Nail Polish - What to Avoid

We all love to have pretty nails but, unfortunately, it's not the healthiest thing for our body. When it comes to toxins and dangerous chemicals we need to think about what we put on our body as much as we think about what we put in our body. 

There was recent article in Yahoo News about the risks of TPHP (triphenyl phosphate or phthalate), which is found in many of the popular nail polishes. This chemical is used to plasticize products but is also a flame retardant. It's an endocrine disrupter so can affect a person's fertility, cancer risk and thyroid health. 

Other chemicals that you should avoid include fermaldehyde or formalin, toluene and dibutyl phthalate. Fermaldehyde can cause respiratory issues and may increase cancer risk. Toluene can lead to headaches, cracked skin and kidney or liver damage in higher exposures. Dibutyly phthalate has similar risks as TPHP.

If you are also a fan of gel polish and it's long lasting effects, there are some additional concerns there. UV light has been shown to cause cancer, but the small amount of time with fingers in the UV lamp does not have a significant effect on cancer risk. Again, consider the frequency of your exposure. Gel polish also contains PEG-12 Dimethicone, which is a carcinogen. You should also avoid HEMA and Di-HEMA Trimethylhexyl Dicarbamate, both shown to cause skin tumors. 

Don't forgot to consider the acetone in the nail polish remover, particularly if using gel polish. Acetone exposure can lead to nerve damage and thins nails. 

Don't worry, there are ways to have some color on your nails without too much risk if you follow these recommendations. 

  • Save the polish for special occasions to avoid chronic, long-term exposure.
  • Polish at home to avoid inhaling more of the chemicals in the nail salon.
  • Avoid painting the cuticles and skin around the nail. The nail itself cannot absorb much of the polish but the skin around it will.
  • Choose a nail polish that does not include these harmful chemicals. A great resource is the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Database. Some of the brands with the lowest toxic levels include: Acquarella, some OPI shades, Poofy and Bio Seaweed gel.
  • Bring your own low-toxin polish with you to the salon and wear a mask to reduce toxic inhalation.

Consider some of these changes to reduce your risk and still have your pretty nails!