Nail Polish 101

Nail Polish and Nail Health

Before you indulge in a relaxing mani-pedi, it's a good idea to think about the chemicals in nail polish and their effect on your overall nail health. Fortunately for us, modern technological advances have made nail polish much healthier than its car paint inspired predecessors.

For example, formaldehyde and toluene were once a popular ingredients in nail polish, and although they are still used in some nail products, greener and more natural nail polishes have replaced these chemicals with more health-friendly products. Products containing formaldehyde and toluene also can cause allergic reactions, manifesting in the form of swollen eyelids, in many people. Revlon, Sally Hansen, Rescue Beauty Lounge and OPI products have all phased out these potentially harmful products from their polishes.


If you use a good nail polish product free of harmful chemicals, your nails will likely be stronger and healthier with a little maintenance. To optimize nail health, moisturize your nails before polishing to prevent them from drying out. Also, keep in mind that you shouldn't use nail polisher remover more than twice a month. Instead, touch up chipped nails with polish. When you do use nail polish remover, avoid products that contain acetone, a product that's known to dry out nails.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • Baumann, Leslie. "Beauty and Health: Chemicals in Nail Polish." Yahoo Health. April 3, 2008.
  • "History of Nail Care."
  • "Ingredients in Nail Polish." Woman Junction.
  • Krauss, Carol Parris. "The History of Nail Polish." Associated Content. Aug. 31, 2006.
  • Lozano, Claudia. "History of nail polish." The Spectator. Sept. 17, 2007.
  • Magsaysay, Melissa. "OPI nail polish colors never run dry." LA Times. April 5, 2009.,0,614055.story
  • Monroe, Valerie. "How to Store Nail Polish." Oprah.com
  • "Nails: How to Keep Your Nails Healthy and Strong." Mayo Clinic.
  • "Nail Polish." Nail Care Salon.
  • "Nail Polish Ingredients." Buzzle. Aug. 14, 2009.
  • Nair, Sonia. "Safer Nail Polish Ingredients" Green Footsteps.
  • Santlofer. "Black Nail Polish: A History." New York Magazine. July 16, 2006.