Formaldehyde in "nontoxic" Nail Polish

Lindsey M. Voller, Lena Persson, Magnus Bruze, Marna E. Ericson, Sara A. Hylwa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background Nail polish is known to contain potentially hazardous chemicals that have been linked to adverse health effects after overexposure. Formaldehyde is used as an antimicrobial, preservative, and nail hardener in select nail products, yet it is a recognized carcinogen and potent allergen in allergic contact dermatitis. Objective The aim of this study was to investigate whether formaldehyde is present in nail polishes marketed as formaldehyde-free. Methods Twenty-nine cosmetic nail polishes were purchased for analysis; of these, 28 were advertised as formaldehyde-free and/or did not declare formaldehyde in their ingredient lists. Initial testing was pursued using the chromotropic acid method, which uses a red-purple color change to indicate the presence of formaldehyde. Products were subsequently analyzed at least twice using high-performance liquid chromatography, quantifying formaldehyde amount above the detection limit of 2 ppm. Conclusions High-performance liquid chromatography analysis found 5 of 29 products containing formaldehyde, 4 of which were advertised as formaldehyde-free. All other products were negative for formaldehyde (<2 ppm). Further investigation is warranted among brands testing positive and whether multiple products within the same line contain formaldehyde. Nail products must be labeled appropriately to avoid adverse reactions among individuals with cutaneous sensitivities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)259-263
Number of pages5
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
From the *University of Minnesota Medical School, Minneapolis; †Department of Occupational and Environmental Dermatology, Lund University, Skåne University Hospital, Malmö, Sweden; and ‡Department of Dermatology, University of Minnesota; and §Department of Dermatology, Parkside Occupational and Contact Dermatitis Clinic, Minneapolis, MN. Address reprint requests to Sara A. Hylwa, MD, Park Nicollet Contact Dermatitis Clinic, 7550 34th Ave S, Suite #101, Minneapolis, MN 55450. E-mail: This study was supported by the American Contact Dermatitis Society 2018 Clinical Research Awards. The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare. DOI: 10.1097/DER.0000000000000493 © 2019 American Contact Dermatitis Society. All Rights Reserved.

Publisher Copyright:
© Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.


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