Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Toluene, what? What's in your nail polish?

I hesitated when Miss M asked me to paint her nails yesterday. She told me she wanted to show all her new friends at church her beautiful nails. She clutched the red polish tightly in her hand and was ready for the ok.

I'm going through my house replacing products containing harmful chemicals with chemical-free ones, but I can't do it all at once. While in the past I have always had my toenails painted, I stopped painting them several months ago when I heard about the nasty chemicals inside. Lucky for me, it's been winter and my toes have been well hidden.

Nail polish is super stinky stuff. Strong chemical smells always make me think that whatever is causing that smell isn't good for my body. If it's not good to inhale or ingest, chances are pretty good that it isn't good for me to put on my body either. Nail salon workers wear masks when painting nails, but customers don't. Hmmm.

Makers of nail polish are slowly getting away from the worst offenders. Here's a few of the most toxic ingredients and why they are a problem.

  • Toluene - It's a clear liquid also used in paint thinners that has been linked to disrupting the nervous system and may cause developmental problems. Read more here and here.
  • Dibutyl phthalate - It is used in adhesives and is frequently used as a plasticizer (increases flexibility and durability in plastics). It may have negative effects on the immune, endocrine, and reproductive systems as well as human development. Read more here and here.
  • Formaldehyde - Sadly, it is pretty much everywhere. Because of its simple chemical structure, it is a by-product of many chemical processes. It can cause a whole load of problems, including cancer. Read more here and here. (If it's used to preserve a dead body, then it's not good for a live one! Thanks to my human anatomy class.)
There has been a lot of progress made in the last few years, and there are many great non-toxic nail polishes on the market. However, if you tend to hold on to your nail polishes for a long time, please check the ingredients.

I think Miss M may need some new polish in her Easter basket. Blue is her absolute favorite color. I just might need some, too. Spring is calling my name, and my winter toes are begging for some color.

What's your favorite go-to hue?


  1. You're in luck! I found non-toxic nail polish. I think it is called piggy paint. Maybe some of that can show up in your daughter's basket :)

    Thanks for stopping by, by the way!

  2. ooooh those colours are AWESOME!
    mmm... i think tiptop make nontoxic paint...

  3. The nails look great... thanks for stopping by.

  4. Yikes! I never thought about nail polish as a hazard before -- I'll have to look at the labels more carefully now. Where do they sell the "safer" ones?

  5. My husband is very into scrubbing our house of toxins. Not surprised about the nail polish...like you said, the smell gives it away. Luckily my daughter hasn't gotten into the nail painting thing! Thanks for stopping by my blog!

  6. I have always adhered to the rule of not painting their fingernails when they were little (toes I did) for the simple reason they put in them in their mouths.

    I am going to look for those safer solutions!

  7. LOVE those blues! And the only non toxic I've found is Piggy Paint, they are great but not chip resistant!!

  8. I quit painting my toenails when I found out about all the toxins. Now I may have to seek out Piggy Paint. Thanks!

  9. Heather - I think painting toes only is a great idea.

    Piggy Paint looks like a great option. I've found a few others - Go Natural, Gaiam, No-Miss, Acquarella, Honeybee Gardens, and Suncoat.

    I finally chucked all my old polish last night and am on the hunt for some great colors.

  10. play101 - I found some of the safer ones at a health food store near my house. I checked online, too, and most of them sell on their own websites and Amazon. Some sites let you look up where retailers are if they have them. Others offer coupons, free shipping with a certain dollar amount, and other incentives. Happy shopping!


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