Undercover Colors: Nail Polish That Can Detect a Spiked Drink

    Undercover Colors: Nail Polish that can Detect a Spiked Drink

    © nikomi / Dollar Photo Club

    Last week, an independent nail polish company called Undercover Colors went viral after countless articles and TV spots about them were shared. What makes their polishes so special? Undercover Colors nail polish changes color to detect date rape drugs in drinks.

    Founded by four male North Carolina State University students, the startup polish company was born out of the goal to “empower women to protect themselves” from sexual assault. The formula reacts when coming in contact with commonly used drugs such as Rohyphnol, Xanax, and GHB. A woman would just have to stir the drink with her finger to see if it had been spiked.

    I have been hesitant to write about this potential nail polish game-changer, since it addresses sensitive and complex ideas. At first, I thought it was a pretty cool invention. Well, I still think it is. But after contemplating more about today’s rape culture, I’m not so convinced it sends the right message. While I am glad that the founders recognize that sexual assault is a crime that we should pay more attention to, I— along with other critics — have some reserves about the quiet implications a product like this reinforces.

    In their Facebook description, Undercover Colors describes the goal of their product to “make potential perpetrators afraid to spike a woman’s drink because there’s now a risk that they can get caught”. They put emphasis on “empower[ing] women to protect themselves.”

    I wholeheartedly believe that the intentions are noble, but the message that Undercover Colors sends is that it is the woman’s responsibility to protect herself from sexual assault. Most— if not all— rape counseling centers across the country try to convince victims that what happened to them was not their fault. The warped rape culture of 2014 unfortunately still places blame on the victim for what they wear, where they were, what time of night they were out, or not knowing better. Potential perpetrators should not be deterred by the chance of getting caught, but out of respect to women… out of respect to other human beings.

    While the first Undercover Colors prototype has yet to actually be developed, they are accepting donations on their website to help fund research on how to make this beauty technology a reality. As I said, I still think it’s a pretty cool invention. If development is successful, I can certainly see women being able to steer clear of a bad situation with the help of the polish, making it invaluable. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the mission of Undercover Colors. I welcome anything that can help people feel more safe, and protect themselves from attacks. I just wish that there was just as much effort spent on convicting said attackers.


    What do you think about Undercover Colors? Is it practical?



    1. I agree with your concerns, and yes, we should be teaching our children about consent and not only does ‘no mean no’ but also there needs to be a clear, verbal and nonverbal ‘yes’ at the start, and every point going forward. In the meantime, am I glad that women have another tool to use to protect themselves, yes I am.

    2. what are the implications? the implication is that feminism sometimes goes too far. Of course it is not women’s fault to be assaulted, but we need what ever we can have to protect ourselves. Not supporting this idea, is like not supporting house alarm system because they “victimize” house owners. Of course burglars and rapers are wrong and there should be other means to stop definitely those crimes, but in the meantime… would you live your house door wide opened “because it is your right”? hell no, let me put another lock and protect what is mine. And my integrity and my body integrity is mine! I’m glad we have an extra something to protect ourselves, and I have donated to undercover colors without remorse and I encourage to do so to everybody I know who cares about their integrity.

      • You make great points Nati! As I said in my closing statement, “There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the mission of Undercover Colors. I
        welcome anything that can help people feel more safe, and protect
        themselves from attacks.” And frankly, if they can get it to work, the science behind it is super cool. I’d totally buy one. But I think there needs to be just as much effort and focus on the attackers as on the victims. Another thing to think about: What happens once the woman finds out a drug has been placed in her drink? Will the authorities take the reading seriously? Will the drugger be arrested, as a home intruder would be? There are a lot of underlying issues that go beyond the surface level of the issue.

    3. I don’t like that a product like this was seen as a need for society but at the same time I’m glad it was created. We have locks on our cars and houses to keep our things safe from theft; A lock is a preventative measure you take to keep your stuff safe. So why shouldn’t there be things to help you take preventative steps to keep yourself safe?

      There are people who say we shouldn’t need it, people shouldn’t rape. True, but that isn’t going to stop someone from raping and it definitely shouldn’t stop a person from doing all they can to protect themselves. My father taught me to hold onto my drink at a party, and if I set it down to just get a new one. He taught me not to get drunk around people who I don’t know or are just acquaintances. My father taught me to take measures to reduce my chances of becoming a victim. We have so many people yelling they have every right to get black out drunk, which is also true but they also need to realize that it makes them easier to be taken advantage of; people are dangerous.

      It’s because people are dangerous that everyone should know how to protect themselves and make themselves less of a target for someone looking to take advantage of others. I know this is an unpopular opinion but it’s something to think on, I guess.

      • You make great points, none that I disagree with, which is why I am on the fence about a product like this. As a woman, I want to do everything in my power to protect myself from something like this happening. As a feminist and gender-women’s studies student, I feel the burden being placed on me to take my safety into my own hands, if that makes sense. It certainly goes both ways. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to protect ourselves. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, Megan!

    4. Well said. I’ve had the same reservations about this polish. When I first heard about it, my initial reaction was sadness that this was even needed. I think the creators have good intentions, and unfortunately, I do think the reality of the situation is we live in a rape culture where it doesn’t hurt for women to protect themselves. I’m all for it being made.

      That being said, it upsets me that most of the media is excited about this nail polish, when I feel like the conversation should be, “Why do we need this nail polish?”

      I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts on this complex topic and address it in a thoughtful way.

    5. Interesting idea. I’m not sure I’d go so far as calling it “practical”, because painting your nails with a special polish obviously takes more effort than sticking a drink testing card in your purse. But it is more discreet. You make a good point about a product like this “reinforcing” … I doubt that was the intent of the creators though, and I don’t think it’s bad for women to have another method with which to protect themselves, because unfortunately those types of attacks are still common. 🙁

      • I’ve heard that many of the drink testing cards can give false positives, which will be Undercover Colors’ hurdles to overcome as well. If this ends up being an accurate way to detect the drugs, then giving women another way to protect themselves is great– as I mentioned above to Rebs, I just wish the focus would be taken from the victim and placed on the perpetrator.


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