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I'm talking about actual horns, not antlers that are shed.

I'm interested in either a rhino-like horn or an antelope like horn.

Would nail polish block any important natural process?

I'm thinking of humanoid creatures with animal horns and how they might accessorise

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    $\begingroup$ Depends on what the nail polish is made from. $\endgroup$ May 24 at 18:24
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    $\begingroup$ savetherhino.org/thorny-issues/poisoning-rhino-horns $\endgroup$
    – Richard
    May 25 at 8:11
  • $\begingroup$ @Richard doesn't seem to have anything in there about the effect to the rhinos? $\endgroup$ May 25 at 12:31
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    $\begingroup$ @AncientSwordRage - "However, it was known early on that the poison is not damaging to the rhino itself; a rhino’s horn does not have any direct link to its bloodstream" $\endgroup$
    – Richard
    May 25 at 12:38
  • $\begingroup$ @Richard thanks for pointing that but out. It'd make a good start to an answer IMO $\endgroup$ May 25 at 13:26

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Not really. Like fingernails most of a horn is just dead keratin, with the growth only occurring in a growth region. Similar to nails applying a layer of lacquer to the surface will have no impact on the growth of the horn.

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  • $\begingroup$ I agree, from past discussion with a vet on sheep's horn anatomy. I've found surprisingly little about this online, the most useful description being from a website- since misplaced- which included processing freshly-procured horn to make a pibgorn. $\endgroup$ May 25 at 6:39
  • $\begingroup$ @MarkMorganLloyd Today I learned that Pibgorn is not a nonsense word that Brett McEldowney made up. (To people like me, It's a type of reed instrument from Wales) $\endgroup$
    – No Name
    May 25 at 19:57
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It depends on the kind of horn.

Antlers regrow each year; once grown and skin was shed, they're just dead bone.

Rhinozeros horn is dead keratin, growing from the base.

Bovidae horn is a living bony core, a very thin but living skin, and dead keratin; it grows in all areas, including the tip. (German wikipedia explicitly mentions the skin layer, English wikipedia does not.)
This kind of horn has inner air-filled chambers; these resonate. The chambers are lined with a mucous membrane, and take more and more volume with age.

For dead horn, it does not matter.
For living horn, air and humidity exchange will be affected. For large horns, this could become an issue. I'm no expert, so maybe there will not be serious problems, but if there are, this could be helped by applying the polish in patterns instead of as a contiguous layer. Polish (or anything else applied to the horn) will also alter the resonance properties.

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    $\begingroup$ That's really good info! $\endgroup$ May 25 at 12:26
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You would design the horn polish such that it doesn't have major health effects. As for the minor effects? Since when have minor health issues stopped people from caking make-up on their face or putting product in their hair? Neither is good for your skin or hair.

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    $\begingroup$ The quest for vanity knows no limits. $\endgroup$ May 24 at 21:23
  • $\begingroup$ Not entirely sure it answers the question : "Would nail polish be dangerous?", since your answer is "design it so it isn't!". We don't know the world the hornmanoids are living in, so perhaps in reality they cannot design it, such as reusing an old world products. It's worse if they want to use the same product for both their nails (claws?) and horns ^^. $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    May 25 at 16:56
  • $\begingroup$ @Tortliena Perhaps, but that just makes for richer worldbuilding if they use something because it's there and looks pretty but is bad for them. Heh. You could consider this a frame challenge given the statement of intent in the last line of the OP's question. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    May 25 at 18:01
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    $\begingroup$ Heck, major health problems haven't stopped people from using make up! Many old make-ups contained lead, arsenic or antimony, all of which were known to be poisonous even when in use! And don't get me started on hair bleach... $\endgroup$
    – No Name
    May 25 at 20:04
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Actually, it can!

From Beaut. we read:

"It is always a hard one to pinpoint as acetone is often considered the biggest culprit for causing damage to the first layer of the nail bed. Hence so many people complaining of aching or sore nails when everlasting polish or Shellac is removed." So, what else could it be? "To me that sounds like the polish remover is simply exposing the nail back to its natural state, and it has become a little sensitive," Kate reasoned. "This will only happen when you polish your nails very regularly without a break, or if you are not in the habit of using a good quality base coat." Aha, now we're getting to it.

"The colour pigments present in polishes can seep into the nail causing yellowing and sensitivity. For me, a good base coat is the mecca of keeping nails healthy when polishing regularly!"

In other words, a low-quality polish or a poorly applied polish that exposes the keratin to the pigments used in the polish can cause damage to the horn (at least at a suspension-of-disbelief level... horns being a LOT thicker than fingernails, after all). But, hey... if you're sloshing that polish on like a fine coat of shellac, you betcha!

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Never. People who wear nail polish still grow their nails and the natural nail's composition and structure continue to be the same. Also nail polish wash away as the painted nail grows.

Funny question anyways:)

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