Personal Care
Is Your Nail Polish Toxic?

Is Your Nail Polish Toxic?

January 11, 2023

By Healthy Child Healthy World Staff 

It’s a mani-pedi time of year. Sandal season means nail polish is currently in hot demand. Unfortunately no matter how good it looks, it’s not good for you; it could be toxic. And it’s especially not good for kids, teens, or pregnant moms; nail polish can contain hormone disruptors—not something you want around developing systems. That said, not all polishes are created equal.

There are many options now on the market claiming to be free of the three worst substances found in most: dibutyl phthalate, toluene, and formaldehyde. These three ingredients, nicknamed the “toxic trio,” have been linked to asthma, cancer, and reproductive problems in peer-reviewed studies. Phthalates, some of which are banned in Europe but not in the U.S., are used to make polish both flexible and chip resistant. Formaldehyde, which can be absorbed through nails and skin, is thought to be a carcinogen by the EPA and the National Toxicology Program. Toluene is a skin and respiratory tract irritant. A product that doesn’t contain this trio is often referred to as “three free.” Of course even a three-free nail polish is still nail polish. It will still be full of substances that make it harden, colors (synthetic or mineral), and you and the person doing your nails (if it isn’t you) are still inhaling VOCs when it is being applied and removed.

If you’d like to avoid the concerns associated with nail polish you can dare to go bare. Or you can buff your nails instead of having them polished with potentially toxic nail polish, which makes them quite shiny. If you prefer to polish, it’s good common sense to opt for the safest versions available and to apply them (or have them applied) in a well-ventilated space. If you’re letting the kids have a special treat, seek out water-based polishes. And remind them not to chew the polish off their nails.