Students develop date rape detecting nail polish

Ariane Caday
Contributing Writer

Illustration by Anna Shcherbakova

Four students in North Carolina State University’s Department of Materials, Science and Engineering have invented a nail polish that just may become a lifesaver.

The nail polish is being presented by the company Undercover Colors, which is described on Facebook as the “first fashion company working to prevent sexual assault.” The product has been specifically designed to change color when it comes in contact with common date rape drugs, such as Rohypnol, Xanax and GHB.

The team behind the company comprises Tyler Confrey-Maloney, Stephan Gray, Ankesh Madan and Tasso Von Windheim, who all met by sharing the same major at North Carolina State. As explained on the Undercover Colors Facebook page, the goal for their product is “to invent technologies that empower women to protect themselves from this heinous and quietly pervasive crime.”

Although the company is still a work in progress, Undercover Colors has already received countrywide popularity and support. The color changing nail polish was a finalist at the K50 Startup Showcase, where the team received $100,000 from an investor who saw their product demo. The team also won $11,250 North Carolina State’s entrepreneurship initiative contest held for “students from all disciplines to collaborate to develop solutions to real world challenges.”

The Undercover Colors team was encouraged to create this product due to all of them personally knowing somebody who has been sexually assaulted.

“All of us have been close to someone who has been through the terrible experience, and we began to focus on finding a way to help prevent the crime,” said Madan in an interview with a North Carolina organization, Higher Education Works. “We wanted to focus on preventive solutions, especially those that could be integrated into products that women already use.”

Womenshealth.gov states date-rape drugs are usually slipped into a drink and do not have a taste, smell or color, making it impossible to know if you’re being drugged. According to Undercover Colors, 18 percent of women in the U.S. will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. This January, the White House also released a report that stated 1 in 5 women have been sexually assaulted while in college.

Through their products, the team at Undercover Colors stated they want their product to make potential date rape offenders afraid of getting caught. With a drug-detecting nail polish, the team wants to shift the fear from the victims of date rape drugs to the perpetrators. 

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