There is a major problem with three-free and five-free nail polishes. They are not the same as being safe.
The words “three-free” and “five-free”, which you will see on the labels of many so-called “healthy” nail polishes, refer to three chemicals that used to be common in nail polish but have been phased out due to health concerns: dibutyl phthalate (DBP), formaldehyde, and toluene. DBP has been shown to be an endocrine disruptor, a reproductive toxin, and a carcinogen; formaldehyde and toluene are both known carcinogens. A five-free polish is free of these three chemicals, as well as two others that are linked to reproductive harm and developmental toxicity: formaldehyde resin and camphor.
Here’s the problem: just because a certain chemical that is usually in nail polish isn’t in your nail polish doesn’t mean your nail polish is safe. There are over 3,000 chemicals commonly found in cosmetics.
When I started this blog, I was really excited about nail polish and nail care. I’d recently discovered the joys of painting my nails, and quite honestly, it just seemed like a fun thing to do. But then I started to notice several side effects:
1. My skin turned extremely dry and flaky.
2. My fingernails became very thin, brittle, discolored and started peeling.
3. My hair began falling out in large amounts, especially while shampooing.
4. Several of my fingernails became sensitive to cold temperatures and were painful to the touch (and even sometimes painful when they were not touched).
5. I developed hives that would appear on my back, stomach and legs after painting my nails or using nail polish remover (even non-acetone removers).
There are many reasons to avoid the most common chemicals in nail polish. They are toxic to your body and the environment. Some of them have been linked to cancer and birth defects, among other diseases.
Fortunately there is a better way. And it’s easier than you might think. You can have beautiful nails that are healthy for you and the environment.
Chemical-free nail polish is free of formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate (DBP), toluene, camphor, formaldehyde resin, ethyl tosylamide, xylene and parabens. These chemicals are used in conventional nail polish as preservatives or solvents (and some also add texture).
There are a lot of chemical-free nail polishes on the market. Most brands advertise their polishes as 3-Free or 5-Free (meaning they don’t contain three or five of the most common chemicals found in conventional nail polish). But many polishes now claim to be 7-Free, 8-Free or even 10-Free!
A recent study published by Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School in Singapore has found that long-term exposure to certain chemicals in nail polish could lead to reproductive problems and even cancer.
In the study, researchers examined the effects of two common ingredients in nail polish: triphenyl phosphate (TPHP) and dibutyl phthalate (DBP). Nail polishes generally contain these chemicals as part of their plasticizers, which are used to make nail polish flexible and durable.
To put these findings into perspective, it is important to know how much exposure we’re talking about. The study was conducted on lab mice, who were exposed to the chemicals for 24 hours after application. This amount of exposure is not realistic for humans – it would be the equivalent of a person wearing nail polish every day for many years without ever giving their nails a break. So should we be worried? For now, probably not.”
The Health Risks of Formaldehyde Resin in Nail Polish
I’ve been curious about this one for a while. I have read a few things in the past that made me wonder if formaldehyde resin, a common ingredient in nail polish, could be harmful to my health. The problem is, it is listed as less than 1% on most ingredients lists so I couldn’t find any definitive information.
The truth is there hasn’t been very much research into the safety of formaldehyde resin and its effects on humans. There are some studies that suggest that formaldehyde can cause allergic reactions in people with sensitive skin. It can also cause erythema multiforme minor, a mild skin reaction which causes redness and itching (a good description of this reaction can be found here).
However, the main concern about formaldehyde resin is that it contains impurities such as formaldehyde and toluene sulfonamide-formaldehyde resin (TSFR), which are chemicals known to cause cancer in animals. These chemicals are used in the manufacturing process but are not required to be listed on the ingredients list because they are not intentionally added to the product (a loophole in FDA regulations). This means that there may be trace amounts of these chemicals left over after manufacturing which
White nails, yellow nails, and even purple or dark blue nails are all normal manifestations of a healthy nail. They are not however the prettiest.
Pink nails are pretty and healthy looking. So we use polish to cover up our white and yellowish nails, to make them pink again.
Pink polish doesn’t actually turn your nails pink; it simply covers up any discoloration that may be present. The same principle goes for other nail polishes as well; reds do not turn your nails red, blue does not turn your nails blue… you get the picture.
So if pink polish doesn’t actually turn your nails pink, what does? Well, the answer is simple: blood flow. Just like any other part of the body (like lips for instance), the color of your nails is determined by the amount of blood flow to that area. The more blood flow you have, the pinker they will appear to be.
Here’s a scenario: I’m sitting in a doctor’s office, looking at the floor. My pulse is pounding and my cheeks are hot. I’m trying to hide my hands under my legs, but it’s impossible because I’m sitting on them.
The doctor asks about my symptoms and I tell him about the pain in my joints, the rash on my face, the red bumps that look like mosquito bites all over my body.
He suggests maybe it’s an allergy to something new. Maybe I changed laundry detergents or body soaps or bought a new couch or got a new cat. Or maybe it’s something I ate?
I tell him that I’ve been eating the same thing for weeks and have used the same laundry detergent for months and that the only thing that has changed is…then he interrupts me with his diagnosis: “You’re having an allergic reaction to your nail polish.”