By Holly Pellham Davis
My daughter and I love pretty nail polish colors. But, sadly, the seemingly harmless act of getting a mani/pedi can be rife with nasty toxic chemicals that bioaccumulate in our bodies.
Most nail polish, removers, adhesives, gel manicures, acrylics, and some nail “art” contain a long list of extremely powerful chemicals that can pose a serious threat to a person’s health through both contact with skin and inhalation. Just being in the same room where certain nail products are being used can put you, your child, and especially unborn children at risk.
The big 3 harmful chemicals we find in nail polish are:
- Formaldehyde — A known carcinogen that has been proven to cause leukemia and other blood cancers, as well as severe damage to tissue in the human body, DNA, gene mutation, and chromosomal breakage.
- Toluene — Also used as an additive to gasoline and in the production of benzene (one of the most deadly chemicals on the planet), Toluene has been shown to cause neurological and cognitive damage, reproductive dysfunction and damage, kidney and liver damage, and “harm to unborn child during pregnancy.
- Dibutyl phthalate DBP — Phthalates, especially DBP and DEHP & DDP have been heavily studied and are proven developmental and reproductive toxicants. DBP exposure has been shown to be an endocrine disruptor and can cause fertility and reproductive abnormalities, especially in males (marked sperm reduction in the last 40 years, increase in testicular abnormalities and deformities.) Studies show contact with the chemical can result in an increased risk for breast cancer, prostate and testicular cancer, liver toxicity, and fetal skeletal abnormalities. What’s more, studies have confirmed the presence of DBP and other phthalates in breast milk, amniotic fluid, urine, and serum.
In a world where we are inundated with toxic exposures from many different sources, changing our Mani/Pedi habits can be an easy, doable change. Here are a three easy tips for sussing out toxic nail offenders.
Do A Background Check: Know your nail products. Find a brand you can trust. Understand that just because the product states that it’s free of Formaldehyde,Toluene, and Dibutyl Phthalate doesn’t mean it’s true. Check for yourself here. I was relieved to find my trusted Zoya brand to be one of the only left standing as truly “3 Free” after a random testing from a San Francisco store.
Be Salon Savvy: Know your salon safety rules, especially where your little one’s are getting their polish on. Make sure the areas are well ventilated with no artificial nail applications in the same room; take your own “3 Free” nail polishes, base, and top coats; skip the UV top coat and drying station, as dermatologists have been reporting dramatic increases in skin cancer attributed to the UV-light exposure from the lamps.
Steer Clear These Toxic Badboys
- Acrylic and Gel nail applications, which are made of toxic synthetic polymers and contain Methyacrylic Acid (in nail primer) and Ethyl Methacrylate (EMA), an artificial nail liquid. Exposures to these substances while pregnant may harm your unborn child. Plus, the need to soak in acetone to remove is a double toxic whammy.
- Acetone and other nail polish solvents and thinners.
- Butyl Acetate and Ethyl Acetate.
- Camphor, which is a plasticizer also commonly used as a fragrance and is highly irritating to the lungs and skin. Camphor is very toxic and at high dosages, can be lethal. (Note: There are several “all-natural” products such as lip balms, lotions etc that contain camphor, such as “Burt Bees.” I do not recommend them.)
- Formaldehyde resins: Really? We need to distinguish from Formaldehyde and Formaldehyde resins? Formaldehyde causes cancer, in any combination, mixture or form. (Note: Melamine plastic tableware, commonly used in kids plates and cups, is made of a melamine-formaldehyde resin and can be released into food at high temperatures and when in contact with acidic substances. That’s a little more than we bargained for with the little one’s cup of Orange Juice.)
Never fear, there’s still nail fun to be had. Following are my five favorite Clean Fresh nail polish brands
- Kure Bazaar -- The Mon Bleu shade is a total crowd pleaser.
- Chanel – On-trend hues and luxe formulations without all the yucky stuff (just like we like it).
- No Miss – Super Fun colors that are super long lasting. (Sidebar: They have a polish remover but it doesnʼt remove much.)
- Mineral Fusion — From the colors to the awesome base and top coat, I love everything about this line. Their polish remover is awesome too.
- Zoya — My daughterʼs fave.
With more of us joining together demanding non-toxic products for our pretty little fingers, precious princesses, (not to mention the environment) more and more safe polishes and nail products are being created to meet demand. Letʼs keep ʻem on their toes Mamaʼs! Healthy is Beautiful!
Holly Pellham Davis is the founder of Clean Fresh Living, Inc., a service focused on educating consumers and families on the importance of healthy, organic, sustainable living for life and generations to come. You can hear more from Holly on herClean Fresh Living blog, twitter, and Facebook.