As the dangers associated with these petrochemicals come to light, some positive changes have been made to reduce the amount of toxins in nail polish: some major cosmetic companies, such as Revlon and Sally Hansen, have begun putting the kibosh on some of the noxious chemicals in their products, and, the European Union (EU) has already banned the use of formaldehyde and phthalates in cosmetics. But until all nail polish is deemed safe, you can ensure that your latest color won't contaminate the air in your home or threaten your health by opting for a natural nail polish from an eco- and health-savvy company.
How to choose a natural nail polish
- Choose water-based instead of chemical solvent-based nail polish: Conventional nail polish is usually made of about 70 percent chemical solvents, which, when applied, evaporate into the air and give off chemical fumes which the user then inhales. Water-based nail polish replaces most or all of these chemicals with water. Specifically, look for those that say "water-based" on the label and proclaim to be free of the following chemicals:
- acetone: A solvent used in nail polish, nail polish removers, and astringents that can cause nausea, ear, nose, and throat irritation, and dermatitis. Can contaminate waterways in production and pollutes indoor air: its presence tends to be higher inside homes than outside due to the use of chemical products.
- benzophenone-1: Can lead to hormone disruption.
- benzoyl peroxide: Inhalation of this plastics additive can irritate mucous membranes and has been shown to promote cancer in animal studies.
- dibutyl phthalate (DBP): A specific phthalate, common in nail polish to prevent chipping and add shine, that studies have shown can interfere with normal hormone balance, can cause severe birth defects, and is a suspected carcinogen. Phthalates have also been shown to cause liver, kidney, lung, and reproductive system damage, and the production of phthalates pollutes the air, water, and soil.
- ethyl lactate or ethyl alcohol: Can lead to neurological damage and irritate the eyes and mucous membranes.
- formaldehyde: Used as a preservative in some nail polishes, formaldehyde is one of the world's most hazardous compounds to both ecosystems and health, according to the Environmental Defense Scorecard, and is a known carcinogen.
- toluene: Used to give nail polish its fluid quality and improve drying time, this solvent is absorbed easily by the body through the skin or inhalation, affecting the nervous system and causing depression, headaches, nausea, fatigue, and eye, nose, and throat irritation. Toluene has also been found to be toxic to the kidneys and liver and possibly a reproductive disruptor. Toluene is petroleum-based, so its production supports the pollution and greenhouse gases associated with petroleum production.
- xylene: Like toluene, this chemical solvent is petroleum-derived, toxic, and may be linked to cancer.
Find it! Natural nail polishesAs concern over the ugly side of cosmetics mounts, a variety of natural nail polishes have emerged on the market for green- and health-minded beauty junkies. And fear not: Natural nail polishes come in a variety of eye-catching colors for every occasion — just like their chem-laden counterparts.
Choosing a natural nail polish helps you go green because
- They rely on water-based ingredients in lieu of combinations of chemicals that are harmful to the environment and pose various health risks, such as cancer, hormone disruption, reproductive disorders, organ damage and more, when they evaporate into the air and are inhaled.
- Like other conventional skincare and cosmetic products, nail polishes contain petroleum-derived components. Petroleum is a non-sustainable resource, the extraction and production of which has caused major environmental damage to soil, surface and ground waters, and local ecosystems, and contributes to global warming. Petroleum-based products support the hazards of the petroleum industry, which include about 2.6 million gallons of oil spilled every month during transportation and about 71 million pounds of toxins released into the air and water during refinement.
- Many makers of natural nail polishes also follow green business practices, such as using recycled packaging and harnessing renewable energy sources like wind power.
- The Green Guide - Nail Care
- Campaign For Safe Cosmetics
- Ideal Bite - Who says it's bad to bite?
- The Nation - The High Price of Beauty
- Health Care Without Harm - Phthalates/DEHP
- All Lacquered Up: "A Polish Fanatic's Resource"
- Studies Highlight Hazards of Manicurists' Chemicals
- San Francisco Chronicle - Suit accuses cosmetic makers of organic ruse
- US Department of Agriculture - National Organic Program: Cosmetics, Body Care Products, and Personal Care Products
- Environmental Working Group - Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database: Check out where your favorite nail polish ranks on the hazard scale.