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If You're Over 50, Don't Use These Nail Polishes, Doctors Warn

Experts say they could cause scary health problems.

Swiping on a fresh coat of nail polish is one of our favorite ways to switch up our look. Whether you typically opt for nudes and neutrals, a classic red, or the most trending colors of the season, there's something about a shellac that makes us feel extra confident and put together.

However, there are some precautions you'll want to take when it comes to nail color after the age of 50. Here, we asked nail and health experts to tell us the types of nail polish you should avoid in your sixth decade and beyond. Follow their advice for gorgeous nails and a stress-free salon experience.

RELATED: If You're Over 50, Stop Wearing This Nail Polish Color.

After 50, avoid nail polish formulas with triphenyl phosphate.

woman opening bottle of red nail polish in drugstore
Lupe Rodriguez/Shutterstock

Unlike most beauty products, nail polishes usually don't list their ingredients on the back of the bottle. That means it's up to you to research what's inside and decide if you want to incorporate that polish into your routine.

"Many commercial nail polish brands have been found to include endocrine-disrupting compounds," says Michael Green, MD, an OB-GYN at the anti-aging wellness center Winona. "That means that they impact our bodies' hormone levels, which can throw off the natural balance our systems strive to achieve."

One such ingredient is triphenyl phosphate (TPHP), a polish additive that makes formulas more flexible and durable. "Research shows it could be the culprit behind metabolism and reproductive issues," says Green. "Because a woman's hormones are already going a little haywire during certain times, like menopause, it's easy to see how throwing hormone disruptors into the mix after age 50 could be counterproductive."

The toxic chemical can enter the body via nail polish application.

white hand holding clear nail polish

You might think that because you're applying nail polish to your nails, the ingredients inside the polish won't make their way inside your body. Unfortunately, studies have found that's not the case.

One 2016 study published in the journal Environment International found that painting your nails with a polish that contains TPHP can noticeably increase levels of the endocrine disruptor in the body. In the study, each of the 26 participants that had used polishes with TPHP had elevated levels of diphenyl phosphate, or DPHP, a chemical that indicates TPHP has been processed in the body. The increase brought them to nearly seven times the normal level of DPHP.

The study also found that some polishes contained TPHP even when they said they didn't. Clear polishes appeared to have more TPHP than colored options.

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Choose a non-toxic formula instead.

Disorganized bottles of nail polish, makeup

Fortunately, it's possible to find stunning nail polish colors that don't include TPHP—all you need to do is a bit of research. When shopping for polish, you may notice brands advertising themselves as 3-free, 5-free, 8-free, and more. That means those polishes don't contain certain possibly harmful ingredients that have historically been included in commercial formulas.

Three-free is the most common categorization, which means the polish does not contain dibutyl phthalate, which can cause reproductive and developmental issues, formaldehyde, which is a probable carcinogen, and toluene, which can be toxic with repeated exposure. Five-free means a polish excludes those ingredients plus formaldehyde resin and camphor.

To exclude TPHP, you'll have to get to 8-free polish. You can also check the nail polish brand's website to see if it has pledged against using the ingredient in its products. And remember, this doesn't mean you have to just do your nails at home from now on. If your go-to salon doesn't carry any 8-free polish, you can just bring your own. Manicurists are usually happy to use any polish you wish, whether from the salon or your purse.

Create a healthy nail routine.


As you continue your manicure routine in your 50s and beyond, you'll want to follow a few best practices to keep your nails in top shape. First, use manicure scissors or clippers regularly to keep nails at a manageable length and strive to keep nails clean and dry at all times. When you apply moisturizer, rub it into your nails and cuticles to keep them healthy and hydrated.

If you do opt for nail polish, consider your pacing. "It is always healthy to let the natural nails breathe and to take a week break sometimes," says Rachel Apfel Glass, founder of GLOSSLAB.

Follow these tips and you'll have stunning nails that'll maintain their strength and shine, and not disrupt your hormones.

RELATED: If You're Over 65, Don't Wear This Scent, Experts Warn.

Juliana LaBianca
Juliana is an experienced features editor and writer. Read more
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