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Is Your Nail Polish Safe?

December 15, 2010

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Pink nail polish.

Image via Wikipedia

Think painting your nails is a simple and safe process? Well, think again. there are chemicals that the nail industry has been using for years, that are known carcinogens. A handful have removed all of the chemicals from their nail products, but these harmful ingredients are still in a number of brands. The chemicals that I’m talking about are Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP), Toluene and Formaldehyde. Yes, you read correctly, the same chemical morticians use to embalm people.

DBP has been known to cause asthma in young children and nervous system disorders. It can also cause a variety of birth defects. DBP has been outlawed for use in cosmetics and nail products in Europe, but it is still legal to use here in the US. Why? Because the FDA is slow to respond to issues of this nature. DBP is in a lot more nail products then just nail color. Just rummaging through my nail polish stash rendered more than half in the trash can due to this nasty little chemical. Some of the ones in my drawer that I found to include DBP are: Revlon Double Action Primer; Naturistics 90 Second Super Fast Nail Color; Maybelline Express Finish Nail Color; Naturistics Super Shine Nail Color; Wet N Wild Nail Color; Sally Hansen New Lengths Nail Color; and Nutra Nail 60 Second Nail Color.

Toluene affects the nervous system and can cause memory loss. If you ever felt tired or weak coming out of a nail salon, it was probably due to breathing all the fumes from the Toluene. It’s also thought to cause cancer, and at the very least, skin irritation, especially around the nails. This can cause people who are sensitive to toluene to have dryness around the fingernails, to the extent that they crack and bleed. Toluene is very commonly found in nail polish remover as well, so if you thought the only thing to be careful of was Acetone, think again. Although I didn’t find that any of my nail polishes listed Toluene, I did find that a good portion of them contained Tosylamide Formaldehyde Resin, which is another form of Toluene. I promptly discarded at least 5 polishes because if this, which leads me to the next chemical.

Formaldehyde is the nastiest sounding of three of these chemicals. Before reading an article on nail care, I would never have thought that formaldehyde would be in anything I bought and brought into my house. To think, this is the same stuff that they use to embalm dead bodies…GROSS. OK, so what did I find out about formaldehyde? Well, what I’ve found out through extensive research is that many nail products were incorrectly labeled as containing formaldehyde when they in fact, don’t. They contain another chemical called Methylene Glycol, which is made using formaldehyde. But it’s just like making cake, once you mix and bake the ingredients, they create a completely new product that doesn’t resemble the original. So even though breathing in formaldehyde gas is known to cause lung cancer among other things, there is no formaldehyde gas in nail products. When I researched methylene glycol, I found that it can cause skin irritation, especially in those folks that already have skin conditions like myself. So if you have eczema, psoriasis or some sort of fungal infection, stay away from anything labeled with either formaldehyde or methylene glycol. The exception to this, of course, is Tosylamide Formaldehyde, which is actually Toluene (as stated previously). Anything labeled Tosylamide Formaldehyde should be completely avoided.

So there you have it. Ingredients in a long list of chemicals that we should watch very closely. And although one or more of them are banned in other countries, companies are still free to use them in products here in the US. And the only way this will change is if we speak out about it. Let your voice be heard!

Disclaimer: Manufacturers change their formulas all the time. The brands that I listed above may no longer contain these. Please check the ingredient list whenever you purchase or use any nail care or cosmetic product.

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