Why Do My Fingernails Smell Like Cheese?

A lot of people over time have complained that their nails have a particular smell. One thing about the nails is that different smell means different things. However, there are different reasons for this. This births the question, Why do my fingernails smell like cheese?

This could be because you have nail fungus. If your nails smell like cheese this could be that your nails have been attacked by a fungus or psoriasis, this fungus affects your nails and makes them smell, this is called onychomycosis caused by dermatophytes. The cheesy smell is caused by brevibacteria which are used to make some food mature or ripe, especially cheese.

Brevibacteria bacteria are friendly bacteria found on human bodies, have you ever heard health practitioners talk about friendly bacteria oh yea that’s brevibacteria. They sit on the skin because it is prone to being wet and moist such as nails, feet, and skin, bacterias thrive in such conditions, and bacterias grow releasing sulphuric compounds that have a strong pungent smell.

Dermatophytes emit an enzyme called keratinase that reacts on the nail, this enzyme breaks down the keratin in nails to feed dermatophytes causing the condition of nails to smell called onychomycosis. The cheesy hardness or thickness of the nails shows the damage done by the keratinase as it breaks down the keratin to feed dermatophytes.

The cheesy smell is created by a mix of living skin that is slightly moist or wet bodies and inhabits brevibacteria naturally because they thrive in such wet and moist conditions.

All this mix-up thrives together and grows to have a pungent smell causing dermatophytes to emit keratinase breaking down keratin that makes our nail plate or sheet stronger and it’s it up leaving the mold to degrade, this is the reason you see those white cheesy thingy on an infected nail giving it a rotting and hardened look and appearance.

Fungi That Causes Cheese Smell

1. Brevibacteria

This is a bacteria that thrives in wet and moist places such as human skin, this is a friendly bacteria that live on the human skin or body, on every living organism there are said to be good and bad bacteria, brevibacteria is a good bacteria found on human skin.

In the same way, some food has probiotics in them naturally, these probiotics have natural bacteria that are friendly and cause no harm.

2. Psoriasis

causes red flaky patches on skin and nails, psoriasis affects the skin so anything so we could biologically say that the nail is also at risk or prone to effects from the skin surrounding it, so yes it can affect nails if we agree

3. Onychomycosis

This is a nail infection that emits a  pungent smell that comes out of the infected cheese-looking nails

4. Keratinase

Is emitted by dermatophytes that, keratinase eats up the keratin in your nails causing a continuous degradation in nails as time goes on

5. Dermatophytes

Feed on keratin.

Differences between Psoriasis and Fungus

1. Psoriasis

causes red patches with a scaly appearance on the body, anything on the skin can affect the hand as well as the nails, this could lead to psoriasis of the nails.

When nails begin to split or separate from the nail bed, turn yellow or discolored this could be psoriasis or a fungus.

  • With nail psoriasis nails get deformed, split, and get thicker
  • Nails get that cheesy look and change from a normal healthy nail to either yellow or brown
  • There might be build-up under the nails which may cause tenderness or pain
  • Cheesy build-up under the nail might cause the nail to eat away from the nail bed and lift
  • Nails get soft causing so much pain

2. Fungus

Fungus are organisms that thrive in moist wet conditions, these could be from bathtubs, bathrooms, swimming pools, living bodies, etc

As little as the space between our nail and nail bed is enough for a fungus to come in. As we age we are prone to nail fungus, especially in persons with a family history of fungal disease

  • Nails in this condition also get deformed, split, and thick
  • Nails color turns dark
  • Nails get deformed and take a bad shape due to the infection
  • A foul stench emits from the nail because of the infection
  • Nails look cracked, dry, and brittle

 Conditions Aiding Nail Fungus

  • A moist environment such as bathrooms, swimming pools, general saunas, wet places, or environment.
  • Bare feet all the time is not good as you tend to step in dirt and wet breeding ground for bacteria or contact with bacteria.
  • Sweating too much without proper care can also give room for infection to occur.
  • Poor ventilation in shoes causes wetness, Keats remembers bacteria causing germs to breed well in moist areas, so keep feet cleans and dry
  • Infected persons with the fungus can lead to the spread of this fungal infection.
  • Immunosuppressive illness such as  HIV affects the body breaking down protective barriers in the body, this leaves the body weak and open to fungal infections.
  • People with circulatory problems and diabetes suffer from fungal infections too, as their bodies take time to heal.
  • Yellow spot on nails is also a sign of fungal infections, it is best to seek the advice of a doctor.

