Is Nail Polish Bad for Your Nails?

Is nail polish bad for your nails? This is a frequent question by those who recently had a manicure removed.

Have you ever looked at your nails and wondered why they may be dry, cracked, and brittle after polish removal? 

Nail polish can feel a little like we’re wearing armor. The polish can help your nails to feel strengthened and nourished, thus resulting in longer nails.

But, how much do we know about the effects of nail polish? Can it cause nail damage over time, or is something else causing your nails to become brittle?


Does Nail Polish Damage Your Nails?

If your are regularly wearing nail polish, you probably want to know if nail polish is toxic.

For the most part, nail polish isn’t bad for your nails. However, there are some instances where nail polish can damage your nails. It all comes down to the ingredients in the nail polish that you’re using.

Non-toxic nail polish won’t cause any damage to your nails. Many of these nail polishes have vitamins and oils that aid nail health. 

is nail polish good for your nails

Are there any benefits of nail polish? Again, this comes down to the ingredients in the polish. If you are using a nourishing, vitamin rich polish, there can be a number of benefits. 

ORLY has many treatment polishes that can aid your nails in strength, growth and overall health. Our Nailtrition polish is designed to treat nail damage from gel and acrylics.

Our Tough Cookie polish contains African Okoume Extract. It will help with dry and brittle nails.

does nail polish damage nails

Most nail damage is caused by other factors. Even your diet can play a vital role in the health of your nails. If you’re lacking certain vitamins and minerals, your nails may suffer.

Causes of Nail Damage

Vitamin and Mineral Deficiency

You are what you eat and diet can play a huge role in the health of your skin, hair, and nails. 

When it to comes nails, there are a few key vitamins that we need. 

If you have ridges along the nail bed, then you may have a B-complex deficiency. Biotin is one of the most important B-complex vitamins. It encourages healthy cell growth and aids protein-building amino acids. 

Dry and brittle nails? You may have a calcium deficiency. Are your nails cracking? You may need more dietary essential oils like omega-3. Remember to consult your doctor before adding vitamins to your routine. 

Toxic Nail Polish Ingredients

There are toxic nail polish ingredients that you should avoid. For most people, it’s not a habit to read the label on a nail polish bottle. The color is usually the deciding factor.

But reading the label on your polish can help you avoid any toxic ingredients. 

3 nail polish ingredients that should be avoided:

  • Formaldehyde: it’s used as a sterilizer, preservative, and embalmer. That should tell you just how toxic it is for your health.
  • Toluene: this has been linked to headaches, nausea, and dizziness. In severe cases, it can cause fetal defects in pregnant women that were overly exposed.
  • Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP): this ingredient has been linked to fertility issues. It disrupts the normal function of reproductive hormones. 

These 3 have been banned by the EU and gradually discontinued in the US. The problem is that some nail polishes that are in stores may still have these ingredients.

Check the label before using a nail polish. 

At Orly, we don’t use any of these toxic ingredients.

Gel and Acrylic Nails

Nail damage from gel polish has been a bit of a sore point for a lot of people. Some swear that gel and acrylics don’t cause nail damage and others insist that they do.

The gel and acrylics themselves don’t usually cause damage. It’s the application and removal processes that can damage the nail bed. 

During the application process, the nails are buffed. Over buffing will thin the nails and damage the nail bed. 

During the removal process, the nails are soaked in acetone. This further weakens the already damaged nails. 

To avoid any nail damage, don’t overbuff your nails. The acetone won’t cause much damage unless the nails are thin from too much buffing. 

nail damage from polish

After the removal, use a hydrating creme for your hands and nails.  


Acetone is a harsh and powerful chemical that will dry your nails and skin. 

Inhaling acetone can even damage the nasal passage. It’s why you should only use it in a well-ventilated room. 

There are even special rules for how to dispose of it because it’s a fire hazard. 

So yes, acetone is bad. If you have gel or acrylic nails, removing them at home isn’t safe if you are not experienced. Nail techs are trained to use acetone. 

It would be best to avoid acetone-based remover as well. Choose a remover that says ‘acetone free’ or ‘non-acetone’. 

These removers work the same, but with less risk.

Chipping the Nail Polish Off

We’ve all done this at some point. Your manicure has begun peeling and chipping and you decide to help it along. 

The problem is that chipping off the polish with your nails causes damage. You may end up stripping a layer of the nail too. 

As tempting as it is to scrape off the polish, it is best to use a remover instead.

Nail Biting

Let’s be honest, this is an awful habit. But we understand, habits can be hard to break. 

We use our hands all day, everyday, for everything. Even if we could wash them every few minutes, biting your nails transfers bacteria that can make you sick, or can be fatal.

Biting your nails to the quick and the skin around the nailbed can cause bleeding and even worse, infection. It's best to break this habit to keep yourself safe and healthy.

Here is more on why you shouldn't bite your nails. 

How to Help Weak Nails

If your nails are weak then you need a change. Here are a few ideas that can help you strengthen your nails:

does nail polish weaken nails

nail damage from nail polish

  • Take a 2-week break between manicures
  • Don’t overfile or overbuff your nails
  • Add more protein and biotin to your diet. 
  • Switch to an acetone-free nail polish remover
  • Don’t scrape your nail polish off
  • Don't bite your nails
  • Avoid toxic nail polish ingredients

You might need to use more than one of these, but it’s worth it for healthier nails and a healthier you. 

Final Note

Is nail polish bad for nails? Ordinarily, no, it’s not. 

But, do nails need a break from polish? Yes, it’s still a good idea to take a 2-week break from nail polish. 

is nail polish bad for nails

This includes gel and acrylic nails. If moisture gets trapped between the manicure and the nail, you could get a fungal infection. If you have a fungal infection, our Fungus MD will take care of it.

The nail polish itself isn't necessarily bad for your nails. As long as you avoid any toxic ingredients and picking it off without a remover, then nail polish won’t damage your nails. 


Did you enjoy reading our blog? Then consider checking other guides: