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Articles  |  Beauty  |   Is Nail Polish Toxic?

Is Nail Polish Toxic?

Nail polish is an accessory that most women love to wear at one time or another but is it actually doing our health harm?  Read on to find out more.

Why is Nail Polish so Dangerous?

The three main chemicals that many conventional nail polishes contain are dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde, and toluene.  These have been linked to skin irritation in adults and to birth defects in animals.  Dibutyl phthalate is used as a solvent in many cleaning products and it can irritate the nose and throat.  Phthalates are used to soften plastics and have an effect on the hormone function.  They have been linked to early puberty in girls and a low sperm count in men.  Repeated exposures to dibutyl phthalate can cause nausea or vomiting, watering of the eyes, dizziness, and headache.  Long term exposure can damage the kidneys and liver. 

Toluene is a human reproductive and developmental toxin that can cause liver damage, skin irritation, and respiratory tract irritation.  It can affect the nervous system, causing symptoms such as tiredness, confusion, weakness, drunken-type actions, and memory loss.  In high levels, it can affect the kidneys. 

Formaldehyde is a carcinogen and is known to cause squamous cell cancer in the nostril after repeated inhalations.  It is also a common indoor air pollutant and inhaling its fumes can cause watery eyes, headaches, burning in the throat, and laboured breathing.

Safer Nail Polish Alternatives

However, you do not have to give up nail polish altogether.  Some major beauty companies are now making nail polishes that are free of these dangerous ingredients, taking out the toluene and the formaldehyde.  Read the labels and choose a brand that has the least amount of toxins possible and always apply the nail polish in a well-ventilated area.  Be aware, though, that just because the nail polish is free of the most dangerous chemicals, it does not mean that it still does not contain a cocktail of other chemical solvents.  If you love the convenience of having a manicure or simply popping to the nearest store to get your favourite colour, some relatively safe brands include L’Oreal, Revlon, Sally Hansen, and OPI.

There is no such thing as a 100 percent natural nail polish as it simply will not stay on the nail.  Water based nail polishes are probably the closest thing that you will get as the dangerous chemicals have been removed and replaced with water.  However, there are still some chemical solvents.

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