The price women pay for beauty is much higher than one might realize, particularly with regard to the hidden toxins in conventional nail polish. The three most dangerous chemicals commonly found in conventional nail polish are, toluene, formaldehyde, and dibutyl phthalate (DBP). Each come with numerous health risks from respiratory to reproductive problems. There is sufficient evidence that would strongly suggest trading in your conventional nail polish, for a safer, less toxic, water-based alternative.
The first offender, toluene, also known as methylbenzene, is a chemical commonly found in paint, paint thinners, and yes, nail polish too. It is toluene that gives your freshly painted nails that smooth, fast drying finish. As asserted by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), toluene poses an exceptionally high health risk in terms of human neurotoxicity and, developmental and respiratory toxicity.
The second dangerous ingredient is formaldehyde, a chemical released by preservatives found in not only in nail polish, but in numerous personal care products from skin and hair care, to bubble bath. It is formaldehyde that gives your nails that hard, chip-free finish. Aside from being a strongly suspected human carcinogen and known respiratory irritant, it has been linked to developmental and reproductive toxicity. As a result, it too has been deemed a high health risk by the EWG.
The final offender, dibutyl phthalate (DBP), a common plasticizer, is the chemical in nail polish responsible for that flexible, shiny finish. Likewise, DBP has been claimed a high health risk in terms of toxicity by the EWG. Moreover, DPB has been strongly linked to early puberty in girls, and reproductive organ defects in newborn boys.
The alternative to exposing yourself to such dangerous chemicals would be to opt for bare nails, or a water-based nail polish. Not only is water-based polish free from the three dangerous ingredients above, it is, as it’s name suggests, predominantly comprised of water. Therefore, instead of chemical fumes evaporating into the air, it would be water vapor. Further, water-based polish doesn’t weaken or discolor the nails as do conventional polishes where harsh chemicals are not used. While a few nail polish lines have removed these hazardous chemicals, largely due to relentless pressure from The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, many still use these toxic ingredients.
With recent reports of the numerous health risks associated with these three widely used ingredients in nail polish, it becomes clear that water-based nail polish is the safer alternative. However, it is still important to read the labels and research the ingredients. Not all of the safer alternatives are as safe as they claim to be. An excellent tool for investigating your product’s ingredients is the Environmental Working Group’s, Cosmetic Safety Database. The EWG is a non-profit organization that ranks thousands of personal care products in terms of low, medium and high risk for toxicity.