How I Resolved My Case of Onycholysis

For those of you unfamiliar with the condition, onycholysis is a separating of the nail from the nail bed. I noticed it first on the pinky nail of my right hand. I then started noticing it on several other fingers on my right hand.

Over time it spread to my left hand. It was rather unsightly and uncomfortable at times. Sometimes it hurt just a little but most times it was a weird feeling at the tips of my fingers. In addition to the weird feeling, my nails were just plain unsightly.

When I looked at my hands I often wondered, “Who did a switch-a-roo on my fingernails?” I couldn’t believe these hands and nails belonged to me!

Researching the Problem

I went online to find out what would cause this and how to resolve it. I’ve read that it could be caused by any of the following:

Nail affected with Onycholysis

Photo courtesy of Australian College of Dermatologists

  • a fungus
  • liver condition
  • thyroid disease
  • pregnancy
  • infection
  • not having enough oxygen in the blood
  • psoriasis

Treating the condition meant keeping the nails very short, which in my case meant my nails were clipped halfway down the nail bed. Keeping them dry (wear gloves when doing the dishes, etc) and keeping them clean. The next step would be to seek medical attention whereby the doctor could prescribe anti-fungal medication if required.

I also read that once the nail has detached from the nail bed it will not reattach (bummer). Needless to say I wasn’t thrilled with the information I found.

Treating Onycholysis Naturally

Not having most of the conditions that might cause onycholysis, I settled for either a bacterial or fungal infection as the cause. I deduced that I needed both an anti-fungal and anti-bacterial substance to kill both potential culprits. I settled on tea tree oil.

I filled ¾ of a 1-pint mason jar with water. To that water I added several drops of tea tree oil. The container was just large enough for me to dunk the tips of all 5 fingers in the solution.

For those of you not familiar with tea tree oil, it smells like burnt tires. To cut back on the burnt tire smell, I added several drops of lavender. Both oils are anti-bacterial and anti-fungal (plus they have a bunch of other positive attributes).

Twice a day I would dip my fingers into the mixture. Some days I would forget, but most days I applied the mixture. I kept a weekly log of my treatment. Here’s my onycholysis log:

5/26/13: Start twice a day to see if it works. Initially put the oil on directly. Next I’ll soak in mixture with water.

6/2/13: Haven’t been diligent in soaking my nails. It’s hit or miss. Since I was working on the pool and gardening, I sporadically soaked my fingers. I’ve got to be more diligent. They still look horrible.

6/9/13: Still not diligent with soaking my fingers, but I think I see some sort of improvement. At least it seems to have stopped getting worse.

Today is 6/14/13 and I can honestly say I see marked improvements. There are signs of nail reattachment. The worst offender, my pinky, is starting to look normal again. I’ll continue to monitor my progress weekly, but wanted to share my early positive results.

Update: 8/2/13:  My nails have returned to normal.  The nail has reattached to the nail bed and I’m no longer ashamed of my hands.  As a matter of fact, I believe the regular application of the tea tree oil has done wonders for hangnails.  My hangnails have disappeared too.

Disclaimer: I am my own experiment. What works for me might not work for you. Please read this as anecdotal and not as medical advice

About the author: Felicia has learned the hard way that health, whether good or bad, is a result of daily choices and habits. On this blog Felicia shares what she’s learned and the healthier choices she now makes as a result of her new knowledge. She hopes to encourage others to experiment to find alternative solutions to nagging problems (she’s also is a bit of a tree hugger and likes to share ways to lighten the toxic burden on the environment). Necessary disclaimer: I am not a medical professional therefore I am not and cannot giving medical advice. I’m just sharing my story.

94 comments… add one
  • Raewyn Hulse Oct 12, 2017

    Your article is a godsend! I also have lifting and whiteness under the nail bed. When I give my gel nail enamel a break it clears up , but after just one recent nail application I am back to square one again I have my first oil brew ready to use now ,

    • Felicia Oct 12, 2017

      Good luck Raewyn. Hope it works as well for you as it did for me.

  • Katrina Sep 24, 2017

    People, I have had recurring problems with onycholysis since I was 27 years old.
    Yes, cutting my nails short stopped it!
    I tried tea tree oil, fluconazole, everything, but as soon as my nails got long it would start again!
    Then 15 years later, after reading about the mentality nail polish brand causing chemical burns and onycholysis on peoples nails (which looked JUST LIKE mine) it suddenly made sense!
    It would occur when my nails got long AS I WOULD START TO POLISH MY LONG NAILS/TOENAILS!
    I tried using nail polish again and off it went again!!!
    So I research low chemical polishes.
    I waited til my nails grew out and looked normal and tried Zoya (5 free from) on my toes, and Acquarella (water based 10 free from) on my fingernails.
    Zoya still stunk like normal polish, and caused onycholysis again on my toes after wearing it for a few months, Acquarella had no smell and my nails STAYED NORMAL AND HEALTHY!
    I am using the Acquarella on my toe nails now after ditching the zoya, and the damage is all growing out despite being polished all the time! 🙂
    I don’t have allergies to anything known, but the chemicals in nail polish i am sure is causing this for alot of us!!!
    Please try a safe polish like the Acquarella!
    I won’t use anything else now. Shame their range isn’t huge in colour choices, but I am glad I can have nice looking nails once again, and even safe for chemo patients to use!

    • Felicia Sep 24, 2017

      Thank you, Katrina for such an informative comment. I’ve added links to Acquerella in your comment, both to the actual website and to the page where it’s sold on Amazon.

