Have you been experiencing an itch under your fingernails but don’t know why?
In this article, we will walk through 10 potential reasons it might be itchy under your fingernails.
For each reason, we will also provide you with a potential solution!
Why Is It Itchy Under My Fingernails? (10 Possible Reasons)
You might have touched something that you have an allergy to.
There are many materials out there that you could be allergic to.
Some people are even allergic to typical lawn grass!
If you are allergic to something that is making your nails itch, the itching most likely won’t be limited to only your nails.
If you are experiencing itching on your fingertips and palms as well, it might be an indication it is allergen related.
Solution: If you experience itching under your fingernails frequently, keep a diary of all the potential allergens you interact with on a daily basis.
When you notice that your itchy nails are linked to an allergen, try to avoid it as much as possible.
If it becomes a significant problem in your life, consider going to an allergist.
They can test you for all common allergies and give you advice on how to manage the situation.
2. Yeast Infection
Yes, that is right.
You can get a yeast infection under your fingernails!
Typically, yeast infections are caused by a microscopic organism called Candida albicans.
It might sound scary, but actually, we are all carrying this organism around inside and on us.
Normally, it isn’t a problem.
However, sometimes this small organism starts to reproduce a lot.
When things get out of control, that is when you will notice symptoms.
One of the common ones is itching under the fingernails.
What causes this little organism to multiply out of control?
- Too many antibiotics
- Medications that suppress the immune system
- Humidity & warmth
- Water exposure
- Poorly done manicure
A yeast infection typically develops between the folds of the skin, which is why it is particularly common under the nails.
Solution: First, you are going to want to go to your doctor and get your condition diagnosed.
The diagnosis of a yeast infection is straightforward.
They will scrape under your nails and observe the sample under a microscope.
Once your doctor has confirmed the presence of Candida albicans, they can get you started on a treatment plan.
Typically, you will treat the infection with an anti-fungal powder or cream.
These can be obtained off the shelf, behind the counter, or by prescription.
Your doctor will be able to recommend the best option for you.
However, if your condition persists, you might have to take an anti-fungal pill.
Fungus under the nails can be some of the hardest to get rid of, so it is more likely to require an anti-fungal pill.
Prevention: There are a few things you can do to prevent a fungus from occurring in the first place.
- Change your socks frequently. You want to make sure you have a clean pair of socks. Wear a fresh pair every day.
- Let your toes air out. Don’t keep them trapped in your shoes 24/7.
- Wear open-toed shoes. This helps your toes breathe and prevents moisture from getting trapped.
- Don’t share personal items. Keep your socks and toenail clippers to yourself.
- Wear gloves while you garden. Wearing gloves while you garden can prevent you from exposing your nails to anything that might accelerate fungal growth.
- Keep your nails dry. If you are having a problem with fungal infections, it’s best to stay away from water for a while. Fungus thrives in wet environments.
- Avoid contact with fungi. If someone you know is struggling with a fungal infection, avoid contact! This doesn’t mean you have to completely avoid the person, but maybe don’t shake hands until they have it under control.
3. Contact Eczema
Contact eczema occurs when someone touches something that irritates their skin.
Some symptoms of contact dermatitis include:
- itching fingers
- small, red bumps
- dry patches on your skin
Solution: If you think you might be experiencing contact eczema, the first step is to figure out what is causing it.
The most common causes are:
- metal (such as in your jewelry or watches)
- certain hand creams
- household cleaners
- hair dyes and deodorants with cobalt
Once you have identified the irritant, you simply have to stop exposure!
If you are having a problem with rings or other types of jewelry irritating your fingers and fingernails, consider investing in a higher-quality piece.
Many people are allergic to the metals that are used in cheap jewelry like zinc and nickel but have no problem with sterling silver or gold.
If it is a piece you love and wear all the time, it might be worth upgrading.
If you continue to struggle with contact eczema, consider talking to your doctor.
They might suggest some other solutions, such as antihistamine creams or corticosteroid creams.
There are also treatments you can do with phototherapy.
Psoriasis is a condition that comes from skin cells building up too quickly.
This results in patches of itchy skin.
The area of the body that psoriasis affects depends on the individual, but it can affect fingers and nails.
There are a few other symptoms that often come along with the itching, such as:
- skin having a scaly appearance
- dry, cracked, and bleeding skin
- pain in inflamed areas
Solution: It might take working with your doctor for a while to figure out the best solution for you.
Oftentimes, psoriasis takes a bit of trial and error to treat.
However, there are solutions, and you should be able to find something that fits your needs!
Common treatment options for psoriasis include:
- corticosteroid creams
- vitamin D
- oral medications
- salicylic acid
- phototherapy (exposure to UV light)
If you suffer an injury between the nail and the finger, this might be the cause of your itching.
It is uncommon but possible to get a cut in this area.
The most common cause for this is a sharp object getting between the nail and the finger.
For example, maybe you were trying to clean your nails with a knife.
The best way to prevent this from occurring is to make sure you don’t put any sharp objects under your nails.
Usually, if a cut occurs, it will heal without a problem.
However, if it gets dirty, it can also become infected.
This can lead to irritation, including itching.
If you think that you have cut your finger under the nail, it is important to clean it thoroughly.
Solution: If you failed you clean your wound the first time and it got irritated, the first step is to clean it.
Get a good antibacterial soap.
Make sure you don’t just rinse the outside of your nails.
If the itching is coming from under the nail, that means you need to clean under it!
Get a nail scrubbing brush to make sure you get underneath the nail and remove any dirt and bacteria.
Use warm water.
