Study Finds That Your Nail Polish May Be Damaging Your Body

Study Finds That Your Nail Polish May Be Damaging Your Body

Jamaica Bravo

That fabulously gorgeous nail polish that we all know, love and put on our nails almost daily might actually be affecting our health, according to a new study from Duke University. Researchers from the university’s Environmental Working Group found endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the urine of the participants in their study, all of whom regularly got manicures with very particular brands of nail polish.

The scientific name for the chemical in question, triphenyl phosphate, also abbreviated as TPHP or TPP, is apparently found in most nail polishes. But that’s not the only place it’s found! It’s also used in plastics manufacturing and as a fire retardant in foam furniture, and researchers say it is likely being added to nail polish as a plasticizer to make the polishes more flexible and durable.

Typically, human nails are hardy enough that most molecules don’t permeate them, but the Duke team has theorized that other ingredients, like solvents, in the polish make the nails more absorbent, and that the network of capillaries in the cuticle around the nail might also be able to absorb the chemical. A great deal of recent studies conducted all over the world have shown that TPHP can cause endocrine disruption, which means it interferes with your body’s normal hormone functioning.  



The group from Duke University tested 10 different nail polishes with their female participants and found TPHP in eight of them. They did so by first collecting initial urine samples before any nail polish had been applied, finding a low level of only 1% of TPHP in the women’s urine. Then, the women were asked to put on gloves and apply the polish to synthetic nails. As expected, this resulted in no change, meaning artificial nails are a promising alternative so far.

But, next, researchers had the ladies apply the nail polish directly to their own natural nails, without wearing gloves to protect the surrounding skin, and found that the biomarker of the chemical, diphenyl phosphate (DPHP), which is created when your body metabolizes the dreaded TPHP we’re talking about, increased dramatically!



After further investigation of more brands of nail polish, the Environmental Working Group study found that half of the 3,000 nail polishes compiled in EWG’s Skin Deep database disclose that they contain TPHP, but that aside from the EWG, few, if any, companies disclose this ingredient on their labels.

In the most recent animal studies conducted around the world, TPHP AND DPHP have been found to cause reproductive and developmental irregularities. Some research is even beginning to show that TPHP interacts with a protein in your body that is absolutely vital for your body’s ability to regulate metabolism and production of fat cells. According to, “Scientists are conducting more investigations to discover whether, in fact, TPHP contributes to weight gain and obesity.”

If this news is as disconcerting to you, as it is to us, you may want to stop buying those drugstore nail polishes, and for now at least opt instead for acryllic nails. Just be sure to request that whoever does your nails for you, puts a layer of something protective over your cuticles.

For more information, or if you’d like to take action in urging nail polish brands to remove TPHP from their products, visit

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