      I personally don’t wear nail polish, but if this helps those who do wear nail polish with their case of onycholysis, I’m all for it! 😀

  • Kimberly Sep 23, 2017

    Hi, I was wondering if any brand of TTO would work or does it have to be from Rocky Mountain?

    • Felicia Sep 23, 2017

      I think any reputable brand will do. It doesn’t have to be Rocky Mountain.

  • Jen Sep 21, 2017

    Hi Felicia –

    I found your post here and after doing a ton of research online I am hoping this helps. I started to put TTO directly onto the nail and the skin where it raised from. The skin under the raised nail is rough/thick and when it is wet after the shower I scrape it away.

    I used TTO for a few weeks but didn’t see a difference. I missed a few days here and there and usually did it once a day.

    I figured if I used straight TTO on it it would be stronger but again, nothing. I am not starting to see the skin under/next to other toenails begin to peel….any helpful thoughts here?

    • Felicia Sep 22, 2017

      Hi Jen,

      Don’t know if I’m of much help, but I put the tea tree oil in water only because I felt it would reach places that were difficult for me to access if I were to apply it directly. Getting underneath the nail is tough.

      Your situation is different from mine as the skin underneath my nail was not tough. It’s possible that you may need to give it more time? Maybe you need to soak your nails longer? Hard to say.

      Sorry I’m not of much help.

  • Angie Sep 21, 2017

    I hate my nails and have tried so much.
    My issue started about 6 long years ago with one nail separating. I did a vinegar soak and cut it all the way down and it finally healed. It always looked a little beat up but it was attached.
    Then 1yr ago I banged the nail badly and it separated again.
    Now 2 nails on my other hand have followed suit.
    I saw a dermatologist who ran tests and determined it was not fungus so now I’m stuck.
    I have started taking biotin, keep the nails short and clean and put Neosporin on them.
    I will try this now before I lose my mind!

    • Felicia Sep 22, 2017

      Angie, I’m so sorry to hear about your situation.

      Tea tree oil doesn’t solve everything, but I don’t think it will hurt. I’ve found that tea tree oil works especially well when the condition is caused by a fungus. Your situation is different than mine.

      I’d give it a try and monitor it for a few weeks. If you don’t mind, please let us know whether or not it works for you.

      Good luck!

  • Ali Aug 22, 2017

    Felicia your post is a breath of fresh air when reading all the terrible stuff about nail separation- so thank you!. This has happened to me before -about twice on my ring finger but went away after a month or so – being a kindergarten teacher I would wash my hands a lot. Once I had my daughter this year I believe with washing my hands pretty much all the time, washing her bottles and bathing her is what I believe contributed to the white nails/separation. Since I am constantly wetting my hands it has spread from 2 fingers to now 4 as has progressively gotten worse as I haven’t done anything to combat the problem other than cut them. One nail is a little more than half white. I took some pictures of my nails today and started your remedy. Hoping to check back in about 2-3 weeks with some positively good news! I just have 2 questions -How long did you soak for? Did you ever feel any soreness on the nails with separation? Thanks again! 🙂

    • Felicia Aug 22, 2017

      Hi Ali,
      Oh do I remember the days of constant washing. With little ones it seems that’s all you do. Everything must be clean so your hands are always in water.

      When I soaked my hands I just dipped them in the water/tea tree solution and wiggled them about for less than a minute, maybe 20 seconds or so. I dried my finger tips and allowed the liquid under my nails to air dry. As far as soreness goes, I didn’t really feel any unless I accidentally pulled the nail.

      Good luck. I’d like to hear about your progress. Also, enjoy every minute with your little one! 🙂

  • Athena Jul 22, 2017

    Hi Felicia! Thank you for this post, very helpful and informative. I suffered a bad nail injury almost two years ago which resulted in my nail almost entirely separating from my nail bed. It grew back (phew!), but also felt a little fickle to me after that. Sure enough, I just hit my nail at an odd angle and damaged it again. The nail is loose from the nail bed nearly down to the base and ouch, it hurts! Do you think teatree oil is safe to put on the injury, and might potentially help reattach the nail for good? Maybe rubbing tea tree oil in my damaged nail bed each day? I am a believer in natures miracles, so maybe this could actually work…

    Thank you! Fingers and fingernails crossed.

    • Felicia Jul 23, 2017

      Ouch, Athena. I can just imagine how painful that is.

      I don’t think tea tree oil will hurt. I’d start out with a with a water and tea tree solution and dip my finger in to see how it feels. If it doesn’t sting (which I don’t think it will), I’d give it a shot. It would definitely remove any bacteria that’s in/around the nail to give it a chance to grow back. It won’t repair structural damage, but it might clear the way to help a struggling nail grow back.

      Please check back in a few weeks to let me know how it’s going.

      • Athena Jul 23, 2017

        Thank you for your fast response! I know that if a nail has separated from a nail bed, it won’t reattach until a new nail has grown out, but like you said I think the tea tree oil might encourage healthy growth of a new nail. I will definitely keep you updated!



