Guys. You know how you like to paint a fresh coat of polish on your nails every once in awhile because it feels fresh and fun and you just feel like it? Or you treat yourself and get a mani-pedi, and it’s luxurious and perfect and just what you needed? Well, we have some bummer news about that nail polish you’re most likely using. A recent study suggests that a lot of popular nail polish brands contain a certain chemical that could be totally messing with your hormones.
You may be thinking, duh, of COURSE nail polish has toxic chemicals, but it’s not like I’m eating the polish. However, according to research conducted by researchers at Duke University and the Environmental Working Group, the chemical we’re giving the side-eye is called triphenyl phosphate, or TPHP. . . and it could be leaching into your body.
TPHP functions as a fire retardant in furniture and is often used in plastic goods. It’s also in many brands of nail polish, and it makes the nail polish flexible-yet-durable. Unfortunately, this may come at a cost. The study published in Environmental International found that women who painted their nails with the aforementioned brands had seven times more of a TPHP metabolite (the substances that forms TPHP is metabolized in the body) just 10 to 14 hours after they painted them. Gulp.
It’s also important to note that it’s not because of fumes from the nail polish; women in the study who wore gloves while applying polish to synthetic gloves didn’t see an increase, while women who applied it directly to their nails did. This suggests that the chemical is being absorbed through the nail or the cuticle.
So what happens when TPHP is in the body? It can mess up your body’s hormone regulation, metabolism, and even reproductive systems. Essentially, it’s an endocrine disruptor, which means it could play a role in infertility, hormone-related cancers, thyroid issues, obesity, neurological issues, and more. “It is very troubling that nail polish being marketed to women and teenage girls contains a suspected endocrine disruptor,” said Johanna Congleton, a co-author of the study, in a press release. “It is even more troubling to learn that their bodies absorb this chemical relatively quickly after they apply a coat of polish.”
The study was quite small with only 26 women, but 24 of the 26 had the highly elevated levels of the TPHP metabolite in their body. “We don’t have a lot of human data, but the scarce data that we do have indicates that it might disrupt the endocrine system,” Congleton said in the release.
And if you use a base coat, top coat, or both, it could be even worse. “As clear nail polishes are often used as a base coat or top coat, some individuals may be simultaneously exposed to TPHP in both colored polish and clear polish,” the study read.
Unfortunately, this affects quite a few well-known brands we all know and love: Sally Hansen, Essie, OPI, Revlon, Milani, Beauty Without Cruelty, and Maybelline, just to name a few. You can see a full list of the affected polishes here — although several brands that didn’t claim to have TPHP listed as an ingredient also didn’t fair well during the study, so researchers believe they are underestimating the number of brands that contain it.
Naturally, more research will have to be done to determine if nail polish and TPHP truly poses a threat to our bodies. However, these results suggest that there’s something nail polish companies majorly need to change before we can get our next cute mani-pedi.
(Image via iStock)