Warning: Your Nail Polish Might Be Seriously Damaging Your Body

by Emily Arata

If you're a woman who is never spotted without a fresh new manicure, it may soon be time to rethink the habit.

We love the calming process of painting our nails, but results of a new study have us wondering if it's a habit damaging to our health.

The study from Duke University and Environmental Working Group found endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the urine of 26 women who regularly painted their nails with particular brands.

The study claims brands across all price points including OPI, Essie and Butter LONDON contain the presence of undisclosed triphenyl phosphate (TPHP).

TPHP is a chemical with a bad reputation. It's known for reportedly damaging the reproductive and developmental abilities in animals. It may also cause obesity in humans, according to research.

These are controversial study results, particularly since so many teens live and die by the latest polish releases.


The information comes to light after an industry-wide movement towards “3-free” and “5-free” polishes, supposedly clear of nasty substances like formaldehyde and dibutyl phthalate. Even though you're only painting over your nail, it's been shown that chemicals within the polish can leak into the body.

It's a finding echoed by Duke researchers, who report the appearance of TPHP in the bodies of 24 participants six hours after the first coat of polish was painted on. Ten to 12 hours after the initial manicure, those numbers were seven times as high for all 26 participants.

Study lead, Dr. Heather Stapleton, told press:

It is possible that TPHP is now being used in nail polish as a replacement for phthalates… However, it's not clear that TPHP is the better alternative.

After testing 10 nail polishes for TPHP and finding the chemical in eight, the Environmental Working Group has launched a petition to tell brands like Wet n Wild to remove the potentially hazardous chemical from its varnishes.

In the meantime, we'll think twice about our polish.