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Study: Nail polish threatens health, hours after applying

Natural nail polish alternatives can help manicurists, clients avoid allergies, cancer, and hormone disruption

Compton Herald | nail polish
Flickr/Sarae

Duke University researchers find nail polish chemical toxins disrupt hormone production, other effects; natural nail polish alternatives available

Nail polish can seriously affect the health of women and girls, researchers at Duke University and the Environmental Working Group found.

The three-year-old study, published in 2015 in Environment International, found that many of the most popular American nail polish brands are actually extremely harmful. The study involved 24 women and experts evaluated the effects of the chemical toxins in their bodies. The source of these chemicals was nail polish.

All of the participants were found to have signs of triphenyl phosphate in the body only 10 hours after applying nail polish.

The study has serious ramifications in 2018 in the urban core because nail shops in the inner city per capita are denser than anywhere else in the country, often next door and across the street in proximity.

Some brands fail to list toxins

The same researchers, in a follow-up study, evaluated 10 different nail polishes for triphenyl phosphate and found it in 8 of them.

What’s more, two of these 8 did not even list the presence of the chemical on the label. Therefore, 20 percent of the most popular nail polishes purchased have a harmful chemical not listed on the label.

Compton Herald | nail polish brands

TPHP is listed on the ingredient labels of a wide array of nail polishes now on the market. Out of more than 3,000 nail products in EWG’s Skin Deep database, half disclose the use of TPHP. Graphic: EWG.com


Triphenyl phosphate (or TPHP) is a dangerous chemical that disrupts the human endocrine system, which controls hormones. According to the lead researcher of the study, Dr. Heather Stapleton, “There is growing evidence suggesting that TPHP may affect hormone regulation, metabolism, reproduction, and development.”

Hence, this is extremely alarming for young girls who use nail polish on a daily basis and the healthy hormonal development is vital for their growth. TPHP is a known:

  • Neurotoxin (causes developmental effects)
  • Reproductive toxin
  • Skin irritant and allergen
  • Endocrine toxin

Nail polish contains other harmful ingredients as well, such as:

  • Formaldehyde — A popular carcinogen which dissolves in water and air. It leads to asthma, scratchy throat, and difficulty breathing. Individuals suffering from some chronic diseases are especially prone to poisoning from formaldehyde.
  • Dibutyl phthalate — Poses similar risks as TPHP; disrupts the hormonal balance and contains reproductive system toxins.
  • Toluene — Impedes the development in children and irritates skin.

Non-toxic nail polish alternatives

Yet, there are some natural nail polish alternatives to prevent these effects and help manicurists and their clients avoid allergies, cancer, and hormone disruption.

  • Acquarella offers more than 50 polish colors, which are all water-based, meaning the polishes are easily removable with standard rubbing alcohol. The products also do not contain any of the harmful ingredients like formaldehyde, toluene, dibutyl phthalate, mercury, or wheat products.
  • Peacekeeper Cause-Metics offers bright nail polishes, which do not contain toxins and are infused with argan oil, which moisturizes nails.
  • SpaRitual is a completely vegan brand that produces toxin-free nail polishes.
  • Honeybee Gardens offers nail polishes in various colors, which are water-based, and free of carcinogens and harmful chemicals.

READ ALSO: Best Non-Toxic Nail Polish Options

Compton Herald is a digital news publication providing clear, fair and current news, information and commentary about Compton and the Los Angeles metropolitan area of California, and the world.

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