Choosing an antifungal cream

antifungal creamOne cream to treat them all

Over the weekend, I discovered I had a minor case of athlete’s foot. I’m no athlete, but note to self: wear flip-flops when taking a shower at the gym!

I couldn’t find a tube of antifungal cream in my medicine cabinet—it’s been years since anyone in my family has needed it—so I went out to buy one.

A large number of options confronted me. As always, I thought to myself, “How do ordinary consumers decide which of these fifty tubes of antifungal creams they need?”

Most manufacturers market the creams (or ointments, powders or sprays) specifically for athlete’s foot. Right next to those are creams labeled for jock itch. Next to those are products marked for ringworm or toenail fungus.

If you have more than one problem, chances are you will buy more than one tube. But here’s a money-saving hint: you only need one tube of antifungal cream to treat all those conditions.

Tinea this, tinea that

The medical term for athlete’s foot is tinea pedis. Jock itch is tinea cruris. Ringworm (which actually does NOT involve worms at all) is tinea corporis, unless it’s on your scalp and then it’s called tinea capitis. Nail fungus is tinea unguium.

All these tineas can be treated with a single antifungal cream. There is no need to buy separate tubes just because the packaging says one is for athlete’s foot and one is for ringworm.

Read the label.

Common types and brands of the different antifungal medications are clotrimazole 1% (Lotrimin), miconazole 2% (Lotrimin), tolnaftate 1% (Tinactin) and terbinafine 1% (Lamisil).

I always buy the store brand (assuming it’s the cheapest) and I personally like clotrimazole, just because it has always worked for me. Again, I read the labels to find the ingredient I want, and then buy the cheapest product.

Also, I prefer cream-based antifungals. Ointments are more water resistant, which some people might need (swimmers, for example). I think the sprays and powders for athlete’s foot are messy and hard to use. They also cost more and are single purpose, rather than all purpose.

Anti-itch cream is not the same as antifungal cream

Athlete’s foot, ringworm and jock itch definitely, well, itch. But don’t be fooled into buying a product marketed simply as “anti-itch.”

Gold Bond powder, for instance, is not an antifungal. Its active ingredient is menthol. It might ease the itching, but it won’t do anything for the underlying fungus.

Same with cortisone creams. Although this is an excellent product to have in your medicine cabinet for other types of rashes, it won’t treat your fungus infection.

Treating toenails

Toenails (and less commonly fingernails) can get a fungus infection. You can try one of the above types of antifungal creams, but minor cases of toenail fungus actually respond really well to another product: Vick’s VapoRub!

Its combination of camphor, eucalyptus oil and menthol works for the majority of people who try it. Apply a small amount daily. But because nail fungus is just hard to get rid of, it might take several weeks.

More severe cases of toenail fungus will require a prescription for oral antifungal meds, so see your healthcare provider if the condition doesn’t go away or gets worse.


Frugal Nurse

Antifungal products I use:


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