Is Nail Polish Toxic?

Nail polish is made out of chemicals, so there is always the risk that some may use toxic substances. This begs the question: is nail polish toxic?

People have become more and more conscious about what to use on their bodies, and what effect products might have based on the ingredients used to make them. This enables you to ensure that you are not unknowingly using harmful products, such as certain types or brands of nail polish.

We look at whether nail polish is toxic, and which is the safest brand to use, to help keep your nails and body clean from harmful toxins. 

What This Article Covers:

Is Nail Polish Toxic? 

Nail polish can be bad for your nails and toxic, but it depends on the brand that you use. 

Some brands still use harmful chemicals to make their products, while others, like us, have innovated to create products just as good, without the toxic ingredients. 

It is always important to carefully check the nail polish ingredients on the bottle, to know which to buy and which to avoid. Two harmful chemicals that you need to avoid are Formaldehyde and Toluene.


The first harmful chemical is Toluene, which can be found in many nail products. 

Some of the effects that Toluene might cause are sleep difficulty, fatigue, and numbness in the feet and/or hands. More serious effects can show, such as damage to females’ reproductive systems. 

In some instances, it could even cause kidney and liver issues if ingested.


Formaldehyde is the second common substance that can be found in many nail polishes. 

Harmful effects of this include damage to the eyes and skin, and long-term effects can be damage to the nervous and respiratory systems and cancer. 

How Nail Polish Does Damage

The toxic chemicals in nail polish can get into your bloodstream through contact with your skin, like when you mistakenly paint outside the nail, but can also enter through your nails. 

What happens when you eat nail polish? A way it can enter your body is when your fingers make contact with your mouth, either when eating or by accident, and this will result in the chemicals being ingested. 

is nail polish bad for you

This is further worsened if you bite your nails, or use your teeth to chip off the polish, yet another reason why it is bad to bite your nails

This is not only the case when the polish is still wet - dry nail polish is just as risky. 

If you think about painting your nails, you might recall a strong alcohol smell that wafts around during the process. These fumes often indicate the strength of these chemicals, and just smelling them can lead to damage. Consider this when at a salon getting it done professionally, as the fumes can be even stronger in these environments. 

Environmental Impact 

Aside from the effects that nail polish chemicals can have on the body, there is also the environmental impact to consider. 

The most prevalent and direct effect is the disposal of these products. We’ve all done it: the bottle of nail polish that we’ve had for over three years is half-used by dried up, so we chuck it into the bin without a second thought. 

But, the chemicals in many nail polish technically make this hazardous waste. Generally, this type of waste should not be disposed of with the general rubbish but instead done separately and in a particular manner. Sadly, many are not aware of this, and therefore bin their nail polish as normal. 

Disposing of nail polish this way can have a detrimental effect on aquatic life, land animals, and nature. It can also have an effect on human living and health in areas located close to dumping sites. 

To dispose of nail polish in a safe and non-hazardous way, the best option is to take it to a local hazardous waste disposal, where they will take care of it safely. 

Alternatively, if you have a small amount of polish left in the bottle, you can empty the contents in a piece of newspaper and leave it to dry, and leave the actual bottle open for the remnants to dry, too. Once completely dried, you can dispose of the bottle and newspaper with your general waste. 

Non-Toxic Nail Polish

Despite many nail polish brands not doing away with chemical substances, all hope is not lost. 

At OrlyBeauty, we produce the best of the best when it comes to natural nail polish that is free of any harmful chemicals. 

is there formaldehyde in nail polish

We endeavor to create and innovate, with endless options of various colors and styles of nail polish to choose from. 

The products contain none of the harmful chemicals found in many other nail polish brands’ products, allowing you to focus on the benefits of nail polish.

The elimination of these chemicals does not compromise the look and quality of the product. It has a professional manicure look and feel, and stays on the nails for ages. 

Our nail polish is also vegan, making it the ideal choice for anyone and everyone regardless of lifestyle and habits. 

Finally, we are Leaping Bunny Certified. This means that, unlike many other cosmetic brands, the products are not tested on animals. 

How to Keep Nails Safe and Healthy

Your nails need care and maintenance to stay as healthy, and safe from harm, as possible. 

Keep Cuticles Soft

Moisturizing your cuticles with cuticle oil is key, as an unhealthy and weak cuticle is what leaves the nail open to forms of infection. 

nail polish ingredients to avoid

Trim and Clean

It is also important to trim your nails regularly to avoid them getting too long, as dirt and dust can get trapped under your nails which catches bacteria. 

This should be paired with keeping your hands clean at all times; after you use the bathroom while cooking, after eating, and just generally washing them several times a day. Make sure to clean under your nails when you do so. 

If you do spot signs of swelling, redness, or pain around your nails, you might have a nail infection. Visit a doctor as urgently as possible to get treatment or antibiotics, so that your nails can heal quickly, or before they get worse. 

Eat for Strength 

To get stronger nails, try to incorporate more proteins and Vitamin E into your diet. This will strengthen the keratin of your nails, and prevent brittleness and breakage. 

Let Your Nails Breathe

Many question whether you should take a break from nail polish, and the answer is yes. Constantly wearing nail polish is not very healthy, regardless of the brand. Your nails need a breather now and again.

side effects of nail polish

It is also wise to take regular breaks from gel or acrylic manicures, to let your nails breathe and strengthen. This does not mean that acrylic or gel nail polish damages your nails, but like everything, it should be done in moderation. 

Finally, pick a good quality nail polish brand that uses natural, non-harmful ingredients to make the products, like Orly. This will prevent toxic chemicals from seeping into your bloodstream, and creating health issues in the long run. 


With the wellness world emphasizing the importance of clean, non-toxic products, many nail polish brands have had to innovate new ways to provide a colorful pop on the hands without the detrimental effects of chemicals. 

Can nail polish kill you? No, but using nail polish that contains harmful chemicals will negatively affect areas of your health in the long term, which can lead to larger health issues or diseases. 

While some still produce toxic products, others have formulated ways to create high-quality nail polish that contain none of the harmful chemicals, and OrlyBeauty is one such brand.

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