Is Toenail Polish Bad For Your Nails? [Answered]

Have you ever wondered if toenail polish is bad for your nails? Nobody wants to cause damage to their nails just for the sake of making them look pretty. We’ve done the research and explain all in this article.

closeup of toes on a towel with pink nail polish

In short, toenail polish isn’t overly bad for your nails, but it is true that polish contains harsh chemicals that can dry out and damage the nail over time. If you use regularly use acetone to remove the polish, you may be doing further damage. 

Can You Use Any Kind Of Polish For Toenails?

Generally, it’s absolutely fine to use regular nail polish on your toenails. 

There is little difference between your fingernails and your toenails, and you should find that polish works for either. 

Most people use nail polish across both their toenails and fingernails without any issues, and manufacturers generally do not specify whether their polish is intended for your hands or your feet.

This is great news if you want your nails to match because you can simply use the same bottle to get a coat on your toenails and your fingernails. 

However, you should be aware that toenails grow more slowly than fingernails, so if you are going to keep them matching, you’ll have to strip the paint off your toenails when you change the color on your fingers.

Is Nail Polish Bad For Your Toenails? [Answered]

closeup of a woman touching her feet with pink nail polish. Her hand is touching the top of the right foot and the fingernails match the color of the pink toenails.

In general, it is considered fairly safe to apply nail polish to your toenails. However, nail polish may contain things like formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate which is important to consider.

None of these chemicals are good for you, and although your toenails might seem tough, they are not actually particularly robust.

These chemicals could potentially soak into your nails and may cause issues. If you remove the polish with acetone, you will also be drying your nail out and damaging it.

However, this only applies in extreme circumstances and a regular coating of nail polish won’t cause damage to your toenails.

Can Nail Polish Make Your Toenails Stronger?

It might seem as though nail polish reduces breakages because it adds a coating to your nails, but it isn’t making the nails themselves stronger. 

You may find that nail polish prevents splitting and snapping by adding a second layer to the surface of your nails, and this could make you feel like your nails are being strengthened – but they aren’t.

Nail polish generally weakens your toenails by exposing them to harsh chemicals. Even if you choose a gentle kind of nail polish (there are some out there), you will still need to use acetone to remove it, and you will still be reducing the airflow over your nails.

If you want to strengthen your toenails, we’re going to look at some care tips near the end of this article, but nail polish isn’t a solution.

Why Do My Toenails Look Bad After Removing Nail Polish?

If you find that your toenails don’t look very attractive once you have removed the nail polish from them, it’s likely to be because you have worn the polish for too long and your nails have discolored as a result.

You may find that they are dry and flaky as a result of the chemicals, or just that the colors have altered. Yellowing is a common result of wearing nail polish for too long.

If this has happened, you will need to avoid wearing polish again for a few weeks, to give your toenails time to heal and return to their normal color. 

You should avoid applying any more acetone until the nails look normal again.

Risks Of Using Nail Polish On Toenails

Issues that can arise from using too much nail polish include:

  • Keratin granulation: this is when your nails turn dry and white after you’ve had nail polish on for a long time.
  • Discoloration: you may see yellowing or other discoloration on your nails, and you will have to let this grow out as it’s unlikely to go away on its own.
  • Acetone overuse: this can cause peeling and cracking, which puts the nails at more risk of fungal infections.
  • Fungal infection: if your nails aren’t exposed to a regular flow of air, there’s a higher risk of a fungal infection setting in and this can be extremely difficult to get rid of, even with chemical treatments

None of these are things that you want to happen, so make sure you are giving your toenails a break for several weeks when you have been wearing polish for a few weeks. 

You should do this even in the summer. Try to keep your feet dry and maximize the airflow over them where possible.

4 Tips On Best Ways To Care For Your Toenails

close up of a woman's hands holding onto a yellow bottle of nail polish behind a yellow background. Her fingernails are painted yellow.

Looking after your toenails and ensuring they stay healthy is a good way to reduce the risk of issues arising when you paint them, so here are some top care tips!

1. Take Biotin

Biotin is sometimes known as vitamin B7 or vitamin H, and it will help to strengthen both your hair and your nails. It isn’t something your body stores, so you need to make sure you consume it regularly. It is found in legumes, cooked eggs, and other foods. 

If you are going to take it as a supplement, consult your doctor first.

2. Drink Enough Water

Being hydrated will keep your nails flexible and healthy, reducing the risk of them splitting or peeling.

3. Use Non-toxic Polishes

You can purchase nail polishes that advertise themselves as “three-free,” meaning that they contain no formaldehyde, toluene, or dibutyl phthalate. 

These will be less damaging to your nails and are a preferable option to other nail polishes.

Some polishes also contain vitamins and proteins, so consider opting for these.

4. Keep Your Feet Dry

Moisture isn’t good for your nails and increases your risk of foot fungus. Make sure you dry your feet, wear breathable socks and shoes, and go barefoot when you have an opportunity to do so.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Should I stop wearing nail polish?

There are no hard rules about this, but if you wear polish for a few weeks, you should then give your nails at least a few weeks as a break. Pay attention to how your nails look and use this as a guideline. If they are stained, flaky, and white, give them longer to recover than if they look fine.

Are healthy polishes better than no polish?

No, they aren’t. Healthy polishes are preferable to those based on strong chemicals, but avoiding polish entirely is still healthier. If you need to paint your nails, opt for healthy polishes that will nourish them, but otherwise, leave the polish off.

Can you get rid of toenail fungus?

It is very difficult to get rid of toenail fungus once it has got established. There are many treatments, but the effectiveness is variable and prevention is far better than cure. If you are getting your toenails done at a salon, make sure they are using sterile tools, and give your nails every opportunity to dry when they are wet.


Toenail polish is fairly bad for your nails, yes. If you constantly wear toenail polish, consider giving your nails a break and letting them recover for a few weeks before you add the next coat.