A look at the effects of nail polish on nail health and safety

In recent times, the nail polish business has been remodeled by the event of longer-lasting polish methods. As dermatologists, we are sometimes requested concerning the results of those varied merchandise on nails. Right here we evaluation the primary kinds of polish, and contemplate the professionals and cons of every with an eye fixed towards nail well being and security.

Conventional nail polish

Basic nail polish is painted onto the nail plate, normally in a number of coats, after which air-dried. Typical nail polish is a polymer dissolved in a solvent. Throughout the drying course of, the solvent evaporates, and the polymer hardens. “Hybrid” polish is analogous; it’s utilized and eliminated the identical manner as common polish, however is meant to be longer-lasting.


  • Shortly and simply eliminated with an acetone-based nail polish remover. As a result of acetone may be harsh, drying, and damaging, much less contact time could imply much less injury to the nail plate, pores and skin, and cuticles.


  • Some colours, particularly darker colours, could cause nonpermanent discoloration of the nails.

The decision: Dermatologist accepted. We do advocate taking intermittent breaks from polish, and preserving nails and cuticles well-moisturized between manicures. At all times take away polish earlier than an appointment together with your dermatologist so she or he can study your nails.

“Non-toxic” nail polish

On the subject of cosmetics, the time period “non-toxic” may be tough to decipher. With regard to nail polish, a generally used time period is “five-free.” 5-free refers to polishes that don’t comprise 5 particular elements: formaldehyde, toluene, dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde resin, and camphor. There are additionally manufacturers that market themselves as being freed from extra substances, akin to 7-free or 10-free.

Formaldehyde is a preservative that has been acknowledged by the Nationwide Most cancers Institute as a possible cancer-causing substance. Additionally it is among the many commonest substances that trigger allergic contact dermatitis. Formaldehyde resin, dibutyl phthalate, and toluene can even trigger allergic contact dermatitis. Camphor is an oil that has been lengthy used as a topical treatment for varied situations, however may be poisonous if consumed by mouth.

Research have proven that chemical substances in nail polish may be absorbed into the physique. However the precise quantity of absorption, and whether or not it is sufficient to have adverse well being results, will not be nicely established. Generally, the query of whether or not “pure” beauty merchandise are safer and more healthy nonetheless stays, as mentioned in an editorial revealed in JAMA Dermatology.


  • straightforward elimination course of akin to common polish
  • accommodates fewer chemical substances that may trigger contact dermatitis; could also be a superb possibility for these with delicate pores and skin.


  • There is no such thing as a robust analysis information concerning whether or not the chemical substances excluded from non-toxic polishes have dangerous well being results on the concentrations current in conventional nail polish.

The decision: This can be a superb different to standard polish for these wishing to keep away from these specific chemical substances, though the well being advantages are unsure.

Gel polish

Gel polish is painted on after which “cured” below a lamp, which dries and hardens the polish virtually immediately. Curing of nail polish means photopolymerization, which is a course of throughout which a liquid absorbs vitality from UV or seen mild and undergoes cross-linking to develop into a stable. Most curing lamps emit ultraviolet A lightweight, which is a recognized reason behind mobile injury and growing older and will increase threat of pores and skin most cancers. There are some different lamps obtainable that emit LED mild; nonetheless, they could nonetheless emit some UV mild.



  • publicity to UV mild
  • Removing technique of gel polish may be harmful to nails. Removing entails soaking in acetone, and aggressive buffing, scraping, and peeling of polish, which might injure the nail plate.
  • Carrying gel polish for lengthy intervals could end in extreme brittleness and dryness of the nails.

The decision: Gel polish is unlikely to have long-term adverse results on nail well being if used sporadically or for particular events. Remind your nail technician to keep away from aggressive buffing (all the time keep away from electrical buffing), and to not scrape the nail plate forcefully. By no means peel or decide off gel polish; doing so could peel off layers of the nail plate together with the polish, leading to brittleness. Apply sunscreen 20 minutes previous to the UV therapy, or put on fingerless gloves whereas below the lamp.

Powder dip polish

This manicure entails utility of a bonding polish (composed of a resin that’s typically made up of chemical substances utilized in superglue) that serves as an adhesive for the polish. Subsequent, a finely milled acrylic powder is utilized, both by dipping the nail into the powder or brushing it onto the nail. Lastly, an activator is utilized. It is a liquid containing chemical substances that induce polymerization of the resin-containing bonding polish, leaving a tough shell.


  • No drying lamp wanted, due to this fact no UV publicity.


  • Sanitation is the most important potential subject right here. Communal jars of powder could also be used for a number of individuals, which might develop into a reservoir for micro organism, fungi, and viruses.
  • Harsh elimination course of just like that of gel, typically with use of an electrical file, can injury the nail plate and cuticle.

The decision: Except a salon is transferring the powder into smaller, particular person containers for every consumer, or utilizing a clear brush to use the powder, we advocate avoiding one of these manicure.

Observe us on Twitter @KristinaLiuMD and @JanelleNassim

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