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Story of Nail Polish and Homoeopathy



The buff, designed to protect and beautify nails, a highly specialized and flexible lacquer that does not easily crack and flake with natural nail movement is called as nail polish.


Nail polish took birth about 5,000 years ago, to at least 3000 BC, in China.

Contemporary Composition of Nail Polish

  • During the Ming Dynasty, Chinese nail varnishes and lacquers were synthesized from a combination of beeswax, egg whites, gelatin, vegetable dyes, and Gum Arabic.
  • The Egyptians used orange henna to stain their fingernails.
  • In China as well as in Egypt, the colour was used to symbolize particular social classes.
  • During the Chou empire (600 BC), gold and silver were the royal colour choices, and later, royalty preferred black and red and thus applied these colours to their nails to indicate their status.

Modern Nail Polish

Modern nail polish is in fact a advanced version and variant of automobile paint.

The formulation objective of most manufacturers is to provide as much film as possible in a single application coat.

Qualities of Nail Polish  

The main qualities of Nail Polish are-

  • Application ease
  • Quick drying time
  • Maximum hardening
  • Chip  resistance and
  • A natural pearl essence

Typically, the application of two coats is necessary to obtain adequate film thickness and sufficient opacity.

Modern Composition of Nail Polish

The three major ingredients in most nail polish brands are-

  • Organic solvents
  • Resins (thickeners or hardening agents), and
  • Colour pigments.

Organic solvents

The most frequent organic solvents are ethyl acetate and butyl acetate (both also used as solvents in nail polish removers). These solvents are called esters which are synthesized by reacting a carboxylic acid with an alcohol; the general formula is ‘R-COO-R′. As volatile solvents, these esters evaporate quickly, leaving the resin/pigment mixture attached to the nail surface as a thin coating.

Other commonly used solvents include acetone, toluene, methyl chloroform, dipropylene, ethyl alcohol, and isopropyl alcohol. Solvents are responsible for the strong odour of nail polishes.


These are the types of polymers and are the thickening and hardening agents that, without pigments, serve as colourless nail protectors resembling clear furniture lacquer. These agents include nitrocellulose (collodion) and different acrylate and polyester/polyurethane copolymers. Copolymers include chemicals such as methacrylic acid, isobutyl methacrylate, toluenesulfonamide formaldehyde resin, phthallic anhydride/trimellitic anhydride/glycol copolymer, tosylamide/formaldehyde resin, and dimethicone copolyol.

Colour pigments

Nail polish pigmentation is likely to be the essence of the polish and of supreme importance to the consumer. A variety of drug and cosmetic dyes are used in combination to achieve the desired colour. Colouring may also be attributable to the presence of chemicals such as chromium oxide greens, chromium hydroxide green, ferric ferrocyanide, ferric ammonium ferrocyanide, stannic oxide, titanium dioxide, iron oxide, carmine, ultramarines, and manganese violet. Sparkling and reflective particles such as mica, bismuth oxychloride, natural pearls (guanine), and aluminum powder are used to make “frost” and “shine” polishes appear glittery or pearl-like.

Other ingredients

Other ingredients in nail polish include-


Plasticizers (e.g., dibutyl phthalate, camphor, citrates, adipates, glycol dibenzoate) that serve as molecular lubricants, allowing the resin to remain flexible after drying, and increase resin resistance to oil and water.

Sally Hansen’s Nail Effects use a formula that’s a little more plasticy than a regular nail polish. It looks like they’ve applied the polish to flexible substrate (polyethylene terephthalate) and dried off all the solvent. The result is a strip of nail polish that remains flexible but still sticky enough to adhere to the nail.


Dispersants (e.g., organically modified clays such as stearalkonium bentonite and stearalkonium hectorite) are additives that control flow by helping the pigments mix with the resin and solvent, thereby preventing sinking of the color particles.

Ultraviolet stabilizers

Ultraviolet stabilizers (e.g., benzophenone-1) are added to prevent the polish from changing colour after excessive UV sunlight exposure.

Colorant consistency regulators

Palmitic acid is added as colorant consistency regulator.

Antioxidant preservatives

Antioxidant preservatives (e.g., citric acid) may be added. 

