The Disturbing Things That Happen to Your Body If You Apply Nail Polish Regularly

August 7, 2019 Updated: April 1, 2020

Wearing nail polish has become a part of many people’s weekly beauty regime whether you are employed in a high-end office as an executive or work from home. Yet, not many people know the things to look out for while buying nail polish. Read on to learn how to choose the right nail polishes while still looking good…

Before you reach for our nail polish at the stores, it’s advisable to take the time to read the back of your nail polish bottle. Did you know many chemicals in nail polish cause harm from inhaling the fumes, and some enter our bloodstream?

In disturbing findings, scientists have found that six hours after painting their nails, a group of 24 women had elevated levels of diphenyl phosphate (DPHP)—a chemical used in nail polish—in their urine.

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Illustration – Shutterstock | Iakov Filimonov

As scary as it may sound, some common nail polish chemicals have been linked to causing cancer, and others are linked to miscarriages.

So what goes in the nail polish that can cause harm to your health? The three main ingredients that you need to look out for are dibutyl phthalate, toluene, and formaldehyde, commonly known as the “toxic trio” in cosmetics.

1. Toluene—a solvent that gives the nails a smooth finish

The danger of toluene, a colorless, water-insoluble liquid with the smell likened to paint thinners, is primarily inhaling the substance into your lungs.

According to ToxTown, inhaling low to moderate levels of toluene within a short period can cause fatigue, headaches, dizziness, weakness, and nausea.

Long-term exposure to toluene can affect the central nervous system, reproductive system, and immune system. It can lead to hearing and color vision loss, and damage to the kidneys and liver. Other than that, it can also cause brain damage, memory loss, and decreased mental ability.

Also, breathing high levels of toluene during pregnancy can affect a fetus, resulting in babies with birth defects, retarded mental abilities, and slow growth. Some studies have shown an exposure to toluene in the workplace increased the risk of spontaneous abortions.

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Illustration – Shutterstock | Vera Dimov

2. Formaldehyde—is used as a nail-hardening agent and disinfectant for nail care tools

If you’re suffering from allergies, contact with formaldehyde, a colorless, flammable chemical with a strong odor, can cause dermatitis and possible chemical burns. This gas, when inhaled, can trigger heart rhythm disorders and convulsions.

Worst of all, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified formaldehyde as carcinogenic to humans. Known to be one of the potentially toxic ingredients we use daily, larger or longer exposure to formaldehyde has been linked to causing cancer of the nasal sinuses and leukemia, particularly myeloid leukemia, American Cancer Society states.

3. Dibutyl phthalate (DBP)–a solvent commonly used as a plasticizer to make nail polishes more durable, preventing them from becoming brittle

Dibutyl phthalate is a suspected endocrine-disrupting chemical that interferes with hormones in the body and alters the function of the endocrine system. Studies involving lab animals show a connection between exposure to DBP and fertility issues and birth defects, Reader’s Digest reported.

It must be said, though, many people report having no side effects from using regular nail polish every day for many years—and perhaps their bodies are better at expelling these toxins. Meanwhile, others complain of headaches immediately after using it.

Whatever the case, it can be wise to look into the ingredients before you use something on your body regularly.

So, how do you choose a nail polish that won’t cause harm to your health?

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Illustration – Shutterstock | Nik Merkulov

Look out for the special markings on the nail polish bottles:

“9-Free” means that the product doesn’t contain formaldehyde, toluene, dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde resin, camphor, xylene, ethyl tosylamide, parabens, and acetone.

“7-Free” means that the product doesn’t contain formaldehyde, toluene, dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde resin, camphor, ethyl tosylamide, and xylene.

“5-Free” means that the product doesn’t contain formaldehyde, its derivative resins (formaldehyde resins), toluene, dibutyl phthalates, or camphor.

“3-Free” means that the polish is free of just three of the harmful components: formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate, and toluene.

Look out and carefully choose your nail polish. There is absolutely no reason why you cannot paint your nails provided you choose the right type of nail polish.

Remember, though, give your nails time to breath once in a while—always covering your nails with nail polish can render them dry and brittle. Enliven your natural nails by rubbing a little olive oil into the nail area to give them a soft shine—and voila, beautiful nails!


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