Microscopy of Common Nail Cosmetics

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Nail clipping specimens are commonly submitted for the microscopic evaluation of nail disease; however, there may be missing clinical history regarding nail polish or other adornments present on the nail at the time of specimen retrieval. For this study, 6 types of nail cosmetics were chosen and applied to the nail plate of a volunteer. After a period of at least 24 hours, the nail plates with adornments and a control nail plate were clipped and placed in formalin. Specimens were processed using a standard nail protocol. All of the specimens, except the sticker appliqué, survived the fixation process. The glitter nail polish was the only specimen found to be polarizable. None of the specimens that survived fixation were found to be PAS-positive. Cosmetic nail enhancements are easily differentiated from the nail plate microscopically; nail cosmetics appear as a distinct layer of inorganic material lying atop the nail plate. There were 2 main microscopic patterns noted on the specimens: those with 2 layers and those with 3 layers.

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