What Happens To Your Body 10 Hours After You Apply Nail Polish

nail polish

Take a look at your hands, what do they look like?

If you’re a woman, your fingernails are probably painted with nail polish.

In many career environments and social circles, nail polish is seen as an essential part of proper hygiene and presentation. But this social expectation has serious health effects.

A new study conducted by Duke University and the Environmental Working Group and published in Environment International found that chemicals in nail polish can enter the bloodstream in noticeable amounts within as little as two hours of application.

The study examined the urine samples of 24 women for diphenyl phosphate or DPHP, which forms when the body metabolizes triphenyl phosphate TPHP, a chemical toxin found in nearly every person on earth. Within 10-14 hours of nail polish application, serum levels of DPHP had increased by nearly sevenfold.

The chemicals can contribute towards infertility, hormone-related cancers like breast and ovarian cancer, prostate conditions, thyroid disorders, neurological issues, diabetes, and even obesity.

Nails aren’t permeable to most molecules, but TPHP could be absorbed into the cuticle or around the nail, says Johanna Congleton, a senior scientist with EWG who also worked on the study.

They also make their way into the bloodstream after being inhaled (in the case of being in a closed room or nail salon during application) or being ingested (by nail-biting).

It is very troubling that nail polish being marketed to women and teenage girls contains a suspected endocrine disruptor, says Johanna Congleton, Ph.D., MSPH, and co-author of the study. It is even more troubling to learn that their bodies absorb this chemical relatively quickly after they apply a coat of polish.

Although the chemical isn’t a necessary ingredient, it functions as a plasticizer in nail polish to increase its flexibility and durability.

After the initial study, the same group of researchers examined 10 different nail polishes for triphenyl phosphate and discovered the chemical in 8 of the samples tested.

Two of the polishes that tested positively for the chemical did not disclose it on their product label.

These brands were easily available in drug stores and beauty shops throughout North America.

Other chemicals in nail polish

Here are just a few chemicals routinely found in nail polish and other nail products:


Toluene is a clear solvent often used in paint thinners, adhesives, fingernail polish, and gasoline; it evaporates rapidly from these materials and becomes mixed with the air you breathe. Toluene has also been found in breast milk after the mother has been exposed.

A serious health concern is that toluene may have an effect on your nervous system (brain and nerves) causing:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Unconsciousness

Dibutyl phthalate

Dibutyl phthalate is an alternative some nail polish brands use instead of TPHP, but it is absolutely just as dangerous. Dibutyl phthalate causes these health risks:

  • Hormonal disruption
  • Irregular reproductive organ growth
  • Reproductive system toxicity


Have you ever noticed that string unbearable smell of nail polish? Well, that’s formaldehyde. It is a known carcinogen that dissolves into the air and is well known for being in embalming fluid as a form of preserving the body. exposure to formaldehyde can lead to:

  • Asthma
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sore throat
  • Increased heart rate
  • Fainting
  • Burning of the eyes

One main problem with continuing to use nail polish is that labeling doesn’t necessarily reflect the contents of the polish. A study has found that even toxin-free nail polish may have high levels of these toxic chemicals.

Here are a few brands to avoid that contain Triphenyl phosphate:

  • Sally Hansen
  • Essie
  • OPI
  • butter LONDON**
  • Revlon
  • Milani
  • Wet N Wild
  • SpaRitual
  • Orly
  • theBalm
  • Nuance by Salma Hayek
  • Maybelline
  • Beauty Without Cruelty

Natural polish alternatives

Sadly, natural or organic nail polish does not exist. It’s simply one of those things where you must choose if it’s worth putting something unnatural on your body for beauty purposes. Of course, there are brands that do not contain the toxins listed above, but their ingredients are still less than pleasant.

Here’s a small list of some nail polish companies that avoid using triphenyl phosphate, toluene, formaldehyde and dibutyl phthalate:

Honeybee Gardens

  • Water-based
  • No alcohol
  • No traces of harmful chemicals


  • Water-based
  • Over 50 colors
  • Doesn’t contain harmful chemicals


  • Vegan
  • Free of the toxins listed

Peacekeeper Cause-Medics

  • Toxin-free
  • Infused with argan oil







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