Is Nail Polish Bad? Facts vs Myths

I love to keep my nails looking their best, but I’ve always been curious about the potential adverse effects of nail polish on my nails. With so many different brands and types of polish available, it can be challenging to know what’s safe to use and what might cause damage to my nails in the long run. This article will explore the question of whether or not nail polish is bad for your nails. I will also share some tips on keeping your nails healthy while enjoying your favorite nail polish shades.

Components of Nail Polish

Nail polish contains several components, including solvents, resins, pigments, and plasticizers.


Solvents are used in nail polish to dissolve the other ingredients and make the polish easy to apply. Common solvents in nail polish include ethyl acetate, butyl acetate, and toluene.

Resins and Polymers

Resins and polymers are added to nail polish to give it strength and durability. They also help to create a smooth finish. Common resins and polymers used in nail polish include nitrocellulose, acrylates, and polyester.

Pigments and Dyes

Pigments and dyes are used to add color to nail polish. They can be natural or synthetic and are often mixed to create unique shades.


Plasticizers make nail polish flexible and prevent it from becoming brittle. Common plasticizers used in nail polish include camphor, phthalates, and adipates.

Other Additives

Nail polish may also contain other additives, such as UV absorbers, preservatives, and fragrances.

Potential Negative Effects of Nail Polish on Nails

While nail polish can enhance the appearance of nails, it can also have some potential adverse effects on nails.


Nail polish can cause discoloration of the nails, especially if the polish is left on for an extended period. Dark-colored nail polish can cause yellowing of the nails due to the pigments in the polish. This discoloration is not permanent and can be resolved by removing the nail polish and allowing the nails to breathe for a few days. 

However, repeated use of dark-colored nail polish can lead to more severe discoloration that may require medical attention.

Dryness and Brittle Nails

Nail polish can dry out the nails, making them brittle and prone to cracking. This is because the solvents in nail polish can remove the natural oils from the nails, causing them to become dry and brittle. This can be worsened by using acetone-based nail polish removers, which can further dry out the nails. 

Fungal Infections

Nail polish can create a moist and warm environment that is conducive to the growth of fungi, leading to infections such as onychomycosis or fungal nail infections. Fungal infections of the nails can cause discoloration, thickening, and crumbling of the nail. 

Allergic Reactions

Some people may be allergic to nail polish ingredients, such as formaldehyde, toluene, or phthalates. These reactions can cause itching, redness, and swelling around the nail. In severe cases, it can lead to blistering and peeling of the skin. 

Changes in Nail Texture

Nail polish can change the texture of the nails, making them rough and uneven. This is because repeated use of nail polish can cause a buildup of the product on the nails, leading to a thick and uneven surface. Additionally, the solvents in nail polish can weaken the nail plate, leading to irregularities in the nail surface. 

How to Protect Your Nails while Wearing Nail Polish

You can do several things to protect your nails while wearing nail polish.

Using a Base Coat

Using a base coat before applying nail polish is an essential step to protect your nails from the potentially harmful ingredients in nail polish. The base coat acts as a barrier between the nail and the polish, preventing the chemicals in the polish from penetrating the nail plate. 

It also helps the nail polish adhere better to the nail, making it last longer. A base coat can also prevent discoloration of the nails caused by certain pigments in nail polish. Choose a base coat free of harmful chemicals such as formaldehyde, toluene, and phthalates.

Proper Nail Polish Removal

Proper nail polish removal is essential to prevent damage to the nails. It is important to avoid using harsh chemicals such as acetone, which can strip the natural oils from the nails, causing them to become dry and brittle. Instead, use a nail polish remover that is gentle on the nails, such as an acetone-free formula. 

When removing nail polish, use a soft cotton pad and gently rub the polish off. Do not use excessive force, as this can damage the nail plate.

Keeping Nails Moisturized

Moisturizing your nails is essential to keep them healthy and prevent them from becoming dry and brittle. Using nail oil or cream regularly can help to keep your nails hydrated and prevent them from becoming weak and prone to breakage. Apply a moisturizing product to your nails and cuticles after removing nail polish to replenish lost moisture. To moisturize your nails, you can also use natural oils such as coconut oil, jojoba oil, or argan oil.

Taking Breaks from Nail Polish

Taking breaks from wearing nail polish can help to prevent damage to the nails. Try to give your nails a break for a few days every few weeks to allow them to breathe and recover. This will prevent the buildup of nail polish on the nails, which can cause changes in the nail texture and weaken the nail plate. 

During this time, focus on moisturizing your nails and cuticles to keep them healthy. You can also use a nail strengthener to promote nail growth and prevent them from becoming weak and brittle.

Myths About Nail Polish Safety

There are several myths surrounding the safety of nail polish that can be misleading. Here are some common misconceptions:

Myth #1: All Nail Polishes are the Same

This is not true. There are many different types of nail polishes on the market, each with varying ingredients and formulations. Some nail polishes may contain harmful chemicals such as formaldehyde, toluene, and phthalates, while others may be free of these chemicals. It is important to read the label and choose a nail polish free of harmful chemicals to avoid any potential negative effects on your nails.

Myth #2: Natural Nail Polishes are Always Safer

While natural nail polishes may be free of harmful chemicals, this does not necessarily mean they are safer or healthier for your nails. Natural nail polishes may still contain ingredients that can cause discoloration, dryness, and brittleness of the nails. 

Myth #3: Nail Polish Can Strengthen Weak Nails

While some nail polishes may claim to strengthen weak nails, this is not always the case. Nail polish can make weak nails even weaker, especially if left on for an extended period. To improve their strength and health, it is vital to address the underlying cause of weak nails, such as nutrient deficiencies or medical conditions.

Myth #4: Nail Polish is Completely Safe During Pregnancy

While the nail polish is generally considered safe during pregnancy, it is still important to take precautions. Certain chemicals in nail polish, such as formaldehyde and toluene, can harm the developing fetus. It is best to choose a nail polish free of harmful chemicals and avoid applying nail polish in a poorly ventilated area.

Final Thoughts

Nail polish can have both positive and negative effects on nails. While it can enhance the appearance of nails, it can also cause discoloration, dryness, and fungal infections. However, by taking the necessary precautions and using the right products, you can protect your nails while still enjoying the benefits of wearing nail polish.