        • Beth Jul 24, 2017

          I also had two nails separate. My thumb nail was almost 7 years ago due to injury and my index finger separated 18 months ago due to an overly aggressive manicure (I am pretty certain) and after that, I accidentally hit it a couple times.
          I absolutely LOVE using essential oils and natural remedies! However, in my case, I didn’t achieve complete success. I would think it was improving just to go backwards again even though I was very consistent with the treatment.
          I finally saw a dermatologist and he prescribed Thymol 3% (derived from essential oil) to be used topically under the nail bed once a day before going to bed.
          He also prescribed Fluconazole 200 MG to be taken once a week (2 pills) until the nail grew out.
          This dose is low and requires no blood tests.
          The good news is that my index finger looks perfect and the thumb nail is neatly perfect!
          He understood that I initially didn’t want to take medicine but also didn’t want me to lose my nails as they both were going more toward the nail bed.
          It is nearly impossible to keep the underside of the nail completely dry for it to reattach as it grows. That is the purpose of the two meds he prescribed.
          This approach worked for me, so I wanted to share it for those who the natural remedy isn’t effective.
          Hope this information is helpful.

          • Felicia Jul 24, 2017

            Beth, thanks for sharing your journey. It just goes to show that there are some times when essential oils are not quite enough. You went the holistic route, but found that you needed medical intervention.

            Thanks for the reminder. Like you I usually try to exhaust the holistic route, but then there are those occasions when a prescription (or two) is necessary. Your information is very helpful!

  • Maggie Jun 11, 2017

    Hi I have Raynaud’s which means my fingers go white and circulation doesn’t always go to end of my fingers,I don’t take any medication and wonder if tea oil would help as my nails are separating on two fingers thank you

    • Felicia Jun 13, 2017

      Hi Maggie,

      I don’t see how it could hurt. I’d give the tea tree oil a try for several weeks and chart the progress. If you do give it a try, please let me know if it works for you. Good luck!

      • Cathy Jun 24, 2017

        Felicia, I’ve had this problem off and on for several years. Rather than soak in water and TTO, since water adds to problem; what about alcohol and TTO as a soak?

        • Felicia Jun 24, 2017

          Cathy, I can only tell you what worked for me. The tea tree oil and water worked just fine, but if you’re willing to experiment with alcohol, give it a try. I would think alcohol would be pretty harsh.

  • Pat Jun 10, 2017

    Felicia, could you tell me which of the lavendar’s you suggest using & also the frankincense. I have trouble figuring out which one is the best to use in each oil. I do have the separation & have been treating it with a Rx cream & topical nail product but would prefer to use the oils.


    • Felicia Jun 13, 2017

      Hi Pat,

      I use Rocky Mountain essential oils. They sell them on Amazon. Here’s the link to the Lavender and Frankincense. I usually buy the Sacred Frankincense, but it’s expensive. Sometimes it goes on sale. There’s also the less expensive Frankincense Serrata. I haven’t used it, but I’m sure it will work also.

  • Sher Jun 5, 2017

    Any thoughts on apply a drop of TTO directly to the affected fingernail?

    And if I try the diluted solution with water and lavender, how often did you make a new solution?

    Thank you!

    • Felicia Jun 6, 2017

      I thought of putting tea tree oil directly on the affected nails, but found that dipping my fingers in tea tree infused water enabled me to get the tea tree oil to the exact areas it needed to be.

      As far as making new solutions, when the water started to look dirty I changed it.

  • Kyle May 29, 2017

    Hey, I was just wandering if you had your nails long or short? Right now I keep my nails that are damaged short, would that afffect this treatment?

    • Felicia May 30, 2017

      I keep my nails short. I think it’s better to keep them short until they’re healed.

  • Louise Apr 27, 2017

    Hey,may I ask how long do you soak your nails in the mixture? I’ve been suffering the same probably because I left the nail polish in my nails way too long. It’s my 3rd day of soaking my hands in the mixture. What I’ve noticed is it hardened my nails but still not reattaching to the nail bed. Is still normal? I’m afraid I’m soaking my nails too long that I might be worsening the case. 🙁 because you said that the nails should be dry and yet I’m soaking it for how many minutes and just let it dry by itself. 😀

    • Felicia Apr 27, 2017

      Hi Louise,

      When I soaked my nails, I pretty much dipped my fingers into the solution and wiggled them around a bit and took them out. I dabbed the front of my fingers dry but allowed the nail part to air dry. The purpose is to get the tea tree oil under the nail so it can get to work. You don’t have to soak them for long. Dip, wiggle and go. 🙂

  • Jody Darlington Mar 30, 2017

    Hi Felicia,
    I’ve just started with this condition in the past couple of weeks. Read so much about it am fed up! Could be so many things! I use lots of essential oils so was really interested to read your blog.

    Can I ask how many drops of TTO and lavender oil you originally used? And how much water? And also how your nails are now? Was all cured after that one period, or has it returned?

    My main problem is my left ring finger which had detached from about 1/3 of the nail bed in 2 weeks!!! And also slightly began in my index and middle finger too on sane hand. Right hand not as bad but nail beds look rough shape now not smooth round and we’re always perfect and lovely before.

    Worst of all I think I brought this on myself : ( I’ve just recently had a some gel polish applied and took it off for the next set and noticed this problem! Couldn’t believe it as have has gel polish in Past with no issues. But I realised afterwards I used acetone free remover and it took ages!

    It’s all my fault I think I’ve damaged my beds!

    Any advice much appreciated. Thanks jody

    • Felicia Mar 31, 2017

      Hi Jody,

      Sorry to hear about your condition, but it’s fixable. When I had my bout of onycholysis I put about 5 or 6 drops of tea tree oil in a 4-ounce jar. I added a few drops of lavender oil to combat the tea tree oil smell (to me tea tree oil smells like old tires).

