Effect of nail polish and henna on oxygen saturation determined by pulse oximetry in healthy young adult females

Emerg Med J. 2011 Sep;28(9):783-5. doi: 10.1136/emj.2010.096073. Epub 2010 Oct 5.


Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of different colour nail polishes and henna on the measurement of oxygen saturation and the differences among the measurements of three pulse oximetry devices.

Material and methods: 33 healthy females with a mean age of 19±1.0 years and no complaints or known disease were included into the study. All the participants applied henna to one of their fingers a day before the study. Just before the study, one finger was left empty as control and the other fingers were dyed using various colours of nail polish (red, blue, beige, purple, brown, white, pink, green, colourless polish, light blue, light green and yellow). There were more than eight colour nail polishes and some fingers were used for the other colours after being completely cleaned. The same brand nail polishes were used for the study. Oxygen saturation measurements were done using three different pulse oximetry devices (device I, II, III) from the control, different colour nail polished and henna applied fingers. The measurements of different devices, different colour nail polishes, henna and control were statistically compared.

Results: The mean saturations obtained from blue, beige, purple and white nail polished fingers were significantly lower than those of control and the other coloured fingers. In addition, the mean measurement of device II was significantly lower than those of other devices.

Conclusion: The results suggest that blue, beige, purple and white nail polished fingers might cause pulse oximetry devices to make incorrect measurements.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Color*
  • Coloring Agents / adverse effects*
  • Cosmetics / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Fingers
  • Humans
  • Nails
  • Naphthoquinones / adverse effects*
  • Oximetry / standards*
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Young Adult


  • Coloring Agents
  • Cosmetics
  • Naphthoquinones
  • Oxygen
  • lawsone