Bad news with Nail Polish?

Most people are familiar with the brands OPI, Essie, CND, and Sally Hansen. They have ads in almost every magazine and are even featured on some commercials. Each brand debuts a new long lasting polish about twice a year that gets girls in a frenzy. But do girls really know what affects nail polish has on their bodies other than it looking nice? Recently, society has been asking, are people doing more than just applying a pretty color to their nails when applying nail polish? Recent studies will have women thinking as to if they should keep up with their weekly manicures after reading new studies.

The Studies:

The nail salon industry is raising with each day. The demand for salons has created cities like New York to have one salon every 3 blocks. This has done great things for the economy but has it worsened things like health? After reading many headlines reading, “The truth about nail polish” I decided to see if nail polish has as bad as a rep that lately people have been giving it.

Nail polish contains the “toxic tri173993-425x283-getting-a-manio” (as researchers have named them),¬†toluene, formaldehyde and dibutyl phthalate. Toluene is what creates the shinny finish that typical people love (some people have been switching to matte finish but it’s just a phase). This chemical is also used in gasoline so questions of how it affects the nervous and reproductive system have surfaced. Formaldehyde disinfects the manicure tools. and dibutyl phthalate is a major component in nail polish.

There is no question that when walking into a nail salon, the fumes you ingest are questionable. It is common for people to get headaches or pass out when being inside for too long. This is why doors and windows are usually open. With only about 10% of the chemical used in a manicure have been developed, how can it be safe to say that the workers are healthy? Nail polish workers get a starting salary of minimum wage, which is a high cost to pay for not knowing what these chemicals are doing to their health. Studies conducted by Cancer Prevention Institution of California have concluded small effects of the workers. Some have breathing problems, skin irritations and headaches. Minor effects but still prominent. Other chemicals such as TPHP affect the body once applied to the nails.

Most nail polish contains TPHP, triphenyl phosphate. This chemical is commonly used in the eco-friendly nail polishes that are supposed to be free of cancer causing chemicals. It also makes the polish more durable so it last longer, which is an appeal to most women so it is more likely for women to buy the product. It wasn’t until recently that this chemical essie-wiosna-2012-butelki-1developed theories of disordering the healthy development of cells and mimicking healthy hormones. Duke University-EWG teamed up determine if there was truth behind this theory. Their experiment required 26 women to apply nail polish that is sold at department or pharmacy stores. They also tested 10 different polishes for TPHP and 8 were positive for this chemical. It was found in Sally Hansen, OPI, and Essie. Although the study was only conducted on a small sample size, it is said to likely be widespread. They concluded that it is unaware as to if this chemical is correlated to harmful affects on the body but they do recommend reducing the amount of paint used.

Nail polish may not cause any harm to the body but does the remover? Fortunately, remover doesn’t contain any bad chemicals, just solvent. Solvent dissolves the polish, hence nail polish remover. Though solvent is extremely flammable so people should store them in room temperature. Acetone is mostly used in nail polish remover and when people hear the word, they think it is a toxin. Acetone is not a toxin it will have the same effect as over solvents on the nail.

Nail polish hasn’t had a break through of the intensive harmful affects yet or else every nail salon would have been shut down already. So ladies, keep getting your weekly manicures, just be aware of the potential effects it has on the body.


Megan Boyle. “Bad News About Nail Polish.” EWG, 19 Oct. 2015. Web.
Stanford University. “The Hidden Risks in Nail Polish.” Live Science, 21 May 2015. Web.

2 thoughts on “Bad news with Nail Polish?

  1. Katherine Guerney

    I really enjoyed reading your blog post because I have also wondered about if the chemicals used in nail polish are harmful. I liked how you included studies for both customers and workers because it shows how both sides can be affected by the chemicals. I have never heard of anyone passing out from being in a nail salon, so that stood out to me when I read your blog. However, I think it would have been beneficial to look for subsequent studies for workers and consumers. It would have been more informative if you explained more components about the study that was done at the Cancer Prevention Institution of California. For example, how many different salons did they study? How long did the participants in the study work every day? Did the researchers evaluate any confounding variables(other activities that the participants did in their everyday life that would have an effect on their breathing, skin.. etc)? From the consumer standpoint you explained the study performed by Duke University well. Since you mentioned that the study was small and the results were unable to conclude if chemical exposure correlates with harmful effects it would have been interesting to see the results from another study.
    I found this article from the New York Times, which explains some more studies, past regulations that have been instituted for the harmful chemicals in nail polish, and other possible effects of being exposed to the chemicals. For example it mentions that the exposure to the chemicals can lead to miscarriages.
    I also found this other article which lists out chemicals found in nail products and their effect on workers and ways to improve worker safety.

  2. Abigail Roe

    Well written blog post. I enjoyed reading the findings discovered in the studies you used. When I was reading your post, I did not agree with everything you said. In the third paragraph, you said “it is common for people to get headaches or pass out” if they are in a nail salon for too long. I have never witnessed this in my entire life, nor have I heard of it before. You may have read this on another credible site, but if you did, I would recommend including the source of this fact to make your post more credible. I do like how you provided brief definitions of the three main ingredients in nail polish. Although I was wondering what dibutyl phthalate is composed of and the negative effects of this ingredient. You just stated clearly that it is a major component in nail polish. The study you included in your research was great. It could be a bit larger for better accuracy. It also struck my fancy how you included information about the nail polish remover in case any readers were wondering about the side effects of that. It is comforting to know that there are no harmful effects of nail polish remover that we know of. As soon as I came across the word formaldehyde in the beginning of your post, schema flooded my brain. I am familiar with formaldehyde because of doing research on diet soda. Formaldehyde is a key ingredient in aspartame, which is in a lot of diet free, sugar free, zero calorie products. It is bad news for your health if consumed often. Here is an article on aspartame and how it can convert into formaldehyde, which will cause serious health problems if imbibed on the daily.

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