4 Best Nail Treatments for Cancer Patients

Many people associate chemotherapy treatment with hair loss, nausea, and dry or flaking skin. However, chemotherapy is also notorious for affecting both the look and overall health of your fingernails and toenails. This is where nail treatments come in. Nail treatments normally work to target a specific side effect. These treatments can help reduce the severity and effects of the above side effects. We’ve selected the 4 best nail treatments for chemo and side effects they help combat. 

Effects of Chemo on the Nails

The effects of chemo and cancer treatments on your nails vary from person to person. These variations include:

  • Nails taking on a darker, bruised appearance. 
  • Lines may develop across the nails in either a vertical or horizontal direction. Multiple indentations symbolize the different cycles of chemotherapy. 
  • Nails may feel more thin and brittle. 
  • Nails and cuticles become extremely dry. Fraying of the cuticles is also common.

You may also become more susceptible to ingrown nails as well. In some circumstances, nails can lift off the nail bed or even fall off completely. While these changes will definitely affect the appearance of the nail, the biggest concern is the overall nail health. Nails and cuticles are designed to work as a protective barrier for the nail bed. Once the barrier is weakened, the risk of infection grows immensely, which can be extremely dangerous with a weakened immune system. 

The Best Nail Treatments for Chemo

Nail treatments are designed to focus on correcting certain aspects of your nail health. Here are some products we highly recommend:


1. Peeling nails? Try OPI Nail Envy - Sensitive & Peeling!

Seal your nail with nourishing ingredients like Vitamin E, Kukui Nut Oil, and Aloe Vera to help reduce peeling, breakage, or sensitivity.

2. Nails feeling thin and brittle? Try OPI Nail Envy - Dry & Brittle!

Proteins and antioxidants, including Vitamins C and E, help strengthen your nails and maintain flexibility.

3. Have soft, fragile nails? Try OPI Nail Envy - Soft & Thin!

Build stronger, thicker nails with this unique blend of essential proteins and calcium. 

4. Dry or fraying cuticles/nail beds? Try OPI Nail & Cuticle Oil!

Massage this moisturizing oil into your cuticles and nails for a softer, smoother look and feel. The combination of avocado, grape seed, and sunflower oils help prevent drying or cracking.

Just looking for a pop of color? Try OPI Nail Polish Professional Nail Enamel!

Here’s a not-so-secret secret: Each OPI nail treatment can be used as a fully functional base coat! If you feel a bit self-conscious about your current nail condition, don’t worry: OPI Nail Polish offers a variety of colors to leave your nails looking fabulous with the bonus of securing in any nutrients provided by the above nail treatments. Total win-win situation!

More Suggestions for Healthier Nails

On top of implementing nail treatments into your normal routine, here are some other tips for combating infection and improving the appearance of your nails during chemotherapy:


  • Avoid professional manicures or pedicures. 
  • Keep your nails clean and trimmed short.
  • Do not use artificial nails. The fake nails could cause bacteria to become trapped. Allergic reactions are also common due to the chemicals used to secure the nail.
  • Limit the time your hands and feet are submerged in water. 
  • If you choose to wear nail polish, make sure to remove the polish with a non-acetone based remover. This type of remover will be less drying on your nails. 
  • Avoid biting your nails or picking at your cuticles to avoid infection.
  • If you plan to clean or garden, wear gloves to avoid exposure to chemicals and decrease the risk of infection.
  • Be sure to alert your doctor immediately at the first sign of infection/inflammation or if you develop an ingrown nail. 

You can learn more about nail and skin care during chemotherapy by visiting our Resource Page.

To Sum Up…

While undergoing chemotherapy treatment, you may notice a big difference when it comes to the look and overall health of your nails. Nail treatments can be the key to both alleviating common effects and revitalizing your nail beds and cuticles. You can view a full list of our nail treatments, cuticle oil, and professional nail enamel in our Nail & Hand Care section


Do you have a favorite nail treatment or polish color? Tell us in the comments section below!