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Is Nail Polish Bad For You?

Also Known As: nail lacquer, fingernail polish



Short answer

Some nail polishes contain toxins that can soak into your skin and be absorbed into your bloodstream. Even products labeled “non-toxic” have been found to contain dangerous ingredients.



Long answer

The smell of nail polish is unmistakable. It’s a pungent chemical scent that tends to linger long after the bottle is closed and the paint dries. It’s also your first clue that this product probably isn’t the best for you. But just how dangerous is nail polish?

Back in 2006, a coalition of public health advisers launched a national campaign to make the public aware of a “toxic trio” of ingredients found in many common kinds of nail polish. The trio includes formaldehyde, which is a known carcinogen. The other two other ingredients in question (tolune and dibutyl phtalate) have been linked to birth defects.

Since that campaign, many manufacturers have voluntary removed toxic ingredients from their nail polish. Others only claimed to remove the them—a 2012 review by the California Department of Toxic Substances revealed that some nail polish manufacturers simply changed their labels without modifying their original formula. And in some cases, manufacturers swapped out the original toxic trio with another dangerous chemical: triphenyl phosphate (TPP).

What’s so bad about these chemicals? We don’t know the long-term effects for sure yet, but we do know that they are being absorbed by the body... and that alone should be a cause for concern. Last year, a joint study by Duke University and the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that it’s possible to absorb one or more hormone-disrupting chemical from nail polish with every application.

This is certainly alarming; however, if you absolutely love nail polish, you don’t have to swear it off entirely just yet. The Duke/EWG research didn’t clearly state whether or not repeated exposure and high levels of TPP could seriously harm human beings. They discovered that the chemical substance could potentially interfere with hormone production, based on tests conducted with animals.

On the contrary, nail technicians should be very concerned. Repeated exposure to toxic nail polish and related products has been proven to lead to many potential health issues. These could be as mild as headaches, nausea, allergic reactions, skin aggravation and eye irritation.. but they can also be as serious as lung problems, cognitive and memory issues, cancer and reproductive complications.

Avoid the dangers of nail polish: if you’re a nail technician, it might be time to consider a career change. And if you’re a nail color fanatic, it’s important to look at ingredient labels closely. Even if you don’t see TPP on the label, proceed with caution. Remember, some brands have claimed to remove toxins but have not actually changed the formula. For your own safety, you should always research nail polish brands online to see if their products has been tested for TPP and other toxins prior to application.

Possible short-term side effects

  • headache
  • eye/skin irritation
  • allergies
  • nausea

Possible long-term side effects

  • respiratory issues
  • thinking/memory problems
  • reproductive complications
  • cancer

Ingredients to be aware of

  • formaldehyde
  • tolune
  • dibutyl phtalate
  • triphenyl phosphate

Thank you for your feedback!

View Sources | Written by Rachel Adams
Published on: 10-23-2016
Last updated: 12-10-2016

Thank you for your feedback!

View Sources
Written by Rachel Adams
Published on: 10-23-2016
Last updated: 12-10-2016

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