If your nails begin to get brown or yellow, cracks or splits, it is advisable to see your doctor for medical checkups and treatment especially if you are prone to psoriasis or diabetes.

Steps to Avoid Nail Fungus

  • Keep your feet clean and make sure to dry them thoroughly.
  • Keep your nails short and neat.
  • Make sure any manicure and pedicure tools you use are clean and disinfected.
  • Change your socks twice a day.
  • Wear shoes that fit properly and allow your feet to breathe.
  • When visiting a public pool or locker room, wear shower shoes whenever possible.

How to Treat Nail Psoriasis and Nail Fungus

  • Vitamin D ointment
  • corticosteroid injections can be shot  to the nail bed
  • Phototherapy or the use of light therapy
  • Nail removal can be done to make nails regrow
  • Counter anti-fungal treatment
  • A culture test should be carried out to determine the nature and type of fungal infection to be treated

DIY remedies/control

  • Fortified cereals
  • Sunlight
  • Fortified vitamins
  • Vegetable oil, seeds, seeds
  • Vinegar
  • Oats
  • Honey
  • Turmeric

Below are some homemade relief remedies although there is no scientific backup for these some have been talked about and have claims of giving a patient relief before been taking to the hospital

1. Cereals

Eat cereals that contain vitamin D because it slows down the growth of cells and changes the immune system for the better.

2. Sunlight

Vitamin D can also be gotten from sunlight, this process should be done lightly with the application of SPF of over 50”spf50” to protect our skin from the harmful effect of ultraviolet rays

3. Fortified vitamins

Vitamins that are fortified should be taken, The American Academy of dermatologist says so

4. Vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds

It is important to add foods that contain omega-3 fatty oils as it helps to fight inflammatory diseases and since psoriasis is considered an autoimmune deficiency that causes inflammatory disease.

Some nuts or seeds contain omega-3fatty acids that help soothe psoriasis,  These omega-3fatty acids help fight inflammation and help the immune system, some seeds like pumpkin seeds and flaxseeds and in nuts, we have walnuts, lastly olive oil.

5. Vinegar

Kinds of vinegar/apple cider vinegar have been used since ancient times to treat many conditions like the healing wounds, inflammation, ulcers, and infections.

Spoonfuls of vinegar should be diluted in water to reduce the harsh effect of burning, this shouldn’t be used if the skin is broken as this could cause infection and worsen the condition

6. Finely grounded and boiled Oats

Finely grounded and boiled oats are called colloidal oatmeal, which is used to smooth the skin when infected with psoriasis, this shouldn’t be shocking as women use oatmeal to soothe redness on the face and gain other proclaimed beauty benefits, so when in discomfort caused by psoriasis let’s try oats to get the soothing benefits.

Some bath lotions and soaks have these colloidal properties that help to soothe redness and calm the skin

7. Honey

Over the centuries honey has proven to aid the skin in the healing process, honey has also been used to heal skin burns, sunburn, how water scalds, and other skin or scars affecting the skin.

You can mix honey and a good vegetable oil especially olive oil then add a bit of bee wax, this mixture acts like corticosteroids, which is very good and helps to soothe and treat skin

8. Turmeric

Turmeric is a yellow herb used in making curry, this could be found in our kitchen and beauty products, some people enjoy adding this natural herb to their food like spices, turmeric has healing properties that can be used to treat inflammation and skin conditions.


Much has been said already to educate and inform you on how to identify and manage psoriasis or fungal infections, conditions such as minimal psoriasis and skin lesions can be treated with turmeric, so ensure to take turmeric supplements or topical ointment.

Always consult a doctor before taking any supplement or medication because some drugs react when mixed with other treatments.

Processed foods are foods that have changed from their natural form, these foods contain more than required sugar, fat, and sodium, they are canned foods, frozen foods, baked foods, and washed foods,

It is healthy and wise to avoid these foods such as cereals, cheese, bread, tinned vegetables, and snacks such as baked items, these foods should be avoided so that a suitably balanced diet would be regimented to promote healing & soothing.


  1. https://www.healthline.com/health/nail-psoriasis-vs-fungus
  2. https://www.thenakedscientists.com/articles/questions/why-do-toenails-smell-cheese