Anti-Rape Nail Polish- Good or Bad?

Jenna Wilson, Eastside Editor in Chief

Nail polish is not considered an essential object. The popular beauty product has been around since 3000 BC, when it was invented by the Chinese. Now, it is getting completely re-invented by students in the Materials Science & Engineering department at North Carolina State University. They have created nail polish that could save lives.

They have invented a nail polish that can help stop sexual assault. Called Undercover Colors, this polish will change color when it comes in contact with certain drugs often used to drug women, including Rohypnol, Xanax, and GHB. In order to detect the chemicals, the person wearing the nail polish has to use their finger to stir their drink. If the drink has a date rape drug in it, the nail polish changes color.


This invention could changes the lives of women throughout the country, especially on college campuses. The Washington Post reports that 55% of about 1,570 colleges and universities with more than 1,000 students received at least one report of forcible sex offense on campus in 2012. From 2010 to 2012 there were 14 forcible sex offenses reported on N.C. State’s campus.

“Our goal is to invent technologies that empower women to protect themselves from this heinous and quietly pervasive crime,” the team behind Undercover Colors said on their Facebook page.

The nail polish is still in development. There are many flaws in the polish- it would need to be able to detect drugs in food, which can also be spiked. Additionally, what about men?  According to The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 Summary Report 1 in 71 men – or almost 1.6 million – have been sexually assaulted during their lives.While the pictures of the product show a bight fuchsia that would appeal to many women, the majority of men are not going to wear fuchsia nail polish. The company should offer clear polish that changes to a darker color, so that men can equally protect themselves.

Many people question why it was more important to create a nail polish that detects these drugs, rather than focus on a way to end the rape culture that we live in. They question how this nail polish is any different from variations of the same “anti-rape” concept. Previously, “anti-rape underwear” and “Rapex”  a female condom that would insert tiny hooks into an assailant’s penis, have been market towards women. Some feel that by promoting these things, whether it be the modern chastity belts or color-changing nail polish, it is actually promoting rape, by suggesting that rape is inevitable. 

While the team says, “Through this nail polish and similar technologies, we hope to make potential perpetrators afraid to spike a woman’s drink because there’s now a risk that they can get caught”, with such a high percentage of rapes every year, it is going to take more than just nail polish to stop sexual assault. It is going to take an entire shift in culture. People are going to need to stop blaming the victims and encouraging both women and men to take extra precautions. Rape is simply not okay, taking advantage of someone when they are drunk is not okay, and it shouldn’t be expected that both men and women have to constantly worry about protecting themselves when they are out at a party. It’s that simple.