What you should know before you apply your nail polish
There’s something about having painted nails that make even the most mundane tasks a little more fun. A glimpse at sparkly nails or a fun manicure design can add just a glimpse of sunlight in the middle of a blurry work week, but some experts say that our mani-pedis may not be so healthy for us in other ways.
A report released by the Pollution Prevention Branch of the California EPA suggests that some nail polishes may contain toxic chemicals like dibutyl phthalate, toluene, and formaldehyde, according to WebMD.
“The chemicals in nail polish pose health risks that vary from reproductive problems to cancer,” Med India reports.
According to Med India, the three chemicals included in the study are considered a “toxic trio” because repeated exposure to these specific chemicals could lead to serious health problems.
Toluene: Used to keep the polish ingredients from separating, this chemical is also found in gasoline. Repeated exposure to this chemical causes damage to the nervous and reproductive systems. Less severe symptoms include headaches and eye/throat irritation.
Formaldehyde: This is added to polishes as a hardening agent and is used to disinfect manicure and pedicure tool. Repeated exposure to this chemical is linked to various cancers.
Dibutyl phthalate: This ingredient helps ensure the nail polish doesn’t crack. Great for ensuring your polish job lasts a long time, the ingredient is actually banned in some European countries, according to Business Insider. The chemical is known to cause damage to reproductive organs.
While the average consumer is likely exposed via casual use (applying nail polish and gel or using nail polish remover) the biggest threat of exposure actually occurs in salons.
Med India reports that manicurists and pedicurists are at higher risk for health issues because beauty salons usually have poor (or less than ideal) ventilation and because they are exposed to the chemicals more often. Professionals in the nail industry report experiencing headaches and breathing difficulties.
You don’t have to completely nix your manicures. If you want to minimize your exposure to the chemicals there are a few things you can do:
1. Choose non-toxic polishes
Opt for polishes labeled non-toxic. WebMD offers a list of polishes that passed the test.
2. Choose a safe salon
California recognizes salons that are taking strides to be healthier (choosing non-toxic polishes, providing more ventilation, etc.) Not all states or cities have this program, so you may need to do a bit of research before sitting in the manicure chair.
3. Leave your nails polish-free at least a few days per month
Remove your nail polish and let your nails breathe freely for a few days each month. Not only does this reduce your exposure to potentially harmful chemicals, it’s actually good for your nails to get some fresh air too!