      I kept the covered jar of tto/lavender on my kitchen counter and would dip my fingers in it every morning and evening when I remembered. I noticed a change in a couple of weeks. I don’t think your condition is too far gone.

      Once my fingernails were healed, I would occasionally dip my fingers in a fresh mixture from time to time to prevent another bout. Eventually I stopped all together. I did notice, however maybe a year or so later I noticed a slight separation of my fingernail from the bed so I created the tto/lavender mixture and dipped my fingers in it for a week or so and everything went back to normal.

      I don’t use nail polish, but my fingernails are constantly in dirt from gardening or in paint or oils because I refurbish furniture. Add cooking and washing dishes to the mix and my nails get pretty beat up. I’m not exactly sure what caused my bout of onycholysis, but I found it to be easily curable.

      Good luck to you. Please let me know how things progress.

      • Lyn Apr 17, 2017

        I’m going through the same thing and I was wondering if you washed your fingers with water after you soaked it in the water with TTO?

        • Felicia Apr 18, 2017

          No, I didn’t wash my fingers afterwards. I just dried my hands and went on about the day.

          • Lyn Apr 18, 2017

            Ok, thank you so much, I injured my middle finger a week ago and my nail seems to slowly be separating from my skin. I just dipped my fingers in TTO and water this morning. So I’ll do it tonight again. It’s hard to keep my fingers clean from my job, I really hope this will help. Fingers crossed! Thank you

          • Felicia Apr 18, 2017

            Good luck. Please check back in a couple of weeks to share your results.

    • Donna Farrell Jun 1, 2017

      Funny you mention gel nail polish because I first noticed the condition after using an Avon gel polish and I’ve struggled with this now for nearly 2 years. Been to a dermatologist who says there is no cure

  • Denise Feb 10, 2017

    I’ve been without gel nails for about 6 months. My nail hasn’t grown back and I’m ready for my nails to look nice again. I’m thinking of getting a full set, but was wondering if I applied the tea tree oil underneath the nail tip to the affected area would that affect the polish/nail tip?

    • Felicia Feb 11, 2017

      Denise, you could try applying the tea tree oil underneath the nail tip, it should not affect the polish, but it’s sort of like trying to accelerate in a car with the emergency brake on. If the gel nails are damaging your own nails, applying tea tree oil at the same time when you have the gel nails on, you’re taking 2 steps back and one step forward. Natural remedies take time to work, but I’m not sure how putting tea tree oil under a nail that has toxic chemicals applied on top of it will work. Personally, I would use the tea tree oil without the gels to ensure the health of my nails.

      You can always give it a try and let us know the outcome.

  • Ophelia Feb 1, 2017

    This makes me so hopeful! My pinkie has gotten progressively worse since October and is now completely white/yellow. It hurts a LITTLE every now and then – and the area around the nail is kind of sore if I squeeze it. The fungus culture was negative and my doctor doesn’t know what’s going on. This sounds kind of like your problem, right??

    A few weeks ago I noticed a bad smell (SO GROSS!) so started doing vinegar soaks and putting a dab of tea tree oil under the nail every day. The smell is gone thank goodness but I can’t tell if it’s improving or not.

    A couple questions:
    – Any thoughts on oregano oil? I’ve heard it has anti fungus/bacteria/yeast properties. Maybe I could try tea tree in the morning and oregano in the evening?
    – Do I need to remove nail polish for the treatment to work? I’m self conscious of my ugly nail and am hopefully going to get engaged soon so would love to look at pretty hands!
    – Did your nail actually reattach or did it start growing out normally? I’ve heard it takes 4-6 months to totally grow out the nail, is that what you experienced?

    This article gives me hope – I REALLY hope it works for me. I’m so scared about losing the nail. 🙁

    • Felicia Feb 2, 2017

      Hi Ophelia,

      I believe you’re approaching your bout with Onycholysis appropriately. The fact that the bad smell is gone is evidence that what you’re doing is working.

      As you know with natural remedies, things take a while, but if you continue applying essential oils to your nails you should notice a difference in a matter of weeks. I didn’t put nail polish on my nails so I was able to see the improvement as it occurred. I don’t think nail polish would hamper your healing. The problem you have with your nail stems from beneath the nail. As long as the oils are able to get to the problem area where the nail is separating from the nail bed it should work.

      Oregano oil is awesome! You can do both. I like the tea tree in the morning and oregano oil in the evening protocol. They both have constituents that will help heal your nail.

      In my case my nails reattached and began growing normally. As the nails grew, I noticed the attachment point became higher and higher. In other words, it looked more and more normal as the nail grew. It did not take 4-5 months for my healing. It was more like several weeks. Having said that, I’m not sure my nails were in the same condition as your pinkie currently is, but I think it should heal much faster than 4-5 months as long as you stick with it.

      Please give updates on how your nail is improving. I wish you all the best!

