Could Your Manicure Be Making You Feel Sick?

Aug. 9, 2020
Classic nail polish has earned quite the bad rap in the last couple of years. People started taking a closer look into the cosmetics industry, and all of a sudden ingredients like parabens and added chemicals were 'canceled.'
It's probably not a shock to most that nail polish isn't made with the healthiest ingredients. If you've ever taken a whiff of it and felt dizzy, you'll know what we mean. But besides irritating your nose, some nail polishes contain solutions and ingredients that can potentially cause health issues. These chemicals could make their way into your bloodstream through your nail beds or when you simply breathe around an open bottle of polish. 
We know all of this sounds super scary. All you wanted to do was paint on your favorite OPI or Essie polish, followed by a glossy top coat and call it a day. We have enough to worry about, and now we have to add nail polish to the list? 
The good news: Natural alternatives do exist. Nail polish formulas have come a long way. Today, there are options without harmful chemicals and other possibly dangerous ingredients. We're giving you the lowdown on "non-toxic" and "natural" nail lacquers. 
Knowing the Nail Polish Lingo:
"Safe" nail lacquers are broken down into categories from "three-free" to "ten-free", referring to the number of harsh or dangerous chemicals they are free from. 
So, which nail polish ingredients should you be on the lookout for?
1. Three-Free Nail Polish
The top three ingredients you should steer clear of are formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate. Nail lacquers labeled "three-free" will be formulated without these three harsh chemicals. 
  • Formaldehyde: Did you know formaldehyde is commonly used in the embalming process? Umm, no thank you! It's also known to have cancer-causing agents and can cause skin irritation. 
  • Toluene: Breathing in too much toluene can lead to headaches and dizziness. 
  • Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP): This makes your polish harden on the nail, but it's proven to weaken the hormonal development of male fetuses. 
2. Five-Free Nail Polish
A bit safer than three-free, five-free polishes are created without formaldehyde, toluene, DBP, but it also eliminates camphor or formaldehyde resin.
  • Camphor: Camphor is an oil extract that has been shown to cause severe skin reactions. 
  • Formaldehyde resin: Formaldehyde resin has been shown to link to cancer directly, and for some patients, it's provoked dermatitis. 
3. Seven-Free Nail Polish
Seven-free polishes are created without the five chemicals we mentioned above, plus they five-free leave out xylene and triphenyl phosphate.
  • Xylene: When inhaled, xylene can cause dizziness, nausea, and in more extreme cases, vomiting.
  • Triphenyl phosphate: This is a type of synthetic chemical that can do some severe harm to your hormones. Some studies have shown it's also potentially toxic to liver cells.
4. Eight-Free Nail Polish
Eight-free formulas are free from all the ingredients we mentioned above plus ethyl tosylamide and triphenyl phosphate.
  • Ethyl tosylamide: This is a type of chemical known to be the culprit of severe allergic reactions and could potentially cause liver damage in extreme cases.
5. Nine-Free Nail Polish
Nine-free nail lacquers are free from all of these chemicals, plus they're free from parabens and acetone.
  • Parabens: Parabens are a type of preservative found in a slew of cosmetic products. They mimic the estrogen hormone and have been linked with breast tumors.
  • Acetone: You'll probably recognize this as what you remove nail polish with, not apply it, but many nail polish formulas actually contain acetone. Acetone has been ruled safe by the FDA, but it can cause a sore throat when inhaled. 
6. Ten-Free Nail Polish
The 'safest' nail polish on the market is ten-free. It's free from any of the harmful additives we mentioned. Plus, they don't contain animal byproducts - meaning it's vegan!
Who makes non-toxic nail polish?
Popular and indie nail polish brands are crossing off many of these toxic ingredients from their formulas list. We do have more vegan, non-toxic, cruelty-free, gluten-free, and vegan nail lacquers available today than ever before. Luckily for those who love a fresh manicure, nail polish quality doesn't seem to be compromised. Be on the lookout for top-rated 'safer' nail polishes. And if the smell makes you never want to repaint your nails, water-based formulas are odorless. 
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