By Kim Robson:
Before I moved to the mountains, I used to get my acrylic nails refreshed every three weeks. I loved the camaraderie with my long-time manicurist and regular customers, and I loved trying out different colors and sometimes indulging in some nail art. What I hated, though, was the toxic, chemical-laced air in the salon. It’s like that in every nail salon, no matter how well-ventilated it may be.
A 2011 study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that the air quality in 21 Boston area nail salons tested dangerously poor. In 15 of the 21 salons, total volatile organic compounds (TVOC) exceeded 800 parts per million.
Most nail polishes, nail glues, and polish removers are full of dreadful chemicals, which are especially harmful to children and pregnant women, ranking them among the most toxic beauty products. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to environmental research. Their cosmetics database, Skin Deep, ranks the toxicity of chemicals commonly found in nail polishes, which often include
- Toulene — Found in gasoline, toluene is known to cause reproductive harm and dizziness. The CDC warns that exposure can lead to central nervous system disorders.
- Formaldehyde — Used for preserving biological specimens and embalming human remains, formaldehyde is a known carcinogen. In laboratories, strict measures are taken to avoid inhalation or skin contact.
- Dibutyl phthalate (DBP) — Banned in Europe, DBP is known to cause organ problems, endocrine disruption, and reproductive problems, particularly in boys. The EWG ranks DBP at the highest danger level.
- Nail polish removers — A toxic soup of dangerous chemicals, the main ingredient is acetone.
Katie at WellnessMama.com enlisted her three daughters’ help in trying out some of the safer nontoxic nail products on the market. Many brands may claim to be natural, but the following options all had safe ratings in the EWG database.
The grown-up version of the Hopscotch Kids brand, Scotch Naturals is available in lots of fabulous colors. They score a 1/10, the safest rating, on the EWG database. It works very much like conventional nail polish when used with their recommended base and top coats.
Acquarella is a high-end polish available in dozens of yummy colors. They also have a 1/10 rating on the EWG database. Aquarella polishes are water based, free of toxic chemicals, and are vegan and wheat free. They also make a non-toxic polish remover designed specifically for their polishes that is free of acetone, methyl acetate and petrochemical solvents.
These polishes are also water based, free of toxic chemicals, and have a low rating on the EWG database. More reasonable in price, they are available in 25 colors. Honeybee Gardens polishes can be removed with vodka or rubbing alcohol, eliminating the need for chemical removers.
Another nontoxic option is one that doesn’t require polish remover because it can be peeled off easily. Suncoat polishes have an EWG rating of 1/10. These polishes may not last long on your nails because they’re so much fun to peel off and try different colors.
One of the least expensive nontoxic brands, Piggy Paint is marketed to kids. It’s not as long-lasting as other brands, but that’s okay because kids want to change nail colors frequently anyway.
Ready to ditch your conventional nail polish and try one of these nontoxic brands? I surely am! But please, don’t just pitch the old bottles into the trash. Nail polish is so toxic that the EPA classifies it as “household hazardous waste.” It should be disposed of at a proper hazardous waste disposal site. Earth911.com has a handy search directory that’ll lead you to the nearest hazardous waste disposal site (United States only). Happy painting!