General Health, Health and Wellness

Nail Polish Is Bad for You: Here’s Why

14 Comments 15 November 2013

NailPolish_300Yes, ladies, those fumes are toxic, so think twice before changing your polish several times a week. Plus, a warning about your polish remover from Michael F. Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet C. Oz, M.D., authors of YOU: The Owner’s Manual for Teens: A Guide to a Healthy Body and Happy Life.

Nail polish is likely the most toxic cosmetic there is. Polish includes poisonous substances such as formaldehyde, phthalates, acetone, toluene, and benzophenones. Phthalates, solvents for colors, are toxic to the nervous system; acetone and toluene, which keep the color in liquid form, evaporate quickly and fill the air with noxious fumes, putting your respiratory system at risk. The other substance we fingered, benzophenones, may cause cancer.

If you apply polish in adequately ventilated rooms, it’s probably okay, but surely you shouldn’t be changing your polish several times a week, as some teens are known to do.

Also, don’t use nail polish remover more than twice a month. Instead touch up the polish. When you do need a remover, avoid those containing acetone, which dries nails and is seriously bad for you. We know you’ll roll your eyes, but acetone is so toxic to your eyes, nerves, and lungs that it’s a good idea to go to the Home Depot and find one of those air filters that will protect your lungs and brain if you use it. Repair splits or tears with nail glue or clear polish.

YOU: The Owner’s Manual for Teens

YOU: The Owner’s Manual for Teens

Dr. Oz


Mehmet C. Oz, M.D., is also a New York Times #1 bestselling author and Emmy-award winning host of The Dr. Oz Show. He is professor and vice chairman of surgery at New York Presbyterian-Columbia University and the director of the Heart Institute. He currently lives in Cliffside Park, New Jersey.

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  • Ashli

    This is why most polish bloggers buy polishes that are listed as “Big 3 Free.” We don’t want that crap in our bodies, and very few companies still use formaldehyde, toluene and dibutyl phthalate (DBP). Look for labels that list that their product is “Big 3 Free,” like OPI, China Glaze, Butter London, Revlon, and Nubar. (Some companies are still rotating out the old formulas with new ones, so be sure to check the labels.)

  • kojala

    We love Zoya, too–it comes in great colors and lasts longer than regular polish in our experience.

  • nail polish

    Repair splits or tears with nail glue or clear polish..great advice thanks.

  • indigo bird

    Surely the toxins seep through the nail bed and into the system, no? I walk away from this article with the notion that nail polish is o.k. as long as applied in a well ventilated atmosphere. Are we better off avoiding the stuff completely?

  • buttermilk

    This article was well written and informative but the picture of the beautiful nailed hands in glamorous red made me want to run and paint my nails no matter the cost! …Although thanks to the comments I will now be looking for the “Big 3 Free”.

  • Ottie

    i’m sure there’s other toxic substances in the ones that even avoid the big 3

  • lori

    Please note that OPI nail polishes DO contain formaldehyde. I am very allergic to formaldehyde and have tried to find OPI nail polishes that do not contain it and so far have been unable to. Also, Revlon has A SMALL SECTION of nail polishes that are formaldehyde free. You must read the itsy, bitsy, tiny label (I usually have to find someone younger than 30-years-old to help me! Even with my readers on I cannot read that small of print)!
    Also, if you are not used to formaldehyde free nail polish you need to know that they do not stay on as long as the others. However, for the safety of your nails, it is well worth it.

    My favorite formaldehyde free nail polish are those made by Butter. They have the largest variety of color and all of theirs are formaldehyde free so you don’t have to have someone with 20/10 vision read the label :-).

  • Kristy

    Hi Lori, Thank you for sharing your tips. We are big fans of Butter as well! Gorgeous colors. I personally have avoided OPI for years–it’s poor quality, chips easily, and is chock full of toxins. I’m a Zoya girl but am also going to try RGB and Honeybee. By the time they wear off, it’s fun to find a new color anyway.
    Be well,

  • Sarah

    Agreed! Jamberry Nails nail lacquer is 5 free. Free of DBP, Toluene, camphor FORMALDEHYDE and FORMALDEHYDE RESIN. Give it a try!

  • Sarah

    And our Jamberry nail wraps don’t contain any of those toxins, are gluten free, latex free and no dry time or smell.

  • http://tipsonhealthyliving Avery

    Sorry to say check out the ingredients that remain, there is no safe nail polish No Polish is the only safe polish!!!:/

  • http://tipsonhealthyliving Avery

    I read the vinyl nail wrap when heated causes toxic fumes and phthalates in thejamberry nails:(

  • Sarah

    Nope! No fumes at all. Not when cold or heated.

  • Kathleen

    I recently purchased a new “sparkly” polish and after about one week of wearing it, my joints and muscles became very achy. I just couldn’t feel better, no matter how much I rested. I was nauseated, lost my appetite, and finally realized that the only thing I had done differently was the nail polish (on my toes). I removed it, buffed my nails, showered and will see if I start feeling better…sounds crazy, but you never know what you’re putting on/into your body these days. Anyone else experience this?


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