Make sure to be gentle.
You don’t want to cause unnecessary pain.
If you continue to have issues, go to your doctor.
They might prescribe you an antibiotic or topical treatment, or they might identify another cause for your itching fingernails.
6. Bad Manicure
Have you gotten your nails done recently?
This could be the cause of your itchy nails.
When you get acrylic or gel faux nails chemicals are applied to the nail.
In fact, the acrylic nail itself is made out of chemicals that can be irritating to the nail.
Specifically, skin experts have found that methacrylate chemicals often found in gel polish and acrylic nails can result in an itchy rash.
Through the use of these products, some people develop an allergy.
A study suggests that 2.4% of people may be affected by this allergy.
Most people developed an allergy by repeated use of these products.
A third of the affected people were working as nail techs.
This seems to indicate that the more you use these products, the more at risk you will be for developing an allergy.
The risk of irritation increases even more if you did your manicure yourself.
Untrained nail techs are also often responsible for the negative effects of poorly done manicures.
Solution: Make sure that you have an experienced nail tech.
They should have the proper training.
Talk to your nail tech about trying a different polish or adhesive and see if that solves the problem.
If you have acrylic nails still attached to your nail, remove the acrylic nails.
If you have press-on nails that are attached with an adhesive, remove those as well.
Gel polish or acrylic nails might not be a good option for you.
If you regularly experience itching when you get your nails done, it might be worth switching to press-on nails or using normal polish.
Though normal polish has to be reapplied more frequently, it is the least irritating out of all of the nail options.
7. Dirt Buildup
That is right, dirt buildup could be the culprit for your itchy nails.
Allowing dirt to build up under your nails can irritate the skin.
Your nails are like any other part of your body in that they need to be cleaned regularly to prevent infection.
Your nails are even more vulnerable to dirt buildup than other parts of your body.
The area between your fingers and fingernails is very small and tight.
That means that rinsing with water often isn’t enough to break the dirt free! Your hands see more action than any other part of your body.
This is especially true if you regularly do work that requires you to use them, like gardening.
Solution: Clean your nails regularly.
One great way to do this is to invest in a nail cleaning brush.
Put it in your shower and use it every time you shower or bathe.
Don’t forget to clean your toenails, too!
If you still experience issues, you can put a nail brush at your sink and scrub your nails each time you wash your hands.
It is also important to protect your nails from getting dirty in the first place.
Using gardening gloves while you work in the garden can help to prevent dirt from getting into those crevices.
Don’t forget about your toes, though! Wearing shoes when you go outside can help prevent irritation from occurring.
You might love feeling the sand between your toes and the dirt under your feet, but the health of your toes needs to come first!
8. Dyshidrotic Eczema
Dyshidrotic eczema is different from contact eczema.
When you have dyshidrotic eczema, some symptoms you might notice include:
- small blisters on your fingers
- flaky, scaly, cracked skin
Potential causes of dyshidrotic eczema include:
- seasonal allergies
- exposure to skin irritants
If you have seasonal allergies, you are more likely to be affected by dyshidrotic eczema.
Studies have found that women are twice as likely to have it compared to men.
Solution: If you think you have dyshidrotic eczema, there are some simple home treatments you can try.
- You can use a cold compress. Apply it to the affected area. This can help reduce swelling and itchiness.
- If the itching is focused exclusively under your fingernails, try soaking your fingertips in ice-cold water. This can have the same effect as a cold compress while allowing the cold water to get between your nail and finger.
- Moisturise. Regularly moisturizing can prevent your skin from drying out. This could solve the itching. It can also stop it from occurring in the first place. If the itching is occurring under your fingernail, you want to moisturize between the nail and the finger. Don’t just apply moisturizer to the top of the nail.
- Switch your soap. It might be your soap that is causing the problem. Switch to a milder version of soap. One good way to find mild soap is to look for soaps made for people with sensitive skin. You can also look for baby-friendly soaps. This also applies to your detergent. The soap should say on the bottle if it is suited for sensitive skin.
If none of these treatments work, we recommend making an appointment with your doctor to discuss the issue.
Another potential cause for itching is scabies.
Scabies is when microscopic mites burrow into your skin and lay their eggs.
This might sound a little creepy, but it is a possibility for your itching.
Scabies is spread by contact with an infected person.
Usually, the contact has to be prolonged, not brief.
This means you aren’t likely to get it from just a handshake.
It is more likely to come from someone in your household or a romantic partner.
Scabies mites tend to burrow in certain areas, particularly areas with folds of skin.
This is why you might find some under your fingernails.
Solution: Don’t worry.
Scabies has been around for a long time, and there is treatment!
Scabicides are products made to kill scabies mites.
Typically you are going to need a prescription for these treatments.
It is important to follow the doctor’s instructions and to wear clean clothes after treatment.
10. Poison Ivy
You can also experience itching when exposed to certain poisonous plants.
For example, poison ivy is a plant known for causing itching.
If you touched the plant and got the irritating oil under your fingernails, you might find the skin under your fingernails to be very itchy.
Solution: One of the best solutions to poison ivy is an over-the-counter medication made specifically to treat it.
Go to your pharmacist and ask for their recommendations, and they should be able to give you a topical treatment.
You can soothe your fingernails by soaking them in cool water.
If you are looking for an at-home solution to tide you over until you can get to the pharmacist, you can apply protectants like baking soda or oatmeal to relieve the itching.
If you’ve got poison ivy under your fingernails, try soaking the whole hand in oatmeal.
If you are using baking soda to relieve the itching, consider using a nail brush to scrub it under the nail.