Toxins in your nail polish
A study from October is getting a lot of headlines and making some people question their nail polish.
The joint study (1) from Duke University and Environmental Working Group says a chemical used in many nail polishes known as TPHP can leak through the skin and into the wearer’s bloodstream.
TPHP is often found in plastics and flame retardants, and nail polish-makers add the chemical to boost durability and flexibilty.
The study’s 26 participants showed a 700 percent increase, on average, in the metabolized form of TPHP. This spike came 10 hours after painting their nails.
The chemicals can contribute towards infertility, hormone-related cancers like breast and ovarian cancer, prostate conditions, thyroid disorders, neurological issues, diabetes, and even obesity (2).
“Nails aren’t permeable to most molecules, but TPHP could be absorbed into the cuticle or around the nail,” says Johanna Congleton, a senior scientist with EWG who also worked on the study.
They also make their way into the bloodstream after being inhaled (in the case of being in a closed room or nail salon during application) or being ingested (by nail biting).
“It is very troubling that nail polish being marketed to women and teenage girls contains a suspected endocrine disruptor,” says Johanna Congleton, Ph.D., MSPH, a senior scientist at EWG and co-author of the study. “It is even more troubling to learn that their bodies absorb this chemical relatively quickly after they apply a coat of polish.”
Here are just a few chemicals routinely found in nail polish and other nail products (3).
Formaldehyde is a well-known carcinogen that can cause respiratory distress if inhaled. Symptoms of exposure include coughing, asthma, and an itchy throat. Asthmatic or people with other respiratory conditions should avoid exposure to formaldehyde when possible (4).
Dibutyl phthalate is a plasticizer and solvent that is also an endocrine disruptor. Chronic exposure through ingestion can cause liver and kidney failure in children.
Toluene is, a mild skin irritant considered a developmental toxicity hazard. This chemical is dangerous to nursing or expectant mothers, as it can be absorbed into the bloodstream and find its way into breastmilk. When inhaled, the chemical can cause drowsiness, headaches, and irritation of the respiratory tract (5).
They pledged to remove the toxic trio from their nail polish. The bad news is that, in 2012, California’s Department of Toxic Substances revealed that some products claiming to be non-toxic and even “three free” still contained the toxic chemicals.4 For instance:5
*10 of 12 nail polishes that claimed to be free of toluene contained the substance
*5 of 7 nail polishes that claimed to be free of all three chemicals actually contained one or more at elevated levels
Polishes that exclude all three of the above-listed chemicals:
1. Piggy Paint, non-toxic, odorless, kid-friendly, kid-colored, water-based formula.
2. Honeybee Gardens, an alternative to solvent-based nail polish, water-based, odorless, removes with rubbing alcohol.
3. No-Miss, does not contain the three-to-avoid above, and also does not contain camphor.
4. Acquarella, water-based system of nail polish, conditioner, remover and moisturizer.
5. Suncoat, water-based nail polish that has been recognized and honored from the Canadian Health Food Association Expo.
6. Gaiam, Created by New York City’s first organic spa, this non toxic nail polish is free of known carcinogens.
7. Peacekeeper Cause-Metics, created by the Environmental Working Group as the safest paint-based natural nail polish.
8. Benecos, created without the use of formaldehydes, toluene, camphor, phthalates or formaldehyde.
9. Nubar, carcinogen-free nail care products.
10. Safe Nail Polish, non-toxic, oderless, made in the USA.
11. Priti, non-toxic, made without the evil-three and all known carcinogenic ingredients.
12. Spa Ritual, vegan nail lacquers.