It’s no surprise nail polish doesn’t fall into the category of all-natural products. In fact, reading nail polish ingredients is probably an afterthought to most consumers, even if bottles by mainstream brands sport labels. While the discussion on the toxicity of nail polish has withered as of late, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stop and examine the issue from time to time.
In 2006, public health advocates raised questions about the so-called “toxic trio” of chemicals found in many popular nail polish brands. The “trio” consisted of the carcinogen formaldehyde, a hardening agent, toulene, which helps distribute color evenly, and dibutyl phthalate, a plasticizer that prevents polish from chipping. While these toxins helped people achieve the finished look they wanted from a manicure, inhaling these chemicals could lead to developmental defects and cause damage to your nervous system and the environment over time.
Exposure to toxins poses considerable health threats to salon professionals and children. Following the initial uproar, many brands removed these materials from their products. Manufacturers that state they are free of toxic trio materials are dubbed “three-free products.” This effort makes products safer to use for people and the environment, and increases transparency for consumers.
Notably, the European Union has banned the use of toxic chemicals in cosmetics for years now, while the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not yet taken any regulatory action. As such, a 2012 report by California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control revealed that a number of products used in nail salons claimed to be “three-free” when in fact they were not. Of 25 products tested, including nail thinner and top coat polishes, only five out of three-free seven claims could be substantiated. Of course, the report noted that the department only tested a small number of products on the market today, the message was clear: not all manufacturers list ingredients truthfully on labels.
Rest assured, there are clean, toxic-free polishes already available. While there is no regulatory system in place yet, don’t go throwing out your polish collection. Here’s a rundown of popular brands and eco-friendly suggestions to help you shop smarter:
A number of manufacturers go the extra step and specifically exclude formaldehyde resin and camphor from their polishes, in addition to the toxic trio. Both are non-toxic, but give consumers added safety in knowing potentially harmful ingredients are out of the picture. Here are a few brands that are proudly five-free: Chanel, Dior, L’Oreal, Revlon.
There are also a number of worthy, more natural polishes on the market. They might be a little harder to find in stores, but are worth the search. Why not give these environmentally friendly brands a try?
Photo Credit: Helmetti
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