The toxic truth about nail polish

If you’re a polish lover and a mani-pedi fan, we may not be friends after this since the truth is nail polish is loaded with toxic chemicals. Perhaps you’ve seen nail polish labeled toxic free or even three-free (five-free and even 10-free). This refers to the lineup of toxic chemicals found in nail polish.

When you see three-free, for example, manufacturers are advertising that their product is free of the three commonly found chemicals, toluene, formaldehyde and dibutyl phthalate.

Nicknamed the toxic trio, these three common ingredients in nail polish are known to have serious health impacts on users, and in particular, salon workers. Both toluene and dibutyl phthalate have been linked to birth defects while formaldehyde is a known carcinogen.

See, you’re already frowning. I can tell and unfortunately, things don’t get better as you keep reading.

These chemicals are used because dibutyl phthalate is a plasticizer, toluene evenly suspends color and formaldehyde is used as the hardening agent.

Studies have been conducted that show elevated levels of chemicals in the body of those who had their nails polished directly as opposed to having polish applied to fake nails, which shows that nail polish chemicals can leach into the human body. Some of these nail polish chemicals are also used in plastics manufacturing and as a fire retardant in foam furniture.

Now you’re wondering why this is allowed? Well, that’s because the US Food and Drug Administration only requires ingredient labels on consumer polish, not salon-only products. They also allow phthalates to be listed as “fragrance” (due to trade secret concerns) and exempts “incidental ingredients” from disclosure requirements.

The FDA says that while they acknowledge there are harmful ingredients in nail polish, they are safe as long as the product is used as directed, painted and not ingested. (This is a part where we can frown together).

Now we’re all on the same thought-train here…let’s use nail polish without these chemicals. Yes, we could but other reports have found that while some manufacturers did remove the toxic trio, they were simply replaced by other chemicals, another plasticizer, triphenyl phosphate (TPHP), which is also toxic. You can see a full list of nail polish brands using TPHP.

If you’re looking for healthy nail polish, a few suggestions for less toxic nail paint options include Piggy Paint, Zoya, Suncoat, Honeybee Gardens, LVX, Acquarella, Sheswai and RGG, all of which still contain chemicals, so be sure to check the ingredient label before using.