Various common ingredients of nail polish and their cutaneous manifestations

  1. Acetone- continued skin contact may produce a mild form of dermatitis.
  2. Acrylate – may cause allergic contact dermatitis.
  3. Adipates- may cause eye, skin, and respiratory tract irritation.
  4. Aluminum powder- irritating to the skin and eyes on contact.
  5. Benzophenone-1- is a contact irritant affecting eyes, skin, and respiratory system.
  6. Bismuth oxychloride- it being a potential irritant to humans when it comes in contact with the skin or eyes. The skin may become red, irritated, itching, with small bumps or pimples, burning or looking swollen. Also it can make acne cystic by congesting pores and cause rosacea to flare up. Discerning, careful consumers, especially those who have rosacea, skin sensitivities, or are prone to acne, should avoid this ingredient.
  7. Butyl acetate- no chronic effects of exposure to tert-butyl acetate have been reported.
  8. Camphor- exposure to camphor by absorption through skin can cause serious health implications such as respiratory problems, chest pain, skin irritation and rashes.
  9. Carboxylic acid- there is no known benefit for skin when it is applied topically in skin-care products, though it may have antioxidant properties.
  10. Carmine- may cause mild skin irritation, itching and redness after contact.
  11. Chromium hydroxide green- repeated or prolonged contact may cause skin sensitization.
  12. Chromium oxide greens- effects slightly hazardous in case of skin contact (sensitizer).
  13. Citrates- mild skin irritant.
  14. Citric acid- can cause oral allergy syndrome or contact reactions in some people.
  15. Dibutyl phthalate- dermal contact with dibutyl phthalate can cause skin irritation.
  16. Dimethicone copolyol- contact dermatitis.
  17. Dipropylene- hazardous in case of skin contact irritant of eye contact irritant, corrosive of ingestion, of inhalation.
  18. Ethyl acetate- chronic exposure of the skin to ethyl acetate may cause dermatitis.
  19. Ethyl alcohol- ethanol use is associated with skin irritation or contact dermatitis, especially in humans with an aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) deficiency.
  20. Ferric ammonium ferrocyanide- redness or irritation.
  21. Ferric ferrocyanide- short-term exposure may cause skin rash and irritation of the eyes.
  22. Glycol copolymer- polypropylene glycol has an irritant effect on direct contact with eyes, mucous membranes and possibly after prolonged contact with skin.
  23. Glycol dibenzoate- exposure may cause irritation of the skin, eyes, and respiratory tract irritation.
  24. Iron oxide- irritant to the skin and eyes on contact.
  25. Isobutyl methacrylate- irritation of eyes, skin, respiratory system; lacrimation; cough, sore throat; dizziness, lightheadedness; sensitization, dermatitis.
  26. Isopropyl alcohol- repeated skin exposure can cause itching, a rash, and drying and cracking.
  27. Manganese violet- skin contact may cause allergic skin rashes.
  28. Methacrylic acid- exposure to methacrylic acid can occur through inhalation, ingestion, eye or skin contact, and absorption through the skin. The signs and symptoms of chronic exposure to methacrylic acid include skin irritation and rash, and sensitization.
  29. Methyl chloroform- prolonged skin contact with the liquid can result in the removal of fats from the skin, resulting in chronic skin irritation.
  30. Mica- it can have the immediate effect of irritating the eyes and skin, causing redness and itching.
  31. Natural pearls (guanine)- there may be irritation and redness at the site of contact.
  32. Nitrocellulose (collodion)- contact with nitrocellulose can irritate the skin and eyes. It can also cause dryness of skin and dermatitis.
  33. Palmitic acid- it helps the skin by forming an occlusive layer of protection.
  34. Phthallic anhydride- it is both an irritant and sensitizer of the skin and respiratory tract, and may produce asthma on repeated exposure.
  35. Stannic oxide- prolonged or repeated skin contact may cause dermatitis.
  36. Stearalkonium bentonite- it did not cause primary skin irritation in rabbits.
  37. Stearalkonium hectorite- did not cause primary skin irritation in rabbits.
  38. Titanium dioxide- skin contact may cause drying/cracking in sensitive individuals.
  39. Toluene- cutaneous exposure may result in coagulation necrosis without copious skin irrigation.
  40. Toluenesulfonamide formaldehyde resin- human skin irritant; questionable carcinogen.
  41. Tosylamide- Allergic contact dermatitis.
  42. Trimellitic anhydride- TMA causes severe respiratory irritation and sensitization. Exposure may result in noncardiac pulmonary edema, immunological sensitization, and irritation of the pulmonary tract, eyes, nose, and skin.
  43. Ultramarines- it's generally expressed as a local contact dermatitis.

From above stated details, we can clearly see that there are numerous bad effects of various ingredients used in nail polish. The common remedies for related problems are given below.

Common remedies for Nail polish induced ailments

sil, graph, thuja, caust, nit- ac, sep. nat- m, ars, mer, hep, ant-c, fl-ac, alum, calc, con, puls, kali-c, rhus-t, sabad, petr, lach, nux-v, colch, lyc, nat-s, teucr, apis, calc-p, ran-b, squill, berb, ph- ac, sang, am-m, bell, phos, sars, hyper, plb, coc- c, hell, led, carb-v, chin, plat, ruta, sulp– ac etc.

Further readings

  • RADAR 10
  • CHEMICAL COMPOSITION OF EVERYDAY PRODUCTS by John Toedt, Darrell Koza, and Kathleen Van Cleef-Toedt

LINK to Dr Rajneesh's Repertory On Nail Disorders

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Comment by Dr Rajneesh Kumar Sharma MD(Hom) on May 8, 2012 at 12:04am

Thanks Dr. Kavitha. Regards.

Comment by Kavitha Kukunoor on May 7, 2012 at 11:58pm

Thanks Dr Rajneesh for providing in depth knowledge of true / harmful nature of nail polish and propable homeo remedies. Can't believe so many toxic substances are involved behind the beauty of nail polish. Regards,Kavitha

Comment by Dr Rajneesh Kumar Sharma MD(Hom) on May 7, 2012 at 7:49am

That is true Dr. Rafeeque. Regards...

Comment by Dr Rajneesh Kumar Sharma MD(Hom) on May 7, 2012 at 7:49am

Thanks Dr. Mashkoor ji. Regards.

Comment by Dr Muhammed Rafeeque on May 7, 2012 at 6:08am

That means, a bottle of nail police is almost like a chemical warehouse :)

Comment by Mashkoor Ahmed on May 7, 2012 at 3:22am

Thanks Sir for a detailed information .

The mislabelled nail polish brands that contain three chemicals toluene, dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and formaldehyde known as the "toxic trio" are linked to birth defects.Department of Toxic Substances Control in California reported after tests.

 Ref :

Comment by Dr Rajneesh Kumar Sharma MD(Hom) on May 7, 2012 at 1:48am

Thanks Debby. Regards.


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