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Environmental connections to public health >>

More Bad News About Nail Polish

Monday, October 19, 2015


Originally published on Healthy Child, Healthy World by Megan Boyle.

If you wear nail polish, you might be applying more than glossy color to your fingertips.

A new study by researchers at EWG and Duke University finds that nail polishes can contain a suspected endocrine disruptor called triphenyl phopshte, or TPHP.

Researchers tested the urine of 26 women volunteers before and after they applied nail polish. They were looking for DPHP, a different chemical created by the body when it metabolizes TPHP. They detected much higher levels of DPHP after the polish was applied.

The scientists at Duke also tested 10 different nail polishes for TPHP itself and found that eight contained it. According to EWG’s Skin Deep database, polishes that list TPHP as an ingredient include such popular brands as Sally Hansen, Essie, OPI, butter LONDON, Revlon and Wet N Wild. You can see the full list here.  

TPHP might disrupt hormones in humans, and in animal studies has upset reproductive and development processes. Cosmetics companies use it because the chemical makes nail polish more flexible and durable. It’s also used in plastics manufacturing and as a common fire retardant in furniture cushions and some foam children’s products.

As a result, most Americans are widely exposed to TPHP, but some research shows that women have higher levels in their bodies. This may be explained by use of the chemical in personal care products for women, including nail polish.

The EWG and Duke study reveals how applying nail polish can increase your short-term exposure to TPHP. But regularly painting your nails could lead to long term exposure.

Parents, this is a particular concern for kids and teens. For many youngsters, nail polish is the first introduction to cosmetics. But before and during puberty, they’re especially vulnerable to hormone disruptors. Before applying another coat, try these tips for healthy nail polish use in your family:

  • Use less. Paint only your fingers or toes, not both – or better yet, skip the polish and buff your nails to a natural shine.  
  • Read labels. Look for red-flag ingredients on the label or check products in EWG’s Skin Deep database. Of the more than 3,000 nail polishes in Skin Deep, 49 percent list TPHP among ingredients. Also avoid products that contain toluene, formaldehyde or dibutyl phthalate.
  • Talk to your kids and model good behavior. If your children wear nail polish, talk to them about smart choices. Limit use – say, only during sandal season – and help them pick polishes that are free of harmful chemicals. Remind them not to chew polish off their nails. Then practice what you preach.
  • If you must paint your nails, DIY. The air in nail polish salons can be hazardous to both customers and workers. Avoid them, and never take your kids to the salon.
  • Don’t inhale. That strong, recognizable nail polish smell can be a sign of airborne toxic chemicals. Apply polish in a well-ventilated room.



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