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  • Writer's pictureSarah

Nail Polish Exposed: The Hidden Dangers

Many of the nail polishes on the market today are frankly unsafe! They contain harmful chemicals that can damage your health and the environment. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), many popular nail polish brands contain toxic ingredients that have been linked to cancer, reproductive harm, and endocrine disruption. Although you cannot find a 100% chemical-free nail polish, there are better, lower-toxin options available that are safer and more sustainable. Let’s take a look at common chemicals to watch out for and what better options are out there. 

Ten Toxic Chemicals to Look Out for in Nail Polishes 

Research now shows that some of the chemicals found in nail polishes can be absorbed through the skin. Therefore, it is important to be aware of common chemicals found in nail polish that should be avoided! Here are some of the most common toxins found in nail polish: 

1.Formaldehyde: Used as a nail hardener, it is a carcinogen and can cause respiratory issues, skin irritation, and allergic reactions. It can be listed as "formalin" and methylene glycol on product labels. 

2. Ethyl Tosylamide: Primarily used in nail polish as a plasticizer and film former, this chemical can cause severe allergic reactions. 

3. Toluene: Used in nail products to suspend the colour and form a smooth finish across the nail, toluene is a toxic chemical that can affect the central nervous system and cause headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. 

4. Dibutyl phthalate (DBP): Used as a solvent for dyes and as a plasticizer that prevents nail polishes from becoming brittle, it has been linked to reproductive issues and hormonal disruptions. 

5. Triphenyl phosphate (TPHP): An alternative to DBP, this toxic chemical is found in some nail polishes. It is often used as a flame retardant or plasticizer and studies show that it is an endocrine disruptor that can negatively affect thyroid function and reproductive health.

6. Synthetic Camphor: This ingredient gives nail polishes their glossy, shiny appearance. Camphor is a toxic chemical that can cause seizures and liver damage. 

7. Xylene: Used to prevent nail polish from becoming gloppy, xylene is a toxic chemical that can cause headaches and dizziness. 

8. Benzophenone-1: Used to prevent ultraviolet (UV) light from damaging colours, it has been linked to cancer and is a known endocrine disruptor.

9. Phthalates: A solvent used to reduce cracking, they are well-established endocrine disruptors. 

10. Parabens: Another common ingredient found in many cosmetics, including nail polish, they are often used as preservatives to extend the shelf life of the product. However, they have been linked to hormone disruption and have been found in breast cancer tumours. 

In addition to being harmful to human health, these toxins can also have negative effects on the environment. They can contaminate waterways and harm aquatic life. 

Better Options 

An easy way to look for safer nail polish is to search for the "10-free" or "12-free" label. However, this is not foolproof as many companies now use this term as a form of greenwashing, as it is not regulated. But it is a good place to start, along with checking for yourself that they don’t contain the chemicals listed earlier. 

As it is hard to navigate, here is a list of lower-toxin nail polish options:

  • Sama Nail Polish

  • Sienna

  • Hanami 

  • Zao

Awareness is Key 

Most of us enjoy using nail polish to feel more glammed up for an event or put together in everyday life. It is important to be aware of the potential health risks associated with its use. By being informed about the harmful ingredients contained in some nail polishes, you can reduce your exposure to harmful toxins and minimize the risk of health issues.

It is also important to remember that the nail polish industry is not well regulated, and companies are not required to disclose all of the ingredients in their products. Therefore, it is important to do your research and choose a trusted brand that is transparent about the ingredients they use. By being mindful of the products you use, you can protect your health and the health of the environment


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