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Is it bad to inhale nail polish fumes?

Laura breathes this question: Is inhaling nail polish fumes harmful if you’re exposed to them for about 30 minutes or so per week?

The Left Brain exhales this response:

Nearly all the popular brands of nail polishes including Revlon and OPI contain organic solvents and methacrylates. The March 2002 issue of Neuropsychiatry, Neuropsychology, & Behavioral Neurology summarizes a study by Gina LaoSasso, Ph.D et.al, that shows prolonged exposure to nail polish fumes can affect the way your brain works.

The researchers tested 33 nail-salon technicians compared to the same number of demographically similar control subjects (in other words, women who had no exposure to nail polish or other toxic chemicals.) Both groups were given a series of psychologic, neuropsychologic, and neurosensory tests.

Nail Polish Fumes Affect Brain Functions

Their study showed three main results:

  1. The nail technicians performed statistically worse than the control group on tests that measured attention and brain processing speed.
  2. The nail technicians and the control group showed no statistical differences in learning and memory, fine motor coordination, or on measures of depression and anxiety.
  3. The nail technicians’ sense of smell was statistically worse than the control group’s.

Fresh air, not fumes

What does all this mean? Apparently, exposure to enough nail polish fumes can make your brain a little slow and fuzzy. Kinda scary, huh? Unfortunately, the study didn’t provide details on how long this effect lasts so we don’t know if your brain returns to normal once you’ve gotten away from the nail fumes.

And while the study did measure the size of the salon, the amount of ventilation, and the number of hours that the technicians worked, the data can’t be used to predict what would happen at a lower exposure. In other words, if you’re in a nail salon long enough, you may experience these problems. But is 30 minutes a week enough to cause an effect? It doesn’t look like it but clearly more studies are needed. In the meantime, make sure you’re getting plenty of fresh air when you’re getting your nails done!

Nail color, not die!

Note if you happened to be talking about inhaling the fumes on purpose (huffing) we would strongly advise against this. According to this article about huffing

“Death from inhalant abuse can occur after a single use or after prolonged use. Sudden sniffing death (SSD) may result within minutes of inhalant abuse from irregular heart rhythm leading to heart failure.”

Now, it’s not very likely that you will die but it’s certainly not worth the risk.

And in case you weren’t sure, yes, the product pictured above is nail polish for pets.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Unicorn sparkles November 22, 2015, 10:59 pm

    This article on nail polish fumes was very helpful. Thank you.

  • Richard Tutaki December 1, 2015, 5:39 pm

    Thank you for the information you have provided it has help me understand reasons y my partner is having heart problems as well as bad migranes to much time doing those bloody nails.

  • edwin April 26, 2016, 8:25 am

    i feel dizzy en weak bt idoutb nailpolish

  • Riley March 18, 2017, 9:29 pm

    So can It kill my pet or will Simone merger you in you sleep like me Riley Britton

  • TED April 3, 2017, 7:42 am

    Does nail polish fumes make you breafhless

    • Randy Schueller April 4, 2017, 7:39 am

      It’s not a good idea to inhale too much nail polish.

  • Kestrel September 22, 2017, 3:05 am

    So should I probably not be directly inhaling the fumes? How likely is it that my health could be affected from occasionally sniffing from the bottle?

    • Randy Schueller September 22, 2017, 6:45 am

      Regular, long term exposure is bad. An occasional sniff is unlikely to cause any problems.

  • Nick October 24, 2018, 3:32 pm

    Thanks, I’m wondering if it is harmful to sniff the fumes straight from the bottle about seven times, on one occasion.

  • Koko January 17, 2019, 11:35 am

    My nail polish bottle fell down and broke! My room got filled with it’s fume! I feel like I inhaled too much of it and now I am having headache and getting sneeze with that bitter taste in my throat .what should I do ??

  • Aki March 21, 2019, 3:21 am

    I do my own nails daily, but I don’t open any form of door or window, which means the fumes probably stay in my room, and since I’m doing it so often, there’s probably a lot of it in there. So, can that damage my health?

    • Perry Romanowski June 14, 2019, 7:54 pm

      That’s not a good idea. Yes, there could be some negative health consequences.

  • Emma Wolf April 21, 2019, 11:12 pm

    So I’ve heard it can effect your reproductive system I’m young but I do my nails 3 times a week and I keep all that stuff in my room at all times I’m worried this will effect my kids I might have in the future and my brain

  • lena January 28, 2020, 3:15 pm

    OMG! thank u so much! I have a school projekt about nail polish (its fumes, and toxic ingredients) and this helped a LOT!! I couldn’t really find any other article about it anywhere else…
    thank u too much again. Keep up the good work!

  • Big Bob Joylove February 24, 2020, 4:18 pm

    Based on the spelling and grammar, I think we have a few huffers in the comments section!

  • Isabelle April 29, 2020, 6:51 pm

    I was trying to do a diy project and I was in the room for about 1hr and the fumes just started getting stronger and stronger. I feel kind of dizzy.