Thursday, August 30, 2012

Nontoxic Fingernails

Today, I had a message at work from a woman asking if she should put her fingernail polish in with her husband's hazardous waste pile to take to a hazardous waste collection.  I called her back and told her that most nail polish is hazardous and that yes, she should add it to the pile.

I had nail polish on my list of articles to write for this blog, and the call this morning has spurred me on to write about nail polish and nail polish removers.

Nail Polish

I don't paint my nails very often, but when I do, I try to use a non-toxic polish.  I say "try" because in April 2012, the California Environmental Protection Agency published results of testing they did on reportedly "nontoxic" nail polishes to find that many of them are indeed toxic.  The story was picked up by ABC, CBS, and NBC networks.

The California Agency bought 25 products and sent samples to an independent lab to text for the "toxic trio" often found in nail polishes: dibutyl phthalate, toluene, and formaldehyde.  Dibutyl phthalate is absorbed through the skin and can cause developmental defects of fetuses, especially males.  Toluene can cause occupational asthma.  Formaldhyde is a probable carcinogen.  No wonder nail polish is so stinky.  Imagine painting people's nails for a living.  Not a healthy profession, and those paper masks aren't going to help.

What the Agency found from the tests is that some of the nail polish with labels that claimed the product to be "nontoxic" contained at least one of the toxic trio.  And some of the products that did not make any claims to be nontoxic, were actually nontoxic with none of the toxic trio.  So, there is no telling what is in the nail polish without accurate labeling requirements. So, once again, we are buying unregulated products that can be harmful. 

Nail Polish Remover

And then you have to take the polish off at some point.  I once had a pedicure and the nail polish lasted for over a month until I got sick of it and removed it.  My nails didn't look very good after being deprived of oxygen for so long, and the remover really stunk.  I actually used polish remover once to clean a part on a car--I can't remember the details now, but found that it worked quite well.

Most nail polish removers are highly toxic containing acetone.  Acetone poisoning
symptoms are described in a National Institutes of Health document including lowering blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, sweet taste in the mouth, acting as if drunk, difficulty breathing, among many other symptoms.

A common alternative, which is also hazardous due to its flammability, is ethyl acetate.  The US EPA considers it to be relatively nontoxic even though it can cause vomiting, headaches in large amounts.  I suppose vodka could have the same effect. vodka a hazardous product?  That could be another post another time.  Choose your poison...preferably vodka to nail polish remover, I think!

Nontoxic Alternatives

Check out various nail polish and removers products at the Skin Deep cosmetics database.   I do know of some supposedly nontoxic nail polish brands that are not on this database.  In my bathroom, I have Peacekeeper and Sante polishes and Suncoat nail polish remover.  The Sante and Suncoat nail products on not in the database.  The Peacekeeper nail polish (2006 formula) does not sound good.  I bought this one more recently so, again, I don't know what's in it.

On the Peacekeeper web site it says, "Rated by the Environmental Working Group as the Safest Paint-Based Natural Nail Polish! Natural Nail Polish at its best! The Environmental Working Group's Cosmetics Safety Database ( has independently rated our Eco-Smooth Nail Paints on a scale of 0.0 (for nontoxics like water) and 10 (for products with the highest toxicity). Our polishes, at rank 3, are the highest rated paint-based nail polish.  AND they're 100% Vegan! Who could ask for anything more?"

Well, I could ask that they update their website because I don't find that information on the Skin Deep cosmetics database.  And there are nail polishes in the database that rank at "1" or "2" in toxicity which is lower than Peacekeeper.  And the Peacekeeper I do find is rated as a "4."

You could just eliminate nail polish and removers from your life--and go green.  Your nails will be healthier and your indoor air quality will improve.  Naked nails can be sexy.  Check out this article on buffing.

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