Select Page

Ever wondered why nail technicians wear facial masks while perfecting your monthly manicure? You’re probably thinking how can a set of colorful nails be “that bad” in the grand scheme of things. Even the most health-conscious women have overlooked the toxic chemicals found right on their fingertips and unfortunately, nail polish contains things you wouldn’t touch with a 30 foot pole. What’s in my nail polish? Are there healthier alternatives? Why aren’t the ingredients on the bottles if they are so bad? All valid questions that will be answered shortly.

What Happens To Your Body 10 Hours After Nail Polish Application

Researchers at Duke University tested for signs of chemical toxins in 26 women after applying nail polish. They found heightened levels of toxins in each and every woman in the study. Which toxin in was found in 100% of women after only 10 hours after application? Triphenyl phosphate. This is not only worrisome but also alarming considering this toxin was not disclosed in the ingredients.

In a follow up study done by duke, the same researchers tested 10 different nail polishes for triphenyl phosphate and found 8 of them contained it. Out of those 8 that tested positively for this toxin, 2 did not disclose it on their label. Not that big of a deal, right? Wrong! I certainly would want to know if a known toxic chemical was being painted onto my nails and slowly seeping into my skin.

What’s In My Nail Polish?

Now let’s talk about triphenyl phosphate (TPHP) and the other alarming toxic chemicals that are in your nail polish.

Triphenyl Phosphate

Triphenyl phosphate is known to disrupt the endocrine system, which controls your hormones. According to research, triphenyl phosphate exposure has a huge affect on metabolism, hormone regulation and reproductive organs. Young girls are at a greater risk of developing complications from triphenyl phosphate exposure due to their reproductive organs, endocrine system and hormones still developing.

Here are some other undesirable health risks of TPHP:

  • Neurotoxin
  • Skin irritant
  • Endocrine toxin
  • Negatively affects healthy reproductive organ development


Toluene is a clear solvent often used in paint thinners, adhesives, fingernail polish, and gasoline; it evaporates rapidly from these materials and becomes mixed with the air you breathe. Toluene has also been found in breast milk after the mother has been exposed.

A serious health concern is that toluene may have an effect on your nervous system (brain and nerves) causing:

  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • unconsciousness

PLEASE NOTE  deliberately inhaling/sniffing finger nail polish, paint or glue will initially make you feel light-headed and euphoric. If exposure continues you can become:

  • Dizzy
  • Sleepy
  • Unconscious
  • Or even Death due to toluene interfering with the way you breathe and the way your heart beats.

Dibutyl Phthalate

Dibutyl phthalate is an alternative some nail polish brands use instead of TPHP, but it is absolutely just as dangerous. Dibutyl phthalate causes these health risks:

  • Hormonal disruption
  • Irregular reproductive organ growth
  • Reproductive system toxicity


Have you ever noticed that string unbearable smell of nail polish? Well, that’s formaldehyde. It is a known carcinogen that dissolves into the air and is well known for being in embalming fluid as a form of preserving the body. exposure to formaldehyde can lead to:

  • Asthma
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Soar throat
  • Increased heart rate
  • Fainting
  • Burning of the eyes

Fun fact! Formaldehyde is used in embalming fluid as a hardening agent. Now why would you want that on your nails? Long periods of exposure to formaldehyde have also been linked to many forms of cancer and lung disease. Now you know why your nail technician is wearing a mask.

Here’s a few brands to avoid that contain Triphenyl phosphate:

Picture Credit: (Environmental Working Group)

Picture Credit: (Environmental Working Group)

Natural Nail Polish Alternatives

Sadly, natural or organic nail polish does not exist. It’s simply one of those things where you must choose if it’s worth putting something unnatural on your body for beauty purposes. Of course they’re are brands that do not contain the toxins I listed above but their ingredients are still less than pleasant. Here’s a small list of some nail polish companies that avoid using triphenyl phosphate, toluene, formaldehyde and dibutyl phthalate:

Honeybee Gardens

  • Water based
  • No alcohol
  • No traces of harmful chemicals


  • Water based
  • Over 50 colors
  • Doesn’t contain harmful chemicals


  • Vegan
  • Free of the toxins listed

Peacekeeper Cause-Medics 

  • Toxin free
  • Infused with argan oil

If you’re applying nail polish to your kid’s then it’s even more important to read the labels and avoid these harmful brands listed above. The alternatives (also listed above) may be a better option for your children to use!

Getting “done up” and pretty is always exciting but please be aware of what you are putting on your body to achieve certain looks. Always ask yourself is something like superficial beauty worth the pain, or in this case, worth the toxin seeping into your body. Always try and find a healthier alternative even if that means it not being available at your local stores. Picking healthier choices does not have to be strenuous or “breaking the bank”, it just takes a bit of patience and research. Stay healthy, stay aware and most of all…..Read those labels ladies!

Sources: RealFarmacy, CDC, EnvironmentalWorkingGroup, TheNewYorkTimes