Recently I noticed that when I take off my nail polish, my tails are tinted a slightly orange color, which is terrifying. I was hoping it wasn’t some type of fungal nail infection, which I ruled out because each of my nails were completely coated in the orange tint which looked like a result of overwear of the polish for extended periods of time, discoloring my fingernails. I thought it could possibly the type of nail polish remover I was using, but as much as I scrubbed at my nails, the orange tint would not go away. It was embedded into the fibers of my nails. I know that going to certain nail salons can expose you to the possibility of catching a fungal nail infection, so I always do my own nails. So why the discoloration?
“The nails are made from epidermis cells that make up the skin, only more tightly packed” (Just Health.net). This means that nails have pores just like our skin does, so harsh chemicals from nail polish are able to seep through the nail and enter into our bodies, which can be harmful. “Nails require oxygen to remain healthy. The keratin in your nails also allows water to pass through to hydrate the area. If your nail begins to dry out, crack, break or peel this can be a sign that something is wrong with your nails or your overall health. Nail polishes are one of the most common offenders, causing nail discoloration and other symptoms of poor nail health” (Just Health.net). As my nails became more brittle, I began to worry more. I was wearing my nail polish for long periods of time, not allowing my nails to “breath” much like skin does. This leads to the discoloration because the nail polish can actually stain deep into your nails the longer you wear it. I wanted to let my nails “breath” and have some time to regain their health, but I didn’t want to walk around with nasty, unhealthy looking hands, so I want to find out if there is any way I can help the discoloration of the nail without having to wait for the nail to grow out and heal itself.
I came across the various chemicals found in nail polish on Just Health.net:
- A film-forming agent- This is often nitrocellulose, an ingredient that is also frequently used in auto paint.
- A solvent- This is the volatile part of the nail polish.
- Dilutents- Most polishes use dilutents like ethyl acetate. These are used to stabilize the product and viscosity of the polish. This will also help to keep ingredients like nitrocellulose from separating from the mixture.
- Resins and plasticizers- Ingredients like castor oil or dibutyl phyalate are added to polish to help give the product a bit of “give” when it dries, helping to prevent chipping.
- Pigments- This is what gives nail polish its color. Some colors also contain reflective pigments.
- Others- Other chemicals are added to nail polish to adjust the viscosity, make the product easier to apply or to quicken the drying time. Some also contain ultraviolet stabilizers to help prevent the color from being altered by UV exposure.
These ingredients don’t necessarily seem to be toxic to our health, and are all certified by the FDA. “But the United States does not restrict the chemicals used in beauty products.” This is the part I found alarming. Ingredients such as alcohol, various fragrances, Toluene, which is made from petroleum or coal tar, Formaldehyde, a skin, eye, and respiratory irritant, and a known carcinogen (formaldehyde exposure has been associated with leukemia specifically), and many other chemicals can be found in different brands of nail polish, so be sure to check the label before purchasing! Of course some companies claim to have no toxic chemicals in their products, but “10 of 12 nail polishes that claimed to be free of toluene contained the substance, and 5 of 7 nail polishes that claimed to be free of all three chemicals actually contained one or more at elevated levels” (Dr. Mercola). Never overuse or overwear nail polish, and the effects of wearing it should not harm your health.
As far as my nail discoloration goes, it only takes a few weeks for the yellow color to fade, which isn’t a result in too terrible of health risks, just the polish penetrating the layers of keratin in the nail. I would recommend giving your nails time to rejuvenate for a month after wearing nail polish for an extended period of time because it is not healthy for your nails to have chemicals such as Formaldehyde and Toluene constantly soaking into your body. Check the brand you are using!