Your Nail Polish Might Be The Reason You're Gaining Weight


Your Nail Polish Might Be The Reason You're Gaining Weight natkinzu / Shutterstock

By: Bianca Mendez

You might want to postpone your next manicure because your nail polish might be why you're gaining weight.

Researchers from Duke University and the Environmental Working Group discovered that nail polishes containing the ingredient Triphenyl phosphate (TPHP) could be linked to weight gain.

TPHP is found in 49 percent of more than 3,000 nail polishes and treatments, according to researchers.


But does our body absorb the chemicals in the nail polish we use?

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Nneka Leiba, the vice president of healthy living science for EWG, said, “Most people think that nail polish isn’t absorbed since you’re not rubbing it on your skin directly... Some of these nail polishes have solvents and other substances that increase the absorption and the contact with the cuticles can draw chemicals into the body.”

Nail polish brands began using TPHP to replace phthalates, a chemical that’s linked to reproductive issues, but studies are saying that ingredient isn't any better.


The 2015 study, which was published in Environment International, tested urine samples of 26 participants before and after painting their nails with a polish that had 1 percent of TPHP.

Within two to six hours, 24 participants had slightly high levels of diphenyl phosphate (DPHP), a chemical that signals that the TPHP has been processed in the body.

Within 10 to 14 hours, every participant’s DPHP levels were seven times higher! Their levels hit their peak at about 20 hours after application.


So why is that bad? TPHP is an endocrine disruptor, meaning that it can interfere with your hormones, potentially leading to weight gain.

Previous studies also showed that women process TPHP more than men, leading authors to speculate that beauty products are the culprit.

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The Environment Working Group is working on having nail polish companies remove TPHP by launching a petition, and also published a database of the brands that contain the chemical.

Leiba added, “The EWG’s advice is always to be educated about the products we bring into our homes and not have any false assumptions that just because they are on store shelves that they have met rigorous levels of safety testing.”


Leiba also suggests that we all limit our exposure to the chemicals in nail polish. The best way to do that is by limiting the number of manicures and pedicures.

She recommends, “One way is to choose safer products where possible and another is to reduce the frequency of the number of manicures and pedicures.”

In the meantime, if you must get a manicure, study author Kate Hoffman warns people to avoid getting the polish on your skin so the chemical doesn’t enter your bloodstream. Then, you’re good to go!


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Bianca Mendez is a writer and editor. Her work has been featured in Women's Health, Bustle, and many more.

Editor's Note: This article was originally posted in August 2016 and was updated with the latest information.