Your Health

Be the Queen Bee of Non-Toxic Nail Polish

Tips for reigning supreme with perfect nails

Ah, summertime! Long awaited and well deserved, the weather is finally perfect for shades, swimsuits and shorts. Looking to complement that super cute swimsuit with a fun nail polish color? Whether you like to get your nails done at a nail salon, or are a DIY kind of person, keep in mind that not all nail polishes are created equal. So, on your next beauty run selecting the perfect shade, be sure to look out for ones that are safe for your health!

Yikes! What should I keep an eye out for in my nail polish?

While there are more than a handful of chemicals to watch out for, the most important ones are probably what is known as “toxic trio”, toluene, formaldehyde and dibutyl phthalate. Toluene, which is found in both nail polish and finger nail glue, can cause headaches, dizziness and irritate the eyes, nose and throat. Long-term exposure to toluene can lead to liver and kidney damage and even harm the growing baby. Formaldehyde which is found in nail polish and nail hardener has not only been implicated in causing cancer, but in lower doses can irritate the eyes, nose and throat, makes it difficult to breathe and in some cases results in asthma-like attacks accompanied by coughing and wheezing (1). Nail polish manufacturers may also list formaldehyde under the names formalin and methylene glycol (2). Dibutyl phthalate is solely found in nail polish and again causes irritation to the eyes, skin, nose, mouth and throat. Nausea is also a common symptom of exposure to dibutyl phthalate. Other no-no’s to watch out for include triphenyl phosphate (TPHP) (a flame retardant) and ethyl acetate, found in nail polish, nail polish remover and fingernail glue. An extensive list of chemicals and their impacts on human health can be found here.

What can you do to decrease your exposure to toxins?

  • Keep a look out for nail polishes that contain the toxic trio and purchase nail polishes that do not contain those ingredients. Usually, they will be marketed as “3-free”, indicating that the nail polish is free of toluene, formaldehyde and dibutyl phthalate.
  • Many of these chemicals can actually migrate into your body through the nail and skin or if ingested or inhaled. In a study conducted by several schools of public health, nail polish, even when applied correctly still exposed individuals to its harmful chemicals because the nail absorbs it (3). If you’re not sure about the ingredients of your nail polish, keep those nail-biting habits to a minimum and get yourself some safer nail polish!
  • Decrease your exposure to the noxious nail polish fumes and potentially volatile chemicals in nail polish by only painting nails in a well-ventilated area. If you have small children or are pregnant, good ventilation is even more important, so your children and your growing baby are not exposed to these toxins. Try painting your nails outside, opening a window, or keeping a fan running near you to help the fumes escape.
  • Be aware of the health effects of products used in nail salons and do your research beforehand to make sure your nail salon of choice carries safer nail polish brands. Many salons also let you bring your own polish, so if you have a safe color you like, bring it with you next time you get a mani-pedi.

We’ve rounded up some brands of nail polish that will make you and your nails feel like the belle of the ball.