How your nail polish could be damaging your health

Nail care products contain, in varying amounts, many toxic and potentially hazardous ingredients that can be severely damaging because they can release chemicals into the air you breathe and into your skin.
Chemical ingredients in them range from cancer-causing compounds such as formaldehyde to others that disrupt hormones. 

Researchers have identified toluene, formaldehyde and dibutyl phthalate (DBP) – nicknamed the ‘toxic trio’ because of their serious health impacts – as three chemicals of high concern for salon workers and consumers.

By wearing a nail polish that contains the toxic trio, the negative ingredients are absorbed through the nail bed. Hence, our health is affected negatively. In addition,  only because a nail polish does not contain the toxic trio, it really does not mean the nail polish is all fine and would not harm us at all. Conventional nail polishes usually mix in other dangerous but less famous and harmful as the toxic trio chemicals, such as ethyl acetate, isopropyl alcohol, dyes and more.

Non-toxic nail polishes are typically labelled as “3 up to 9” free indicating the ingredients they are free from. The brands which describe themselves as “3 – free” don’t use toluene, dibutyl phthalate (DBP) or formaldehyde. Some brands also describe themselves as “5-free” when they don’t use formaldehyde resin and camphor in addition.

Formaldehyde: gives resistance, shine and flexibility to nail polishes, it is used in long-lasting nail polishes and can cause eczema, dermatitis and other skin allergies.
When looking out for formaldehyde or formaldehyde resin, read the ingredient labels carefully as it is often labelled under a different name. What you need to look out for is:
Methenamine or quarternium-15, Diazolidinyl urea, DMDM hydantoin, bronopol and imidazolidinyl urea.

Dibutyl phthalate (DBP): is a highly toxic chemical ingredient found in cosmetics, particularly in nail polishes to prevent nail polish from chipping. It has been linked to fertility issues when absorbed through the skin.

Toluene is often used in nail polishes to give a smooth finish, however, it has been found to cause effects such as headaches and dizziness.

Triphenyl phosphate, also known as TPHP is added to polishes to increase their flexibility, as well being used as a fire retardant and can potentially be toxic.

Camphor is used to make the nail polishes glossy but when inhaled can cause dizziness and nausea. 

“It’s important for consumers to understand that ‘n-free’ can mean different things to different companies,” said Heather Stapleton of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, who commented on a study made by the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.

When switching to more “natural” nail polish products it can be difficult to find brands without the most common toxic ingredients. It is definitely worth paying a little extra money for a nail polish kinder to your nails and the environment.

Below are a few non-toxic nail polish brands but you are advised to do a further research into the ingredients they use before deciding to purchase (no affiliate links) :

Elena Daniilidou

Passionate about cruelty-free living, sustainability and ethical fashion. Aspired to contribute to minimising human impact on the environment. Vegan and minimalist.

View all posts by Elena Daniilidou →
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