How to Remove White Spots on the Toenails

Is this fungus? How did this happen to my toenail? How can I treat it? Is it permanent? Can it be prevented?

If you are one of many nail gals who love to get their toenails done relatively often but also leave your polish on your toenails for more than 3 weeks because, hello, polish on toenails lasts like 5 times longer than on the fingernails… then you may very well be familiar with this unsightly striation on the toenails.

So, is it fungus?

Let me put your mind at ease. If all you see is this on your toenails, as unsightly as this is, it is not fungus.

The striation on the nails is basically flaking of the nail layers. 

The easiest, most effective way to remove white spots from the nails after removing your polish is to use an efile with a fine or extra fine ceramic bit.

If you’re just DIY and just need a super affordable option I recommend:

This portable, handheld one, with this x-fine ceramic bit. (the extra fine bit can help you avoid removing way too much of your natural nail)

[If you’re a professional and would like to invest in a long term efile, I cannot recommend enough, the South Korean Brand Saeshin.

I personally own this corded option (below), and if you would like a cordless option this is the one. This site also offers a fine ceramic bit, and my favorite ingrown nail tool. (You can save 5% on equipment with affiliate code PPN5, and 10% storewide with code PPN10)

I consider this efile as one of the best options for nail techs of all levels, at an unbeatable price. If you want something that will last you years, without breaking the bank, look no further. It’s the one I own and use regularly. Made in South Korea.

How did this happen? 

The damage to the nail is actually very superficial and nothing to be worried about (in my experience!).

This superficial damage to the toenail can result from excessively buffing the nail and applying a very acidic product to it. 

But most often than not, having dealt with many a set of feet in the salon, it is due to clients leaving the same nail polish on the toenails for well over 3 weeks. 

It was especially noticeable in those clients that kept their polish on for longer than 5 weeks. Below is a transformation of exactly this. I used an efile and the ceramic bit to remove the flakiness off of the nails.

That’s right. If the nail polish is not refreshed ( Removed and reapplied) every 3 weeks, there is a good chance of this happening on your toenails.

My pedi clients were super loyal and clearly able to see and test this theory (actual client above). 

I’m no chemist, but it is as though the polish breaks the nail down the older it gets and creates white spots/flakiness on the nail.

Now, if your toenails are slightly yellow, that usually happened to me and my clients because of the lack UV (sun) hitting the toenails.

UV maintains the natural color of your nails. So if you like dark polish colors try to also use open toe sandals to allow for some UV exposure, or alternate between light and dark colors each time you do your pedi. (This client also had a small bruise on her right toenail, which is that reddish mark you see there.)

Because I especially couldn’t expect my clients to come in every 3 weeks for a Pedi. I simply asked them to remove their nail polish at home after 3 weeks to avoid discoloration and this flaking. 

This can also happen on your fingernails, but it is less commonly caused by polish and more than likely caused by pulling off products from the nails, like gels and acrylics.

Can this be treated? and how soon can the nail recover?

The best way to get rid of this is to use a ceramic bit and efile in a vertical direction and begin removing it with very minimal pressure. Be really careful not to over-thin the nails!

You can scrape it off but sealing the nail with a ceramic bit guarantees no re-emerging of the flaking (at least in my experience with clients at the salon). If you just buff off with a gritty sponge buffer or file, you will be etching the nail, and these flakes and ridges will return.

A yellow band means xtra fine, and a red band means fine. I would not use anything coarser on natural nails. Any shape is fine, as long as it is ceramic material.


If you absolutely cannot get or work with an efile then you will have to seal the nail with a 4-way shining buffer, starting with the most coarse side and working your way to the fine grit (follow the numbers). Here’s one I recommend from Amazon (below).

You can also avoid this from happening by using gel color on the toenails. Leaving gel color on the toenails past 3 weeks did not cause that striation/ white spots damage to my clients, especially when the gel color was removed with an efile.

If you want a DIY efile, any Melodysusie efile would do the job. This handheld one is a good option. (Notice: it may come with all these extra bits, but you specifically need a ceramic bit, or the white spots will return because you will be causing more shredding to the nail.)

Is this damage permanent?

No, the damage you removed should not return significantly if you sealed the nail with a ceramic bit or 4-way shining buffer (if electric tools completely freak you out). Keep the nails without nail color for a few days or even weeks just so that you can see for yourself the improvement.

How to prevent these white spots on toenails from recurring?

Be gentle to your toenails by not buffing or allowing your tech to rough prep your nails with gritty buffers, files, or sanding bands. Remove or refresh the nail polish every 3 weeks. (Old polish is what causes these white spots/marks, not new fresh coats of nail color).

Would you like to learn my signature pedi salon procedure. Sign up to the waitlist of my upcoming pedicure course. You’ll be the first to know when it launches and get it at the best price! SIGN UP HERE

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