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Beware: Nail Damage from Gel Polish Manicure

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    • #79650

      Nail polish goes back to China about 5,000 years ago with royalty using black and red polish. It enjoys a long history; however, most nail polish technology depends on egg whites, vegetable dyes, and beeswax along with a great deal of buffing. In the modern laboratory, nail polish contains chemicals and the recent addition of photo-initiated polymerization. Many women like the idea of long-lasting, beautiful gels. Some manufacturers have added DBP [dibutylphthalate], toluene, and formaldehyde [neurotoxin] in regular polish. I am sure you already can see where this is going. These toxic substances are absorbed through the nail bed and exposed cuticles. DBP is a toxin while toluene is a solvent and compound used in paints and lacquers, and can cause kidney failure, liver and biliary duct damage. YIKES!

      The nail polish industry is turning to triphenylphosphate or TPHP, a chemical used in plastics to increase flexibility. Studies show that TPHP is an endocrine interruptor so may interfere with hormones, and interfere with DNA repair. Manicures can result in nail damage: nail weakness, brittleness, and thinning. In a small study of five subjects, Chen et al reported that ultrasound and reflectance confocal microscopy (RCM) measurements of nail plate before and after the gel polish application, which showed thinned nail plate (0.063 vs. 0.050 cm and 0.059 vs. 0.030 cm, respectively). Overall, we call attention to the adverse effects of gel polish manicures. This is just a preview of what is in a beauty product that most people take for granted.


      Reference: J Cosmet Dermatol, 2012;11:27
      Andrea F Chen MD,, Stacy M Chimento MD,, Shasa Hu MD,, Margaret Sanchez MD,, Martin Zaiac MD,, and Antonella Tosti MD. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. Nail Damage from Gel Polish Manicure. Volume 11, Issue 1, pages 27-29, March 2012.

    • #79772
      Lisa Baker

      Thank you Jean for your posting on the dangerous chemicals found in nail polish. While this may not be an educational topic, it is one that we must look at closely. What I find startling is the amount of chemicals found not only in nail polish but in makeup in general.
      In a recent article from TIME magazine entitled “The Hidden Dangers of Makeup and Shampoo” (, it outlines the increase in concerns and complaints regarding the adverse effects of cosmetics. The cosmetics industry represents a nearly $265 Billion dollar industry yet only $13 million has been spent to regulate and monitor the materials in these products.
      What is even more shocking is the amount of toxic chemicals found in makeup targeted at children. Halloween and play makeup is not regulated as strictly as adult cosmetics. In a shocking study described the article “Toxic chemicals found in children’s Halloween makeup – study” ( , it was found that several pallets of makeup not only contained several toxic chemicals but many included heavy metals like lead. This is especially true for the darker pigments so popular at Halloween. Lead is known to cause a host of learning and developmental problems. The FDA does not routinely regulate makeup for children.
      As a mother of a daughter with rather sensitive skin, I can speak to ill effects of these play makeup pallets. Like a lot of little girls, by daughter received a play make up pallet for Christmas to use when she played dress up. I started to notice that she would develop very red, puffy eyes every time she played with the set. The packaging only gave a listing of dyes and mineral oil. There was never a listing of anything harmful. Fortunately I discovered a brand of toxic free makeup that we now use. Awareness is the first step in solving any problem. While we may not be able to stop these harmful products from being produced, at least we can become more aware of the dangers. Thank you Jean for your post.

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