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Treatments you paint on your nail

BMJ Group Medical Reference


This information is for people who have a fungal nail infection. It tells you about treatments you paint on your nail to treat fungal nail infections. It is based on the best and most up-to-date research.

Do they work?

We're not sure. There hasn't been much research on the medicated nail varnishes you can get in the UK. So, we can't say whether they work for fungal nail infections.

What are they?

Instead of taking tablets to treat your fungal nail infection, you can put an antifungal medicine directly on your nails. This is called topical treatment. You can get antifungal medicines as a nail varnish that you paint onto your nails. Antifungal medicines kill the fungus that is causing the infection.

These are the most common topical treatments:

  • Amorolfine (brand names Loceryl and Curanail): this comes as a nail varnish (nail lacquer). You need a prescription from your doctor for Loceryl. But you can buy Curanail from a pharmacy.

  • Tioconazole (brand name Trosyl): this is a lotion that you brush on your nail. You can get it only on prescription from your doctor.

You'll need to follow the instructions carefully. Some medicines need to be put on your nails once or twice a day, others once or twice a week. You'll probably need to use the treatment for several months, or even one year. Toenails usually take longer to treat than fingernails.

Many people prefer topical treatments, like varnishes, to tablets, because topical treatments don't have the side effects (such as stomach upsets and liver problems) that can happen with tablets. Topical treatments can cause some soreness and redness around the nail, but this doesn't usually stop people using the treatment.

Topical treatments may not work as well as antifungal tablets, especially if several of your nails are infected. And you will probably need to use topical treatment for longer.

How can they help?

We don't know. There are no good-quality studies to say whether these treatments help to get rid of fungal nail infections. [24]

Another type of varnish, called ciclopirox, does seem to work. But it is not available in the UK. [25]

How do they work?

Antifungal drugs stop the fungus growing. [19] So, eventually it should die. This should allow new nails to grow normally.

Can they be harmful?

You might get swelling, itching, or redness where you put the treatment on. If this is severe you may need to stop treatment. [20]

How good is the research on treatments you paint on your nail?

We didn't find any good-quality studies of amorolfine or tioconazole creams, lotions, or varnishes for fungal nail infections. [24]



A fungus is an organism that is sometimes considered to be a type of plant. A fungus lives by feeding on other organisms. The mushrooms we eat in salads are fungi, but so are candida and cryptococcus, which can cause infections in people's bodies.

For more terms related to Fungal nail infection


For references related to Fungal nail infection click here.
Last Updated: December 05, 2012
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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