Have you heard of the chemicals formaldehyde, toluene and dibutyl phthalate?

Formaldehyde, yes the same stuff used to preserve dead things, is a known human carcinogen and can also cause eye, throat, nose and skin irritation. DBP (dibutyl phthalate) is a known reproductive and developmental toxin, while toluene is a possible reproductive and developmental toxin and can also cause headaches, dizziness and fatigue. All of these chemicals can be absorbed into the body through the nail bed. (Hudson).

Guess what? Those are the common ingredients that make up nail polish. In order to create hundreds of different colors that are shiny or glittery and stay on your nails a chemical concoction is needed.

In 2006 one of the leading nail polish brands, OPI, removed the “toxic trio.” Although, it was a failed attempt to make a better nail polish, what they really did was replace their old formulas with new harmful chemicals that had different names.

Here is the ingredient list for an OPI polish from the eco friendly blog Mkokopelli. The first ingredient is Butyl Acetate click here to read about its toxicity.

Butyl Acetate, Ethyl Acetate, Nitrocellulose, Tosylamide/Epoxy Resin, Acetyl Tributyl Citrate, Isopropyl Alcohol, Stearalkonium Bentonite, Benzophenone-1, Silica, Trimethylpentanediyl Dibenzoate, Polyvinyl Butyral. May contain: [+/- CI 77891 (Titanium Dioxide), CI 19140 (Yellow 5), CI 15850 (Red 6, Red 7), CI 15880 (Red 34), CI 77491, CI 77499 (Iron Oxides), CI 77510 (Ferric Ferrocyanide), CI 77163 (Bismuth Oxychloride), Polyethylene Terephthalate, CI 77000 (Aluminum Powder), Mica, CI 77007 (Ultramarines), Calcium Aluminum Borosilicate, Calcium Sodium Borosilicate, Ethylene/VA Copolymer, Tin Oxide, CI 77120 (Barium Sulfate), CI 77742 (Manganese Violet).

There is no natural nail polish, as much as companies want you to believe it. In addition to the actual nail polish you may also want to avoid nail strengtheners, removers, and nail salons all together. Have you ever walked into a nail salon where the employees were in masks and thought “It smells like strong chemicals, maybe I should wear a mask too?” Well, maybe it’s time to trust that instinct.

Nail polishes are chemical mixtures that are harmful to us and to our environment. Polishes that are tossed into the trash can leech their toxicity into the soil and groundwater. Interestingly enough many household hazardous waste departments list nail polish as one of the hazardous waste products accepted at their facilities. That means the stuff we are painting on our nails is put in the same category as insecticides and house paint.

What is the alternative? Buff you nails for a shine. Try wearing colored rings or jewelry if you are missing your red hot finger paint. If you must paint your nails paint your toes instead of your fingers. Nail polish on your fingers is close to your mouth, eyes and is more easily inhaled.

Do you wear nail polish or do you choose to avoid it?


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