      • Ophelia Mar 20, 2017

        Update on my pinkie nail:

        I tried using tea tree oil 2x a day but developed a terrible painful rash! I don’t think it is an allergic reaction, but rather a result of overdoing it. I applied a LOT of TTO to the area and then covered it with a bandaid, resulting in a painful blistering rash that looked like a chemical burn. 🙁

        I ended up seeing a dermatologist with a specialty in fingernail disorders and in fact I don’t have a fungus or bacteria at all – he believes my nail disorder is a result of psoriasis. I have never had psoriasis anywhere else on my body and it is rare but not impossible to only have it on your nails. In fact, psoriatic fingernails are often misdiagnosed as fungus! I am now using a Rx cream to try to reduce swelling and resolve the lesion that is causing my nail to separate from the nailbed. I also plan to soak the nail in white vinegar periodically to keep any fungus, yeast, or bacteria from setting up shop underneath the disconnected nail. I could maybe do a diluted TTO soak but am too scared after the burn…

        So, my advice for others:
        – Be careful with TTO and don’t over-do it or use a bandage after applying! It really is powerful stuff!
        – If you don’t see improvement, consider seeing a doctor to see if you actually have an infection
        – If nobody can figure it out, try to find a dermatologist with a focus on fingernails (who knew this was a thing?!)


        • Felicia Mar 20, 2017

          Oh my, Ophelia! I’m so sorry to hear about the outcome.

          It’s a good thing you went to the dermatologist. I’d still be interested in hearing how things are going with the cream. Please keep us informed.

          Thanks for sharing your experience.

        • Donna Farrell Jun 1, 2017

          I have been to a dermatologist and have been told there is no cure. 4 of my nails are almost completely white now. Can you tell me what Rx cream is please?

        • Patti Oct 18, 2017

          I have read that Wheatgrass helps with Psoriasis. You can get the liquid formula at Dr.

  • Sarah Nov 5, 2016

    Hi Felicia,

    I have just come across your blog and I am trying not to get my hopes up but I really hope this works for me! After having acrylics put on my nails by ‘cheap’ nail salons my nails were brittle and horrible and the cost became so great that I started doing my own ‘acrylics’ at home with press on nails and supermarket nail adhesive. I recently got married and took my nails off to get a full set applied for my big day and was told by the nail tech that my nails were so damaged that her insurance wouldn’t protect her if I caught an infection. I had some lifting on my nails but didn’t know anything about onycholysis. I applied another press on set for my wedding and upon removing them was horrified to discover that all my nails are white and lifted, on my left hand half way down and some even crumbling off and on my right hand nearly 3/4 the way down. I have seen my doctor who is waiting on blood test and fungal results to come back so I will try the tea tree in the meantime – I have a dropper, will it be safe to apply directly twice a day? Also I am particularly concerned about the ‘thickness’ underneath the nail – it is very thick and hard with striations on top and discoloured to a horrible yellowish colour. Do you think this is fungal? Did your nails appear like this underneath? I am having trouble finding information about this moreso the onycholysis. Anyway, I will keep a nail diary and hopefully see some improvement over the coming weeks and check back in. I am particularly devastated as I am a flight attendant so appearance is everything in our job…

    • Felicia Nov 6, 2016

      Oh my, Sarah. I’m so sorry to hear about your situation.

      Because your nails are so tender right now, I would probably dilute the tea tree oil in water and dip my nails in that. I don’t think the tea tree oil will harm your nails if you put it on directly, but because of the fragile state, I would start slow.

      In my case, I didn’t have the damage to the skin beneath the nails, just the lifting of the nail. The tea tree oil will do much to kill whatever infection or fungus you might have. For quicker healing, I would look into Frankincense oil. It has healing and restorative qualities and may quicken the healing of your skin and nails.

      I currently use frankincense oil mixed with avocado oil as my face moisturizer. Avocado oil soaks in quickly and doesn’t clog pores. It does wonders for softening skin and making it look healthy. Frankincense is expensive but well worth the expense. In your case I would soak my nails in the tea tree oil and water several times a day only because your nails have been so damaged by the acrylics. Afterwards I would apply frankincense in the carrier oil (some people use jojoba oil or coconut oil). It will moisturize and help the healing.

      How much frankincense to carrier oil? Well, I have a small 15ml bottle in which I fill with avocado oil and about 6 to 8 drops of frankincense. I use my finger to dab it on my skin then I rub it in. I can’t say for sure how it will work with your nails, but if you do a little research on frankincense oil, you’ll learn about its healing qualities. Just make sure you buy quality oils. I purchase mine from Rocky Mountain Oils and have been very satisfied with the quality.

      How soon will you see results? I can’t say for sure. I know with my nails I believe I started noticing a difference in about 2 weeks. It was a modest difference, but I knew I was heading in the right direction.

      Sarah, I wish you all the best. Please keep me posted as to your progress.

  • Donna Oct 4, 2016

    I am at my wits end with Onycholysis on some of my fingernails!! One nail is white almost to the bottom and it is quite frightening. I’ve been to my doctor and seen the doctor who has an interest in dermatology but was just told that she couldn’t really give a diagnosis or a cure!!! Now waiting to go to the hospital to see a consultant dermatologist but that could take months when I don’t think there will be a problem for him to see as there probably won’t be a nail left! I am so pleased to find your email and can’t wait until tomorrow to buy some tea tree oil to try your suggestion. I was checked for a fugal infection and for thyroid but neither proved to be the problem. I have googled for a remedy until I’m sick of looking but as one nail has got so bad now decided to look again and found your email. I have been trying Neem oil which is messy and stinks but although I thought it was getting better, with a lot of pink nail, all of a sudden the nail just turns white again. I cannot wait to try your suggestion so thank you for sharing

    • Felicia Oct 7, 2016

      Donna, I believe it will work for you. Check back in a few weeks and let me know how it’s progressing.

