What to do if you’ve lost a toe nail

What to do if you’ve lost a toe nail

I could never begin to count how many pedicures I have done in my career as a beauty therapist….I have been in the industry for 20 years this September (ouch!) so I’m thinking my total number of foot MOTs must be in the hundreds by now. I LOVE pedicures, although most peoples idea of sheer terror, I love nothing more than getting my hands on a lonely, neglected pair of feet and sending them on their way looking super glamorous and sparkling.

In recent years, I have started to notice a very common complaint amongst my clients….the missing big toe nail!! I have also experienced my own toe nail deciding to take a leave of absence from my nail bed, usually just as im going on holiday or a few days before my wedding (yes-this actually did happen) And just this week, another two of my clients were aghast at their exposed nail bed and lack of paintable area. So whats happening to all of our toenails??

Ok so there are two possible reasons for this to happen., but first of all, lets see if you experience any of these symptoms…..

  • Toe nails splitting horizontally across the nail
  • Toe nails coming loose from the nail bed
  • A bubble appearing between the nail and skin beneath
  • Nail becoming discoloured – yellow/brown tint
  • Nail becoming chunky and ridged

Answered yes to some of the above? you may be experiencing either Onycholysis (nail separation) or Onychomycosis (fungal infection)……Ony is latin for nail, Cholysis means falling and Chomycosis is to thicken…quick latin lesson there.


A fungal microbe which invades the nail bed, is extremely common on the toenails and can result in loss of nail. Onychomycosis can also be the start of several other nail associated problems. So what causes it? Damp, warm, dark conditions…aka your ibiza winter foot environment. Does this sound familiar to anyone…so you’re freezing cold when you jump out of the shower, quick dry with a towel, then plunge them into your socks and slippers all day, and a few blasts of heat from the fire….definitely true for me in my cold little finca. Not drying the feet sufficiently and wrapping them up in socks all day are the perfect conditions for fungal microbes to breed and multiply (eeew!)

The toenail will first of all look discoloured, maybe a yellowy/brown patch at the top of the free edge. Over time, the patch may become larger, darken in colour and change in texture. It may become bumpy, rough and start to thicken. Eventually, if left untreated, the nail may become darker in colour and begin to loosen from the base. If you feel you are experiencing these symptoms, go see your doctor, they are able to take a scraping from the nail plate to test for fungal microbes. Traditional treatment is a topical, paint on solution, but they are not particularly successful due to the nail being pretty impenetrable. Laser has been found to be super effective as it targets the affected tissue through coherent light energy, producing heat and degradation of the infection.


Nail loss can also be caused by injury or trauma to the nail plate. Ok….so the obvious is dropping something on your foot, or kicking something really hard. The injury or trauma causes blisters on the nail bed and eventually causes the nail to loosen. But not everyone is dropping heavy items on their foot all day long, so here is my theory. I believe that continued pressure on the nail, from shoes, causes friction blisters on the nail bed. So ladies….im aiming this at you here for a moment. Continued pressure on the nail; think of your high shoes, pressing the weight of the body downwards into the ball of your foot and toes or cramming your foot into a shoe that you know is a bit too tight but they really go with your outfit so you have to wear them. Sound familiar?

Other possible causes may be overzealous cleaning of the nails with manicure tools pushed under the free edge. Sufferers of the skin complaint psoriasis as the nail cells are affected during production and create pitting or bubbles in their formation. After exposure to certain medications, in particular from the psoralen, fluoroquinolone or tetracylcine groups. Onycholysis can also be attributed to an over-active thyroid gland.

Look for a clear bubble appearing under the nail plate, a horizontal split across the nail, the nail mysteriously coming loose? This is Onycholysis and I do not believe it to be a fungal infection. However, with poor foot care (see above point re: drying feet correctly) it could perhaps become Onychomycosis.

I want my nail back!

So you’ve shed your nail….you’ve tried to dab a bit of nail polish on the surrounding skin…..but summers around the corner and you need that nail back! First of all, remember that a toe nail can take up to 6 months to grow back and if you have lost the nail completely from the root, thats a long time to be hiding your big toe away from the world. So possible solutions are:

  • Regular visits to your Chiropodist to keep a check on how the nail is growing back and whether any more have started to pack their bags and vacate for the foreseeable future. They can also identify whether you have any other nail disorders
  • A regular pedicure. Train your nails to grow in a healthy, uniform way. Dedicate an hour a month to your feet and you will quickly start to seen and feel the benefits. I have found that gel polish is an excellent way to protect the surface of the nails from friction and pressure and in turn prevent blisters under the nail plate
  • Falsie! Yes…we can apply a falsie to the nail bed in a totally hygienic and non-obvious way. Both toenails in the picture that accompanies this post are totally made from acrylic as the client lost both nails to Onycholysis. Acrylic was used to build and sculpt a brand new nail which not only looks a whole lot better than painting your skin, but also protects from pressure injury and offers your new nail the opportunity to grow safely. A word of caution though-ensure your nail tech practices hygienic procedures otherwise we are opening the door for fungal microbes. Glam Ibiza offer acrylic toe nail sculpts for an additional 4e on top of your pedicure price. Onychomycosis (fungal infection) must be completely cleared from the site before any artificial nail can be applied

So there you are… a possible answer for why you may be missing a toe nail or two, along with a few snippets of advice. Failing that….I’m sure steel capped builders boots would be an excellent look for summer!