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You are watching: What happens when you eat nail polish



No, I’m not about to launch into a tale of My Stvariety Addiction proparts. I’m simply a chronic nail biter (in psychiatry terms, an onychophagic) who freshly realized the polish I’ve been chipping amethod at while gnawing my fingernails down to lil’ nubs is basically glorified plastic. Well, plastic blended with a cocktail of equally unappetizing chemicals. That I’ve been inadvertently ingesting. For years.

This isn’t brand-new information—of course the smooth, shiny sheen and tough-but-functional finish of polish comes courtesy of plasticizers. And in a lot of situations, coating your nails in colored polymers poses about zero health and wellness threats. But coating your digestive tract in them? The believed of my already-sensitive stomach lined with microscopic plastic pshort articles scared me so much, I stopped nail biting cold turkey. (What can I say? My overwhelming tension makes me carry out nonsensical things… like, uh, cexactly how dvery own on my fingernails in the first place.)

I know this sounds over-the-height. I know this sounds unnecessary. Craving validation, I got to out to the experts: Kelly Dobos, a cosmetic chemist who actually formulates nail lacquer, and also Shel Pink, the founder of SPARITUAL’s vegan, 12-cost-free polish. Their understanding, sadly, confirmed my suspicions—and never aacquire shall my teeth and also my nails satisfy.

“Nail polish is comprised of five important classes of ingredients: film formers, plasticizers, solvents, suspension agents, and colorants,” Dobos tells steustatiushistory.org. A single bottle of nail polish have the right to contain as much as 50 individual chemicals within these categories—which makes sense. Nail polish demands to execute many things. “It have to apply conveniently, dry conveniently, and rerelocate conveniently,” Dobos says. “And unprefer any kind of various other cosmetic, nail polish should wear for days, despite being based on many physical and also chemical insults.” Honestly, those are pretty high expectations. I kinda feel negative for the negative little polish formulas.

Nail lacquer provided to contain some super sketchy ingredients in order to accomplish these standards—the sketchiest of which are now known as “the Toxic Three.”



“The ‘Toxic Three’—formaldehyde, toluene, and also dibutyl phthalate or DPB—are all provided on Proplace 65, a list of ingredients well-known to the state of California to cause cancer or refertile toxicity,” Pink shares. “’Formaldehyde’ is not typically provided in nail polish bereason it is a gas—what has been supplied is formaldehyde resin, which can provide off formaldehyde under heated conditions,” she states. Thankcompletely, carcinogenic formaldehyde resin isn’t commonly checked out in polish anymore, although it is a listed ingredient in Essie Nail Polish. (Eek!)

Toluene and also DPB have actually additionally been phased out of the industry for the most part, and for good factor. Both are attached to developmental and also refertile toxicity, and also in some instances, birth defects. (So, yeah, not the kind of chemicals you desire to sink your teeth right into.) “Today, tright here are many alternatives to formaldehyde resin, like toluenesulfonamide/epoxy resin, polyester resins, and also acrylate/methacrylate copolymers,” Dobos describes. “Toluene has been replaced with other solvents, prefer butyl acetate or ethyl acetate, and also DPB usage likely missing this particular day.”

The Toxic Three aren’t the only unsavory ingredients at your fingertips, though—hence, the rise of “5-free” and also “10-free” (and eincredibly number in between) nail assets.

SPARITUAL, for one, is 12-cost-free. “Our Nourishing Vegan Color formula is formulated without DBP, toluene, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, camphor, TPP, MEHQ/HQ, gluten, parabens, ethyl tosylamide, xylene, MIT, or animal-acquired ingredients,” Pink defines, noting that she’s not attached to a certain “complimentary from” number. “For us it’s around transparency and being responsive to our consumer’s comes to.” Over the years, as more clinical research on safety emerges, SPARITUAL’s ingredient list has actually advanced. The same have the right to be shelp for Orly (12-free), Orosa (14-free), AILA Cosmetics (15-free), J. Hannah (8-free), Olive & June (7-free), and also even more.

But while modern mani formulas may be better for your in its entirety health and wellness, they’re not necessarily much better for biters…because it’s pretty much impossible to develop a nail product complimentary from plastic pwrite-ups.


Obviously, tbelow haven’t been any studies done on what happens once you, uh, eat nail polish. Probably because everyone knows you are not supposed to eat nail polish. I repeat: You are not intended to eat nail polish. But what happens once you—and by “you,” I expect “I”—do?

“When researchers from Johns Hopkins looked at the influence of eating seafood contaminated with microplastics, they found the collected plastic could damage the immune device and also upset a gut’s balance,” reports National Geographic. “In 2017, a examine out of King’s College in London hypothesized that, over time, the cumulative impact of ingesting plastic could be toxic.” True, people frequently ingest microplastics through water, seafood, and also also the air we breathe—however am I about to knowingly include to that toxic fill with my onychophagic tendencies? No, many thanks.

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Besides, the worry via ingesting polish doesn’t begin and also speak via plasticizers—colorants are problematic, too. “The colorants used in cosmetics are very regulated in many type of countries,” states Dobos. “Some colorants, favor ultramarines, deserve to be provided in nail colors however are not allowed in lip products as a result of safety comes to over feasible ingestion.”

As a self-defined synthetic-chemical-averse clean beauty freak, that’s all I have to understand. Nail biting, bye!

Side note: I’ve never before been happier that gel nail polish is too tough for my teeth. Gel formulas generally contain every one of the over, plus “photoinitiators“—favor azobisisobutyronitril, benzoyl peroxide, and camphorquinone—that harden under UV light lamps, in addition to HEMA and di-hema trimethylhexyl dicarbamate, both of which have actually been connected through tumor development. Side side note: In simply 10 minutes under those gel lamps, “a person’s hands get an energy dose indistinguishable to the day-lengthy recommended limit for outdoor employees,” according to the Journal of Amerihave the right to Academy of Dermatology. In other words, skin cancer is a legit concern over time. Don’t skip the pre-mani SPF, gel aficionados.

Pink’s last item of advice could be simply the inspiration you require. “Whether you have actually nail polish on or not, it is a health issue to bite your nails, more so due to the dirt that collects under the nail and the surfaces your fingertips are poignant,” the professional states. “So everyone that bites your nails, stop doing it.”