Nail polish is fun, pretty and completes a look when done well. And we all know that manicures and pedicures are relaxing. But what is in nail polish?!!? It turns out, a lot of harmful chemicals!
Many nail polishes contain toluene, formaldehyde, Dibutyl phthalate (DBP), triphenyl phosphate (TPP), and many more harmful chemicals. The chemicals in nail polish enter the body through the nail and skin after application (chemicals can get in the body through the skin not just the mouth – think, birth control patches) and through the air during application. A 2015 Duke University and Environmental Work Group study found that chemicals from nail polish in the urine of study participants 10-14 hours after application. The chemicals used in nail polish have been linked to cancer, respiratory problems, skin aliments and birth defects, to name a few. Many can cross the placental barrier and enter a growing fetus.
The health effects of nail polish are multiplied for workers in the nail polish industry. Nail technicians suffer from a range of maladies from asthma to cancer. Workers suffer from breathing problems as bad a life-long smokers. After all, 17 of the 20 most common ingredients in nail polish are hazardous to the respiratory tract. Skin disorders are almost omnipresent among nail salon workers. And most alarmingly, miscarriages and birth defects are a common side effects of working at a nail salon.
It is no surprise that nail polish contains toxic chemicals. The law that regulates cosmetics is almost 80 years old, does not require companies to evaluate the health effects of chemicals prior to use in cosmetics, and does not even require companies to share safety information with the Food and Drug Administration.
The good news is that companies make toxic free nail polish referred to as 3, 5, and 7-free (indicating the number of toxic chemicals left out of the nail polish). You can also find nail salons that are well-ventilated and use only toxic free polish or you can of course bring your own toxic free polish to the salon.
In addition, the New York Times article Perfect Nails, Poisoned Workers documents the health problems among nail salon workers and the dangerous chemicals used in nail polish.