Decoding the Ingredients: What is TPHP?

If you have ever looked at the ingredient list of your favorite bottle of nail polish, you might have gone cross-eyed from all the chemicals. In this series of posts, Mette Jorgensen is decoding what some of those scary ingredients are, what they do, and how they do their job.


No I haven’t republished an old article from last year, the popular ‘Decoding the Ingredients’ series is back with a new victim- TPHP. A recent study from Duke University and the Environmental Working Group has new findings about the dangers of TPHP. We know many of our readers don’t know about the science behind nail polish, but that’s where we come in! In this new series of Decoding the Ingredients, we aim to explain what exactly they are and what they do.

Triphenyl phosphate (TPHP) is an endocrine disruptor, exposure has been found to cause both reproductive and developmental problems, a side effect you don’t expect when painting your nails. The reason it can be found in so many nail polishes it that it serves as a plasticizer, meaning it prevents polish from cracking or flaking.

The study revealed that over 1500 brands of nail polish, including some of our favorites (OPI, Sally Hansen, Wet N Wild and more), list TPHP as one of their ingredients. While many other brands include it in the polish but not on the ingredient list. The study found all women in the study had a TPHP metabolite in their blood only 10-14 hours after painting their nails. It raises the issue that millions of girls (and boys) across the world are being exposed to a suspected hormone distrupting chemical during a time that their bodies are developing and going through puberty.

EWG have launched a consumer petition to stop popular nail polish brands from using TPHP in their products. Additionally, they are calling on Congress to update the federal chemical and cosmetics laws to protect consumers from potentially toxic ingredients that are being used in nail polish and other personal care products. The results indicate that frequent users of nail polish are being exposed to TPHP, which could have a hazardous impact on their health.

The recommendation from the study co-author, Kate Hoffman, is that if you must use nail polish avoid getting it on your skin to prevent it from absorbing into your bloodstream.


Mette Jorgensen

Mette Jorgensen

Our Editor Mette is a fan of a glitter manicure, she can often be found pleading with her manicurist for just one more coat to achieve the ultimate sparkle. She's Australian so forgive her for occasionally writing in British English.

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