I have some good news, and I have some bad news. The good news is that nail polish isn’t as unhealthy as hair dye and perfume. The bad news is that it’s not the healthiest product on store shelves. Today I’ll explain what’s so dangerous about painting your fingers and toenails – everything from nail polish to polish remover.
Not all nail polish is bad. (Check out Skin Deep’s Cosmetics Safety Database for safe choices, including some water-based, solvent-free options.) But just about all the toxic polish that’s on store shelves contains at least one of four dangerous ingredients: aluminum powder, dibutyl phthalate, toluene, and triphenyl phosphate. Here’s the scoop:
Used as a colorant, aluminum powder is made of finely ground aluminum. The powder’s known to be a human respiratory toxicant, and there is strong evidence that it’s a carcinogen, is a human immune toxicant, a human respiratory toxicant, and a human neurotoxicant.
Dibutyl phthalate’s nasty – for one, it’s a phthalate. This ingredient is banned in the European Union and is a known human immune system toxicant and human respiratory toxicant. There’s strong evidence that it’s a human endocrine disruptor and neurotoxin, too. Particularly harmful to baby boys, dibutyl phthalate has been linked to birth defects in male reproductive systems.
Speaking of nasty, toluene is a really hazardous, highly flammable chemical. An ingredient of paint thinner, the International Fragrance Association has deemed toluene unsafe for use in cosmetics – yet it’s still part of nail polishes sold in the United States. Toluene irritates skin, causes nausea, and impairs breathing. Vapors can cause dizziness and drowsiness – and if a pregnant mother inhales toluene’s vapors, her fetus may experience developmental damage. There’s also strong evidence that it’s a neurotoxin, a human developmental toxicant, and a human nervous system toxicant.
A plasticizer that is a known human immune system toxicant, triphenyl phosphate is included in nail polishes – there’s strong evidence that it’s a human neurotoxin, too.
Nail polish remover
Surprisingly, as long as nail polish is an acetone-free variety, it’s only a moderate hazard.
Cuticle and nail treatments
Some cuticle and nail treatments – not all – are hazardous. Dangerous ingredients include phthalates (masked as “fragrance” on ingredient lists), eugenol, salicylic acid, triclosan, toluene (check out the description under “Nail polish”) and formaldeyhyde – also called DMDM hydantoin and formalin.
Also an ingredient in dangerous perfumes, eugenol is a natural and synthetic scent. It irritates skin, eyes, and lungs, is a known human immune system toxicant, and is linked to allergies and contact dermatitis.
Used in skin treatment products as a penetration enhancer, salicylic acid can either be a naturally occurring form or synthetically produced form of beta hydroxy acid. It’s restricted in both Canada and Japan, and accumulates as a body burden.
Triclosan’s also restricted in Canada and Japan – and it another chemical that adds to a person’s body burden. It’s an antibacterial component in many personal care products and irritates eyes, lungs, and skin. Studies also have proven that it disrupts hormones in a human’s endocrine system.
Formaldehyde is present in nail products in two forms: formalin and DMDM hydantoin. Formalin’s simply a combination of formaldehyde, water, and methanol. DMDM hydantoin is a antimicrobial formaldehyde releaser. Both forms – and formaldehyde, in general – are used as preservatives. The big problem is, even though it’s an effective preservative, formaldehyde is a known carcinogen, human immune system toxicant, human renal toxicant, and human respiratory toxicant. People can develop an allergy to formaldehyde and its many forms. It’s one more ingredient that’s banned in Canada and Japan but legal in the United States.
“Nail Care.” Skin Deep Cosmetics Safety Database.
“”Nail Polish” and “Nail Polish Remover.” On Your Body. The Naked Truth Project.
Latest posts by Hilary Kimes Bernstein (see all)
- The Day I Realized Healthy Choices Don’t Guarantee Health - July 21, 2015
- Avoid Synthetic Bug Sprays with All-Natural Repellents - July 16, 2015
- The Day I Learned I Could Cook Real Food - July 13, 2015