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Is Painting On Nail Polish A Harmless Beauty Aid?

Group of bright nail polishes   The beauty habit of applying nail polish to long, well shaped nails has been highly popular for decades. But using nail polish, remover and other artificial nail products comes at a price because all these commercial products contain a host of toxic chemicals. Best known are the “toxic trio” of dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde and toluene. While some nail polish manufacturers have now reformulated their products to remove the “toxic trio” of ingredients, this is certainly not across the board.

These are the toxic trio

1. Dibutyl phthalate or DBP adds flexibility and a moisturizing sheen while helping to disolve other cosmetic ingredients. Sadly, it is also a reproductive and developmental toxin that can affect babies and baby boys in particular. 2. Toluene helps to keep the color in nail polish suspended while giving a uniform smooth finish. The downside is the effect on the central nervous system, even leading to headaches, dizziness and fatigue. It is also feared to be a possible reproductive and developmental toxin. 3. Formaldehyde is found in some nail products such as nail hardener. As well as a well known human carcinogen, it can cause irritation to the eyes, nose and throat and possibly lead to skin irritation and an allergic eczema rash. DBP has been banned for use in nail products throughout Europe, which also has strict limits on the amount of formaldehyde and toluene that can be used. In the USA, however, it is not illegal to use these chemical in nail products just as long as their containers are properly labeled. But even if cosmetic companies remove this toxic trio (as promised by many) that is not the end of the chemical story. There are many others including organic solvents like xylene, methyl ethyl ketone and acetone, as well as acrylic polymers such as methyl methylacrylate and ethyl methylacrylate.

The talk is now to make five-free nail polish

Five-free nail polish should be free from DBP, toluene, and formaldehyde – as well as:
  • Formaldehyde resin is a skin allergen known to cause dermatitis or eczema. It can also off-gas formaldehyde and may contain residual levels of formaldehyde.
  • Camphor is a scented substance derived from the wood of the camphor tree but it can cause nausea, dizziness and headaches when inhaled in large doses.

But is it then safe if a nail polish is five-free?

Not necessarily because a single nail polish can contain dozens of chemicals and not just those five. Most cosmetics are part and parcel of a largely unregulated industry. All of these chemicals can be absorbed into our bodies through the nail bed. And the labels on some nail products can be deliberately misleading. Those colorful bottles can be very enticing particularly to the very young and they are just one of many beauty products that many women use on a regular basis adding up to a not insignificant level of toxicity. Unfortunately, many chemicals (including those known as endocrine disruptors) have shown adverse effects even at very low doses – especially on moms-to- be and young children.

At the same time, workers in nail salons are exposed to these chemicals on a daily basis

If you really cannot live without nail polish in your life, change to non toxic nail polishes such as Honeybee Gardens or Aquarella with their low-hazard ratings from the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database. Another remedy is to change to buffing (in place of nail polish) which can create a nice, smooth sheen to your nails without using any nail polish. An added bonus is that it may actually help your nails grow stronger and longer due to increased circulation, and you won't have to worry about chipped nail polish either.