Tips and Tricks for Getting Rid of Nail Stains

Try a few clever tricks

Woman with curly hair, a red bandana headband, red lipstick, and red nails
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A great manicure is many things: a glam way to embellish yourself, a statement that you enjoy aesthetics, a confidence booster. But once you remove the color, stained nails are the opposite of polished. Red and pink nail polishes are notorious for this, as the iron oxides in these shades are strong and can leave behind pigmentation.

The best way to avoid nail stains is to use a base coat every time. Sometimes you might need two or three coats of a base for this trick to really work, especially if you use dark, bold nail polish hues. But a high-quality formula like Deborah Lipmann All About That Base CC Base Coat Correct & Conceal ($20) should do the trick in one coat.

In case you skip the base coat or it doesn't seem to work for you, here are a few tricks to try.

Whitening Toothpaste

The simplest remedy to remove nail stains is brushing your nails with a whitening toothpaste. Of course, don't use your everyday toothbrush—pick up a new, clean toothbrush and reserve it for this purpose only going forward. Just a tiny dollop of toothpaste should do. Gently brush dry nails the same way you would your teeth, then rinse. Repeat if needed.

Lemon Juice

A citrus soak takes a bit more time, but if the toothpaste trick didn't completely get the stains out, try this. Squeeze the juice of half of a lemon into a shallow bowl and soak your nails in it for a few minutes. Follow by scrubbing nails with the toothbrush (no toothpaste needed).

Hydrogen Peroxide

You could also try soaking your nails in a hydrogen peroxide solution. Dilute one part peroxide with four parts water. Soak your nails in the solution for 10 minutes. Then rinse off and wash your nails with mild soap and water. Follow with a nourishing oil like coconut or jojoba, or with an oil crafted specifically for nails, like French Girl Organics Nail and Cuticle Oil ($22). Do not do this method frequently, as the peroxide can weaken your nails. 

Buff Out the Stain

If all else fails, you can try buffing out the stain. However, this is another method that should not be a regular step in your nail care routine, as you can wear down the keratin and weaken your nails this way as well. Here's the best way to do this trick: Dab a little lemon juice or lavender oil onto your nails, then buff until the stain is gone.

When to See a Doctor

Nails can say a lot about your health. If the stains are not from residual nail polish pigment, there might be a bigger issue at hand. Smoking can cause yellowing in the nails. Nutritional deficiencies or other serious and rare health issues could also be the underlying causes. In these cases, make sure to see a dermatologist to know for sure.