      • Donna Oct 8, 2016

        Thanks Felicia for trying to help. I have been using the Tea Tree oil method religiously since Tuesday afternoon then on Wednesday I went to see a friend and wanted to show her my nails. I took my nail polish off and to my surprise my worst nail had already changed from solid white to s yellowish opaque appearance. That’s only 24 hours so I am really feeling optimistic

        • Felicia Oct 8, 2016

          Awesome! I’m so happy to hear you’re seeing results. That’s good news. I truly believe tea tree oil will resolve your nail problem. Stick with it. 🙂

          • Donna Oct 8, 2016

            They do still look a real mess at the moment but I’ll definitely give it a couple of months cos it will be a very slow process

        • Angie Sep 21, 2017

          Did this help you Donna? I’m at the point of wanting to ask the do for to remove 3 ugly nails of mine so I can start over.
          I hate them and just want them to reattach.

  • Leo Sep 19, 2016

    Hi Felicia, thanks for your sharing.
    I have similar problems, my fingernails and toenails separated from nailbed in short time(1 month). And I made a medical test but no fungal found, the doctor had no ideas about it.
    I’d like to have a try like your way, seems it is important to keep nails from water, so how did you protect the nails from water while showering, did you find if the Onycholysis cause from fungal?

    • Felicia Sep 19, 2016

      Leo, the only extra precaution I took to keep my hands dry was to put on rubber gloves when washing dishes. Other than that, it was business as usual.

      I do a lot of cooking so after I finish preparing a meal, especially if preparing meat, I would wash my hands and dip my fingers in my tea tree oil and water solution.

      As far as the cause of my bout of Onycholysis, I don’t have an answer for you. All I know is the tea tree oil keeps it at bay.

      Good luck to you.

  • shadvi Sep 13, 2016

    It seems like I’m going through the same problem. I’m worried that my finger nails are getting worse on the long run. Planning to try the tea tree oil treatment. Hope to see results soon.

    • Felicia Sep 13, 2016

      Shadvi, once you start using tea tree oil, you’ll notice the nails stop getting worse. Then they’ll slowly begin to improve. At least that’s what happened to me. Good luck. Let us know how it goes.

  • Sadie Hoyt Sep 10, 2016

    I am so excited to find this tip, thank you!! My nail problem has been a problem for….At least 5 yrs, perhaps longer. In college I started going to a cheap nail salon as a reward for finishing papers etc, and it was right around then that I started noticing my nail separating and turning white. But of course, being a poor and unconcerned college student I ignored the problem and continued to repaint on top of the nail. By graduation it was entirely white. Upon graduating I tried to pursue many different natural remedies but have to admit- never stuck with something consistently longer than a week, so though I definitely “tried” tea tree oil, I can’t say yet whether it has worked for me. I went to one of the supposedly best nail doctors in the country here in Portland and spent way too much money to just hear her say over and over ….”hmmm it’s really hard to say….here, take this oral stuff and see if it helps.” I did indeed take the oral medication and the nail definitely improved, but as soon as I would stop taking it it would come back. After over a year of hoping i could come off of the medicine I decided to stop, knowing it was really harmful and intrusive as well as expensive. Now, my nail is back to bad….perhaps 1/3 white, and I decided to once again look online and see if there are any similar stories to mine and any successful. Though I’m worried I’ve waited too long (5 yrs?!) and that the damage is too severe to heal, all of your stories are so hopeful that I’m determined to give the tea tree oil a 100% go, and keep a record faithfully. Sorry for my long tangent! You wouldn’t think a small nail problem would cause so much concern, but it really does! Just has been tugging at my spirits so much over the years to have this problem that seems incurable/beyond hope!! I’ll report back if I have any success 🙂

    • Felicia Sep 10, 2016

      Hi Sadie,

      I don’t think your nail problem is too far gone. I believe the tea tree oil should help. Try to set an alert in your calendar to remind yourself daily to soak your nails. You should start to notice small changes in a couple of weeks.

      Please do check back and let us know how it’s going. Best of luck to you.

    • Lori Almeida Dec 26, 2016

      Sadie, My saga is 3+ yrs old, so I feel for you..especially the tugging @ your spirits part :'( White vinegar soaks did help a bit, but I’m going to try tea tree oil, which I’m a huge advocate of! I did my own Gelish/Harmony manicures for 2 yrs, than had it expertly applied by a Harmony rep, but had a bad reaction (itching & burning nail beds followed by onycholysis). I have always had peeling nails & discovered the at home Harmony gel system 5 yrs ago. It was the easy answer to my problem. I had nail pride for the 1st time in my life 🙂 After that reaction 3 yrs ago, I found help w/ Dr. MaVay nail cure, which is now discontinued:( I also moisurize my nails & cuticles, wear gloves & even thoroughly dry under the free edge after hand washing. I sometimes try a new 3 or 5 allergen free polish & even the new breathabe one, but the onycholysis seems to come back:( I have to keep something on my nails b/c of the peeling & Gelish HAD worked best for 2 years. I’m actually thinking that the colors may provoke my problem. I am thankful for Felicia’s post about this and hope to see more improvement w/ tea tree oil soaks. Thank you Felicia!!

      • Felicia Dec 27, 2016

        Lori, I believe the tea tree oil will work. Thanks for sharing your story.

  • Sharon Aug 31, 2016

    8/30/2016 – Day 1 with tea tree oil. I’ve read all the comments and hope this works for me too.

