Nail Polish & Acrylics

  |  Reviewed by Kristina Collins, M.D., FAAD

Nail polish is a common way that people decorate their nails. There are several types of polish techniques, with variable risks for nail health. Often the more that is done to decorate and modify the nails, the more damage results.

Traditional nail polish does not last long and is easily removed with acetone-based nail polish remover. The acetone in the remover is drying and damaging to the nails and the darker nail polishes can discolor the nails, so it is best to give your nails breaks from polish. There are also some concerns about the toxic nature of some of the main components of nail polish and whether these harmful ingredients can be absorbed into the body.

“Non-toxic” nail polish does not contain ingredients like formaldehyde, toluene, dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde resin, or camphor. These toxic ingredients found in traditional nail polishes may have negative health effects and can also cause a type of allergic rash called contact dermatitis. The newer, “cleaner” polishes may provide a safer alternative to traditional polish.

Gel polish uses UV light to make a special type of polish undergo chemical changes that cause the color to last for much longer. Buffing the nails prior to putting the gel color on the nails can leave nails brittle and damaged. The removal process is also destructive to nails. This type of manicure is best done intermittently at most, but is unlikely to cause major damage when used for special occasions only.

Powder dip polish and some press-on nails involve the use of a bonding glue, acrylic powder, and an activator. This type of manicure causes extreme damage and is best avoided completely.