There’s a reason that your nostrils twitch and wrinkle and shrivel up when you walk within 15 feet of a nail salon. You know that chemical-y smell? It’s a cocktail of toxic chemicals.
You wouldn’t think that such scary nail polish could be sold on shelves all over the country – and not just sold – but flying off the shelves! We do have strict laws in Australia. But they’re labelling laws. Companies do not actually have to alert consumers to the possible risks around the ingredients and chemicals used in such products – they’re only obliged to label them. On top of that, chemicals that have been banned from nail polishes in Europe are still considered safe in Australia. Do you really want to take the risk?
So while we patiently wait for the science to travel ever-so-slowly from Europe (by boat, it seems, or possibly a message in a bottle), we’re going to help you learn more about the dangers of toxic nail polish. We’ll outline what look for, and where to find less toxic nail polish or pregnancy safe nail polish.
The most toxic ingredients to watch out for are these three:
- Dibutyl phthalate
Two more chemicals that are at the very least a skin irritant, with potential toxicity are:
- Formaldehyde resin
And because we’re not even sure how to pronounce some of these properly, let alone remember them, there’s a fantastic term that has emerged for summarizing safe nail polishes into what’s known as either three-free nail polishes or five-free nail polishes. Which, sadly, is not a giveaway, but is a nail polish that is free of either the top three chemicals, or the top five chemicals mentioned above. Butter London was one of the first companies to use the term.
What's the risk with nail polish?
When the list of risks of these known carcinogens and toxins include cancer risks, developmental issues in babies and children, birth defects, asthma, hormone disruptors, nervous system damage and skin irritation, you can see why there is cause for concern. In fact, there’s enough cause for concern for the European Union, the United States and Canada to impose precautionary bans on such products in children’s toys, whilst further studies are undertaken to reach a more conclusive result. How many of us have played dress ups with the kids, painting a little nail polish deemed acceptable for adults but not for children who are still developing?
See, there’s what the ACCC has classified as a ‘safe’ or prescribed amount of these chemicals in products that pass the test for acceptable levels, taking into consideration its absorption and excretion rate, breaking down and being metabolized by the human body. But formaldehyde, for example, is also found in ‘safe’ levels in some textiles and clothing, household cleaning products, shampoos, conditioners, toothpastes, cleansers, hair straightening solutions, timber materials, wall papers and plastics. How many of those do you come into contact with on a daily basis? Perhaps enough to perhaps surpass the ‘acceptable’ exposure limits? Thought so. Changes your perspective, doesn’t it?
The ACCC has also ruled that nail hardeners may have a much higher ‘safe’ limit for free formaldehyde, for example, compared to many other cosmetics. Nails are quite porous, so it’s not just the nervous nail-biters that are at risk here. There is blood flow directly under the nail beds where toxins can travel through to the bloodstream. Yet somehow, where 0.2 percent of formaldehyde is permitted in your facial cleansers, up to 5% is permitted in your nails, where there’s a pathway to the bloodstream. So how much do you really trust the current research?
What's the alternative to toxic nail polish?
But this doesn’t mean that you have to give up your glamorous ways. Not even in the slightest. Because when enough people raise concern, something magical happens. New products emerge. The consumers speak and the manufacturers listen. So three free nail polishes and five free nail polishes entered the market. Remember that these terms don’t necessarily mean that they’re non-toxic. Nail polish should definitely be an occasional use product, but there are better choices out there.
5 Free Nail Polish Brands
8 Free Nail Polish Brands
Butter London nail polish is free of the top five nasties, and also free of ethyl tosylamide, xylene, and TPHP. You can get Butter nail polish just about everywhere, including
9 Free Nail Polish Brands
10 Free Nail Polish Brands
Outside of Australia, Cult brand
12 Free Nail Polish Brands
Another good brand that’s not available in Australia, but is widely available in the UK is
Water Based Nail Polish
One of the safest options for nail polish is a water based one. Some of these are peelable, others are not.
And there’s also
Oh, and another thing - avoid nail salons. Very, very few of them use low toxin nail polish, and the air in those places is enough to make you sick. Save the manicures for home!