I love nail polish. It makes me feel polished and I enjoy picking a shade that matches my mood or outfit and I even enjoy applying it (not so much waiting for it to dry…). Having cleaned up many aspects of my lifestyle I was quite shocked to find out how toxic most of the popular nail polishes are and how that affects our bodies. I don’t want to become too paranoid about toxins in my environment as they are everywhere and you could easily freak yourself out but this made me sit up and act.
The most common toxic ingredients are toluene, camphor, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin and DBP (dibutyl phthalate). Toluene is used to achieve a smooth finish. It’s a solvent smelling of paint thinner with the potential of causing neurological harm, breathing problems, hearing loss, nausea, decreased brain function and birth defects when regularly inhaled when pregnant. It is also linked to reproductive impairment, blood cancers and immune system toxicity.
Camphor makes the nail polish look glossy and shiny. It is one of the lesser toxic ingredients out of the ones mentioned but it has shown to cause skin irritation and allergic reactions after topical use and nausea, headaches and dizziness when inhaled.
Formaldehyde is used as a preservative and to strengthen the polish. Extensive exposure through inhalation or topical use can cause cancer, asthma, convulsions, miscarriage and nausea.
Formaldehyde resin is a by-product of formaldehyde and may cause skin irritation and loss of nerve sensation.
DBP (dibutyl phtalate) is used to prevent the polish from chipping and probably the one that worries me most. It is an endocrine disruptor (messes with your homones) which mimics the hormone oestrogen in your body. They have shown to cause organ damage, damage the development of male foetuses and trigger early-onset menopause. I think this ingredient is particularly worrying for young girls.
Of course, any toxic effect depends very much on the amount inhaled or applied but I have decided to err on the side of caution. Toxin-free polishes are available and I am very happy with the quality. So far I have tried Zoya and Nailberry. They seem to be only available online and they’re not super-cheap but I think it is a price worth paying.