Is Nail Polish Bad for Your Nails?

I love painting my nails as much as the next person, but have you ever looked at the ingredients of your nail polish and what goes into them? If not, you may want to start now as some of them are pretty frightening and can be harmful to your health. This definitely poses the question of ‘is nail polish bad for your nails then?’ 

With so many types of nail polishes available on the market, this can be a tough question to answer. Below I will breakdown various types of nail polishes and their effects on the nail so you can be better informed the next time you’re looking to get your nails done.

Chemicals in Nail Polish 

When it comes to chemicals in personal care products, only about 11% have been checked for safety, due to the fact that the FDA requires proof of harm in order for regulations to be put into place. As a result, many polishes contain a bunch of chemicals such as formaldehyde, butyl acetate, and heptane to name a few. While most of the chemicals found in nail polish are not harmful, some of them can be hazardous to your health. 

The main ones you have to watch out for are:

  • Dibutyl phthalate: a plasticizer used to make products more flexible 
  • Toluene: a paint thinner used to allow for even color suspension 
  • Formaldehyde: A carcinogen used as a hardening agent. 

Your nail cells can be damaged with frequent or prolonged exposure to these chemicals, so if you’re wondering ‘is nail polish bad for your nails?’ it is if it has these chemicals in it.

Traditional Nail Polish 

woman in gray sweater holding cigarette stick

Traditional nail polish is the one most people are familiar with, where you paint in onto the nail and then air dry it. It is basically a lacquer where the ingredients have been refined to protect nails from drying out and cracking. It is the most common and accessible kind of nail polish on the market. 

Traditional nail polish can be easily removed with an acetone-based nail polish remover. Acetone can be drying to the nails and cuticles so it’s best to keep its use to a minimum. 

When choosing a traditional nail polish, it would be best if you found one that is ‘5-free’, meaning that it is free of the 5 known carcinogens (formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate, toluene, formaldehyde resin and camphor). Many brands today have eliminated these toxic chemicals from their nail polishes. Some brands worth checking out are:

  • Zoya 
  • Aila
  • LVX

Gel Polish

Nails, Makeup, Manicure, Girl, Female

Gel polish is painted on the nail and then cured under a UV lamp which dries and hardens the polish. Curing is a chemical process in which a chain reaction creates heat and allows the gel to set and harden. Then when the gel sets, there is a residual sticky layer on top that is removed with a lint-free cloth. 

Unfortunately, most curing lamps emit ultraviolet light, which is a known cause of cellular damage and ageing. So when keeping that in mind, getting gel nails done frequently is not the best idea as it increases your exposure to UV light. 

While gel polish itself isn’t harmful for your nails, the removal process of gel nails/polish can be quite destructive to the nails. Removal includes soaking your nails in acetone for a long period of time as well as buffing, scraping and peeling of the nail polish which can damage your nail plate.

Powder Dip Polish 

dip powder

Dip powders consist of a glue type liquid and a powder that hardens as it hits the air, leaving a long-lasting color on your nails. You just have to dip your nails into a colored powder of your choice, and then seal it off with a top coat of polish. The result can last up to 2-4 weeks. 

This is a great alternative to gel polish as there is no need for UV light to cure or dry the polish therefore, there is no risk of you being exposed to UV light. There is also no smell with this product, unike with gel polish, which can have a strong pungent smell. 

So, is powder dip nail polish bad for your nails? Not really. The only problems associated with this method of nail polish is sanitation. The jars of powder may be used for multiple people, and would eventually become infected with bacteria and fungi. Also, the removal of this kind of nail polish is similar to that of gel. It can be aggressive and can damage the nail plate and your cuticles. 

Breathable Nail Polish 

orly, orly nail polish

Breathable nail polish is made of a special formula that allows water and oxygen to pass through to the nail. The molecules in breathable nail polish are spaced apart compared to traditional nail polishes that have a tight molecular structure. 

When comparing breathable nail polish with all the different types of polishes mentioned above, it is one of the best options for your nails. You can still achieve long-lasting manicures with breathable nail polish and it does not damage your nails as water and oxygen can still reach it. The removal process is also not aggressive and the polish can easily be removed with acetone. 

Some breathable nail polishes I recommend checking out are:

Peel-Off Nail Polish 

peel off nail polish

Peel-of nail polish is a water-based polish that can be easily pulled off from the nail, giving it its name ‘peel-off polish’. It is healthier and better for your nails since you can easily remove it without acetone, therefore not drying out your nail plate. 

Peel-off nail polish also comes without many toxic chemicals that you may find in traditional nail polishes, making it one of the best choices out of this list.


What do you think?