    • Felicia Aug 31, 2016

      Sharon, I believe it will. If it worked for me it should work for you.

      Check back with us in about 2 weeks or so. I’m hoping you should notice some changes by then.

  • Vi Aug 10, 2016

    Felicia, thank you very much for your post. I have lifting finger nails as a result of both repeated hits to the nail and an iron deficiency. I did the finger dip just as you detailed as well as adding an iron supplement (Megafoods Blood Builder) to my diet. I have been doing this for a few weeks. My nails have truly improved quite a lot. I will continue until my nails are back to normal. Can’t wait!

    • Felicia Aug 12, 2016

      Hi Vi, I’m glad that it’s working for you. Every so often, even though my nails have healed, I dip my fingers in a tea tree oil solution. It seems to keep them healthy and growing.

  • Beth Jul 17, 2016

    Is it necessary to remove nail polish while treating my nail with tea tree oil or can I apply it with a dropper under the free edge, and rub it on the rest of the nail? I have one nail with this issue. I believe it is from hitting my nail tip causing injury and/or possibly from an over aggressive manicure. Sometimes it looks like it is growing out normally and then it looks worse again. Is there a benefit to soaking in water rather than using the tea tree oil straight? Thank you!

    • Felicia Jul 17, 2016

      Applying the tea tree oil under the free edge of the nail should work. The reason I put the tea tree oil in water was because a few drops goes a long way and immersing my fingers in the water insured that my entire nail received treatment. Also, I used the same tea tree oil/water solution for several days in a row. After about 4 or 5 days I dumped the water and made a new solution. I found it to be a more efficient use of the tea tree oil. I call it efficient use. My husband says I’m cheap. 🙂

      Either way, your nail should improve. Good luck. And…if you don’t mind…give us an update in a few weeks or so.

  • claire May 10, 2016

    My name is Clair about a year ago my nail got separated from its I cut them.when it’s started to grow .it agains seperated from its nail bed.I was really worried my nail looked so bad and when I search solutions for my problem in internet.I found out it also happens when the nail got contact with water for a long I try not put my finger in water I always wears gloves.and I also applying tea tree oil daily .I am finally happy because my nail is growing grows almost half of its full length.I’m really Don’t worry about ur nails tea tree oil really works….

    • Felicia May 10, 2016

      Hi Claire,

      Your symptoms sounded just like mine. I’m glad to hear the tea tree oil worked for you. It worked wonders or me.

  • DV Apr 24, 2016

    I have to submit a reply because like many people without healthcare i scour the web for natural remedies and this worked for my onycholysis. i had the issue for about a year. when it looked like it was healing it would just split again easily. I tried this method for a month, 2x a day. Some days i would dab a drop of tree tea oil on my nails directly when i didnt have time to soak. although not completely healed its almost there. I am not pregnant, i dont have or know of an other serious illness, i feel healthy:-) I will continue this remedy forever more to safeguard this happening to my nails ever again.

    • Felicia Apr 26, 2016

      I’m glad to hear this remedy is working for you. There are so many natural remedies available that are non toxic and inexpensive. It’s a shame that the medical community has us so brainwashed into believing that pharmaceuticals are the answer.

      I’m also happy to see that you are using it as a preventative measure.

  • Deb Apr 11, 2016

    Thanks for posting this! I have two nails that are separating and was looking for a good home remedy. It just so happens that I have a bottle of tea tree oil so started doing this tonight. One nail is separated about half way down and the other maybe a third of the way. I just dipped an orange stick in the bottle and put a couple of drops under each nail. I’ve used it before so wasn’t worried about skin irritation. I’ll report back on how it works!

    • Felicia Apr 11, 2016

      I’ll be interested to hear how it works for you. I know it worked great for me.

  • Raluca Jan 14, 2016

    Hi to all of you,

    I am pregnant and onycholysis starter to appear 3-4 weeks ago and it gets worse. As I can not use any internal anti-anything treatment, please, let me know if any of you knows what can you do in pregnancy to at least stop it, not necessarily making it go away for good. I am afraid to lose my nails and I went to the doctor and she said I have to wait until I give birth, which is 4 months away. I hope that there is some kind of natural treatment that can help me, so I just start browsing every www page…. 🙁

    • Felicia Jan 14, 2016

      First I’d like to congratulate you on your soon to arrive bundle of joy. As far as safe remedies, I believe essential oils are safe in general. There are some warnings about using certain essential oils when pregnant. Here’s an article with a list of a few dos and don’ts regarding essential oils and pregnancy.

      The way I look at it, essential oils are a lot safer than most of the medications and chemicals pregnant women are exposed to on a daily basis. Tea tree oil worked for me, but you can use frankincense or a host of other essential oils that have the same antimicrobial and antibacterial properties.

      Do your research first to make sure you feel comfortable using them. When you find one you’re comfortable with, give it a shot. It should work.

      Best of luck to you with your nails and your new baby. 🙂

      • Raluca Jan 14, 2016

        Oh, Felicia, you have no idea how useful your response was for me, at least for my head. I got a little scared today and I didn’t expect to get an answer so soon. So..thanks a lot! I will let you know the result!!

        • Felicia Jan 14, 2016

          Glad I could help! Yes, I’d be interested to know how it works for you so please share your results.

