Is Your Nail Polish Toxic?

When painting your nails or going to a nail salon, the smell is rarely ever pleasant. When you consider the chemicals actually in the nail polish though, the stank only gets worse, especially for manicurists who spend many hours in the salon each day.  Unfortunately, there are suspected neurotoxins and endocrine disruptors in many popular nail polish brands. So it is super important to choose your brands carefully. According to the World Health Organization, endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) “have been suspected to be associated with altered reproductive function in males and females; increased incidence of breast cancer, abnormal growth patterns and neurodevelopmental delays in children, as well as changes in immune function.”

UMMM, hold up. So these chemicals are in our nail polish – polishes that we’ve used since we were kids?! Not cool, Essie/Revlon/OPI, etc. I paint my nails All.The.Time, so I am giving these companies major side eye right now.


It is important to note the wording that the WHO and other organizations use – “suspected” and “association”. This basically means that while there is a connection between EDCs and those effects, they haven’t been able to effectively prove causation or link the impact of EDCs on humans. For example, TPHP in particular has been found to cause reproductive and developmental issues in animals, but there is not yet enough evidence on how these EDCs truly impact humans. Still, I’m not taking the risk. Here’s a list of the top neurotoxins and endocrine disruptors that may be in your nail polish:

  • Toulene
  • Formaldehyde
  • Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP)
  • Formaldehyde Resin
  • Camphor
  • Triphenyl Phosphate (TPHP)

Do our bodies actually absorb these chemicals?

After painting nails with a polish that contains an endocrine disruptor such as Triphenyl phosphate (TPHP), the body actually absorbs the toxin in less than 24 hours. A 2015 study by Duke University and Environmental Working Group showed that after painting nails with a polish containing TPHP, it was detected in the urine of every woman who had painted her nails. Oh and P.S. – recent scientific studies have possibly linked TPHP to weight gain and obesity.

Screen Shot 2017-05-13 at 3.40.10 PM


Let’s take an Essie nail polish, for example. Essie has been wildly popular in recent years. The GoodGuide gives Essie a health rating of 0/10 – terrible! It contains TPHP and Barium Sulfate, which is suspected of causing skin or sense organ toxicity.

Revlon isn’t too much better. I loved using the Revlon Colorstay GelEnvy because it was a gel-like polish that stayed on longer than most other brands. The GoodGuide also gives this Revlon color a health rating of 0/10 – terrible! While it doesn’t contain TPHP or Barium Sulfate, it does contain Bismuth Oxychloride, which has been banned for use in cosmetics in Japan.

When in doubt, search the GoodGuide to see if there are any suspect chemicals hiding in your favorite polish!

Action Opportunity

Let the beauty companies know that we don’t want TPHP in our lacquer anymore! Click here to sign the petition.

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