The Medicated Nail Polish That Can Kill Nail Fungus

If you have nail fungus, there are several treatment options, including oral antifungal medications, laser therapy, and surgery in severe cases. If the oral route isn't for you, various topical options like ciclopirox (brand name Penlac) are also available. However, before going into detail about how this topical nail polish works, it's vital to understand the condition and its causes.

Nail fungus, or onychomycosis, affects approximately 14% of the general population, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, the prevalence of the condition increases with age. It is estimated that nearly 50% of people over 70 have experienced some form of nail fungal infection, per a 2022 article published in the journal Drugs & Aging. The actual number of infections may be higher, as many cases go undiagnosed or unreported.

The condition is caused by various fungi, including yeasts, dermatophytes, and molds, that thrive in warm and moist environments (via the Mayo Clinic). Once the fungus takes hold, it can be quite annoying and difficult to treat, and may require several months of consistent treatment to resolve fully. It can also cause the affected nail to become discolored, thickened, and brittle, and may also cause discomfort or pain. That being said, let's dig in further to see how ciclopirox can help.

What is ciclopirox?

Ciclopirox is a topical treatment designed to help you manage and treat a fungal nail infection. You can apply the lacquer directly to the affected nail, where it will work to penetrate the nail bed and kill the fungus, per WebMD.

Ciclopirox is an antifungal agent effective against a wide range of fungal infections, and it works by inhibiting the growth and spread of the fungus while also helping to strengthen and improve the nail's appearance, explains MedlinePlus. However, the source says ciclopirox is for mild infections only, and may not completely cure the fungus. Furthermore, it can take up to 6 months to see an improvement in your nails, and it might only work for a few people. 

To maximize the treatment's effectiveness, follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully, and if you're unsure about anything, please check with your doctor beforehand. This way, you'll be certain that the product is safe and appropriate for you.

How to use ciclopirox

When using ciclopirox, it's recommended to apply it before bedtime (per RxList). Apply a thin layer of the polish to the surface of the affected nail using the brush applicator provided. It is important to cover the entire nail surface, including the underside of the nail and up to the nail bed. This will ensure the nail absorbs the lacquer and does not rub off. The medication can touch the skin immediately surrounding the affected nail, per WebMD, but otherwise skin contact should be avoided.

After applying the lacquer, allow it to dry completely. The polish should not be removed daily — rather, it will be reapplied daily for a week, each new coat on top of the previous. Every seventh day, you can use alcohol to remove all the layers. If needed, treatment can continue for another 7-day cycle as directed by your doctor. While using ciclopirox topical nail treatment, you should not use regular nail polish. Speak to your doctor for further guidance on the proper use. They can also help you determine if ciclopirox is the right treatment option for your particular case.