          • Raluca Feb 6, 2016

            Hi Felicia! I am very glad to write to you and to say that you are a life-saver!! I would like to share the photos with you from when I started the treatment with tea tree oil(one day after we talked here) and now. It’s amazing! I really didn’t believe or hope that in pregnancy, I will be able somehow to get rid of it or at least to stop it advancing. So…my nails are doing almost great, almost normal, after 2 and a half weeks, let’s say 3 weeks of two daily aplications! So..really, I want to thank you and say that this was really a miracle for me!

          • Felicia Feb 6, 2016

            YESSS!!! I’m so glad to see that it’s working for you. I’m finding that natural remedies are just as effective if not more so than the pharmaceutical ointments and creams.

            I’d be interested in seeing your before and after photos. Is there a link I can visit?

  • Bri Jan 11, 2016

    Did you have to cut your affected nails back all the way to where the separation begins? I’ve been reading mixed info on whether or not to cut. I can’t see a doctor until next month thanks to my insurance and I want to start fixing this ASAP. Thanks for the info!

    • Felicia Jan 12, 2016

      When I went through my bout, I cut my nails short, but not back to where it was separating. I just wanted them short enough so I didn’t run the risk of snagging my nails on anything that might cause them to bend backwards.

      Don’t you just love the way insurance companies hold us hostage? That’s part of the reason why I always seek natural solutions to my conditions/ailments. I don’t have to wait for insurance company approval to get well. I also don’t have to worry about copays or deductibles with natural remedies.

      Good luck to you.

  • kyte1107 Jan 7, 2016

    I have onycholosis and it’s caused from the trauma of me vigorously cleaning under my nails and not from any causes that you’ve listed. Will tea tree oil help my nails go back to normal?

    • Felicia Jan 8, 2016

      It won’t hurt to try. There’s a possibility you may have introduced some sort of bacteria or fungus under you nails while vigorously cleaning them. Give it a shot to see how it goes. I’d be interested to hear about your progress.

  • StanBell Jan 11, 2015

    I remember one time I had a lady come in to the salon who had onycholysis on all nails half way down them all. The thymol worked a treat as well as tea tree oil which was applied under the free edges a few times. After about 8 weeks the nails had grown out and the client had a set of nails put on for her holiday but i sculpted the nails. This was about 6 weeks ago and she hasn’t had any problems. Thanks for sharing your experience. Cheers!

    • Hannah Aug 21, 2017

      Hi I have this on all of my nails about half way down too.. I haven’t been to the doctors yet but I will go this week, I currently have shellac nail polish on all nails, is this bad? Am I allowed to use any nail polish at all? Thanks very much

      • Felicia Aug 21, 2017

        Hi Hannah,

        There are no set rules when experimenting with natural remedies. I don’t use shellac nail polish so I can’t say how it will affect nail healing. I’d use the tea tree oil anyway with or without the nail polish. I don’t think it will hurt.

  • Kay Jan 7, 2015

    How long did you soak your fingers. I got this as a result of hand, foot and mouthmouth disease (it’s actually a virus). I’m doing this to prevent a fungal infection. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    • Felicia Jan 8, 2015

      Hi Kay,

      I soaked my fingers for about a minute or so. Just long enough to make sure the tea tree oil was applied to the affected areas. I let the anti-bacterial/anti-fungal/anti-viral properties of the tea tree oil do the rest.

      • Darin Nov 4, 2015

        Hi Felicia
        Can I apply the tree tea oil directly onto my toenails?

        • Felicia Nov 4, 2015

          Hey Darin,

          I don’t see why not. Tea tree oil is safe and non toxic. I added tea tree oil to water because a little goes a long way and I was sure to get complete coverage over all of my nails, but direct application should be fine.

          Here’s an article that gives advice on using it directly. They do advise testing your sensitivity to tea tree oil by applying it to a small area first. Good luck. Check back with us after some time and let us know how it’s going.

  • Nancy Jul 23, 2014

    I seem to be dealing with the same situation. My question is whether or not you disposed of the water you used to soak your nails or whether you put a lid on the jar and reused the same water. If so, how long did you use the same water before disposing of it and starting with fresh water and fresh melaleuca EO?

    • Felicia Jul 24, 2014

      Hi Nancy,

      I put the water and tea tree oil in a pint-sized ball jar and covered it when it wasn’t in use. Since I only had to dip my finger tips in the water I didn’t think I needed a large jar. I reused the same water until it started to look a little cloudy or dirty. I’d make a fresh batch and repeat.

      Good luck with your case of Onycholysis.

      • Nancy Jul 29, 2014

        Thanks, Felicia! I’ll give it a try.

      • chrstina r Jan 18, 2016

        Hello, I believe I am experiencing the same problem as you. All of my nails seem to have another nail under them, looking like 2 nails are growing under each other, but I believe they are just splitting. My pinky seems to be split quite far, but I do not want to cut it. If I soak my nails in the water and tea trea formula you used, do you think it will help me, and is was your onycholysis similar to mine? On the outside my nails look normal, but they are definetly separating under. Also, how long was it before you started to see improvements, and before your nails were fully back to normal? Thank you.

        • Felicia Jan 20, 2016

          I’m not sure if we had the same symptoms, but since tea tree oil is safe and non toxic, I’d give it a shot to see if it works.

          As far as how long it took to notice a difference,I’ve got to search my computer to find my “nail diary.” I kept track of what I did and how long it took, but it was a while ago. As soon as I find it I’ll update this comment.

          Update: It took about a month. I started noticing a difference about 2 and a half weeks into soaking my nails with tea tree oil and a real difference a month later.

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