grow thicker and tougher. 

Well, there are a few health conditions that could cause thicker and harder nails such as the following:

Onychomycosis Or Fungal Infection

Fungal infection is one of the most common reasons why your toenails are thick and hard. This happens when the fungus infects the toenail due to a cut on the skin, the use of contaminated nail clippers, transmission from one toe to another, etc.

When the foot is always moist, there is a huge chance for the infection to take off.


Another reason why your nails could be too hard and thick is due to psoriasis. It is an inflammatory condition and could lead to pain or discomfort. Sometimes, the nail could lift from the nailbed.


This is another painful inflammation or infection but it affects the nail fold or the area towards the cuticle. When this area is infected with fungus or bacteria, it could be tender to touch. There could be pus and the nail can be thicker and distorted. 


With this condition, the nail appears like that of a ram’s horn. It doesn’t only thicken, it also curls upwards. With such conditions, there is a disorder that affects the growth of the nail. This is more common for older people especially those who do not practice proper hygiene.

Repeated Injury Or Trauma

Repeated injury or trauma to the nails due to your activities and lifestyle could lead to thicker nails. If you tend to wear shoes that are too tight-fitting, it’s your nails that suffer. 

The repeated injury causes the nail to grow abnormally. Sometimes it doesn’t only grow thick, it could also grow in a different direction which causes a cut on the nails. 


Nails can change as we age. Sometimes it thickens but that isn’t true for all. Some have no changes, and others end up with thinner nails.

Although nails could normally grow thicker as we age and not pose a serious threat, it can still be more difficult to cut and trim them. That could lead you to cut your nails too short accidentally.

That could expose the skin and make them vulnerable to infection. 

If you think you have any of the conditions above, the best way to go about it is to seek treatment for the conditions.

The thickened and hardened nails are just the response to the condition. If you treat them, your nails could still go back to normal.

How To Soften Your Toenails

While seeking treatment, you can do the following ways to soften your nails so that you can trim them. 

  • Foot Soaking
  • Nail Softening Creams
  • Home Remedies

Foot Soak

Foot Spa

The first and simplest way to soften your toenails is to soak them in warm water. Simply get a basin that’s big enough for your feet and deep enough to cover them as well. 

Alternatively, there arefoot spa machines  that you can use at home. You can use any foot soak solution if you want or just a couple of tablespoons of Epsom salt. 

Soaking your feet for 30 minutes will be enough to soften your toenails. You may also soak them longer if your toenails are too hard. 

After soaking, you can pat them dry. Make sure to dry your feet thoroughly to lessen the chances of fungal growth on them. 

Nail Softening Creams

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You can use nail softening creams, gels or solutions to help gradually soften the nails. They won’t instantly soften nails but you have to use them continuously to see the results. 

Products like No products found. don’t just soften the nails. They help the nails look better and prevent them from getting too thick. 

Like other nail softening products, they contain hydrating ingredients to avoid hard and brittle nails.

To use such products, you simply apply them to your nail and let them sink in. Usually, you could clip the nails the following day. 

Home Remedies

Aside from the commercially available nail softeners, you could use home remedies such as the following:

Vicks Vaporub

People usually have this at home to help with congestion. However, it is also a great product to use on your feet as a soak with water. The camphor and eucalyptus oil ingredients will help soften the toenails by hydrating them. 

Some even believe that it has antifungal properties that could help those who have a fungal infection. Alternatively, some people simply apply this directly onto the nail instead of using it as a foot soak. 

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is a good antiseptic. It can help deal with fungal and bacterial problems as well. It can help with thick toenails by applying it directly to the toenail. However, a carrier oil should be mixed with it first because it is potent and concentrated.


As mentioned, soaking the foot helps soften the nails. Adding vinegar to that soak improves the foot soak and helps soften the nails efficiently. 

If you don’t want to soak your feet in vinegar solution, you could just soak a cotton ball in vinegar and apply it to the nails twice a day. It will work just as well. 

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Written by Kayla Young

Kayla is the founder of LuxeLuminous. She has worked professionally in the tanning industry for years. She has been interested in esthetics since childhood, and has tried every hair, skin, and makeup product ever produced (more or less).