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When we label a product as safe, it is initially tested only on humans. And then, they were tested on the animals to see if they were safe for all the other animals. And today, environmental safety standards are measured. Nail polish is a thriving makeup industry that may be separated from the ever-lovely makeup industry and given its own name: the nail industry. There are so many new releases for nail polishes that it is very hard to keep track of them all.
And with so many different nail polishes on the market, several chemicals are also employed in nail polishes. And thus, they have their individual characteristics. However, there is a safety concern with nail polish. So, is nail polish safe? Nail polishes are safe for use on nails and for skin contact. They wouldn’t be marketed as makeup. But does it mean that the nail polishes are completely non-toxic? They are safe for humans, but they are not non-toxic.
Products like formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate, or DBP, are present in nail polishes, and this makes them toxic. They are dangerous to ordinary people as well as animals. Not only that but when you use nail polish on the nails, there’s a harsh removal process that might harm the nails. And these will be very traumatizing for the nails, making them fragile. As a result, while nail polishes may appear safe for the time being, they are not all that great in the long run.
When it comes to nail polishes and other makeup products, what you mean by “safe” and “non-toxic” is very hard to decipher. Chemicals are not always safe, and they tend to be more harmful in some way or another. A product or chemical that might seem fit and safe for humans might turn out to be toxic for animals and the planet. And anything that is not biodegradable is supposed to hamper the planet. And as the nail polishes’ main ingredient is resin, which is a polymer, they are not mostly biodegradable.
Well, most of the brands market themselves as three free, five free, and ten free. This means that absinthe is one of nail polish’s most common toxic products. Does it completely eliminate their toxicity? No, they don’t. When you think of a completely safe product, it is mostly made of all-natural ingredients or only synthesized from natural sources. But that is really not the case with nail polishes. These are made of polymer and pigment; the natural ingredients they contain are oils.
These oils are for the strength of the nails. And unlike the rest of the ingredients, nail polishes are not synthetic. And with the upgrade of gel polishes and soft and hard gel, the question of “are gel polishes safe?” is getting more and more prominent, as most things are still in question. And this will also include the application and removal processes of the gel polishes.
What makes nail polishes unsafe?
When you think about nail polishes, there are some facts to consider, and they are perfect when done according to the characteristics of the polishes and the type of the polishes. When thinking about the types of polishes, there are mostly two: conventional nail polishes and gel polishes. Then there are acrylic nails, which are also included in the acrylic nail category. So, in order to address safety concerns, we must go over each type of nail polish.
Conventional nail polishes
Traditional or regular nail polishes have a thin layer on top of the polish and tend to come in liquid form. The solvent vaporizes when they come into contact with air, and a film forms in the nails. With this kind of nail polish, the product itself is toxic due to some chemicals, but the removal process attracts more attention. Safety concerns with regular polishes are:
- Acetone is used to remove nail polish, and acetone can harm the cuticles and dry out the skin.
- There’s a chance of staining from the nail polish.
- The strength of the nails might deteriorate.
- Discoloration of the nails is a big concern with darker shades.
When we think about gel polishes, there are three kinds. The soft gel, the hard gel, and gel polish These polishes are cured in the presence of an LED or UV light. With this sort of polish, they are packed with monomers and oligomers that are in a liquid state, and as soon as they are in contact with UV light, they form a film on top of the gel that polishes. The safety concerns with gel polishes are:
- Direct exposure to UV light
- UV rays can be a good reason for aging and cellulite damage and can even lead to skin cancer.
- The removal process of the hard gel is pretty aggressive, as the gel is removed with mechanical filling.
- The removal process also involves 100% acetone, buffing, scraping, and peeling, and there’s a high chance that it’ll affect the integrity of the natural nails.
- The nails will get dry and brittle if the gel polishes are used frequently.
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Powder dip polishes
These are also known as acrylic nails. There are two parts to getting this gel activated. First, there’s the bonding part, which is the adhesive part. First, the fine acrylic powder is applied to the nail, and then the activator is applied to the nail. As a result, the resin bonding polish polymerizes, resulting in a hard surface on top. So there’s no need to use a UV or LED light. Safety concerns with acrylic nails are:
- They contain the smell of acrylic, which might not be for everyone.
- Powder dips are used on multiple people, so they are not all that safe.
- And again, the removal process of the acrylic polishes is harsh, like that of the gel polishes, which might affect the overall texture of the nails.
The toxic trio of nail polish
There are three top toxic products in nail polish that are considered the most harmful of them all. Formaldehyde is a certified carcinogen. Toluene, a neurotoxin and irritant, and DBP, which is harmful to the reproductive development of animals, are present in nail polish as a film-forming agent, a suspension agent, and a plasticizer. These are the most toxic of all nail polishes, and besides these, there are other products that we will discuss later in this article.
Dibutyl Phthalate, or DBP, is responsible for chronic and acute toxicity as a chemical. They work as plasticizers and might irritate the skin, nose, mouth, and throat. And they might also affect the reproductive organs of males, but there’s no proof that DBP is toxic for animals.
Toluene: They are used as thinner in nail polish and are mostly colorless and similar to glue. The amount of toluene that is safe in the human body is around 200 ppm. And in nail polishes, the level is lower than this. They might not have a long-term effect, but they might contain problems like dizziness, toxicity, dry skin, irritation on the skin, nose, etc.
Formaldehyde: This is completely forbidden to be used in any sort of dye and even in industrial products. Low levels of formaldehyde might be available in food and other sources, but they are not completely unutilized. And that’s why the use of formaldehyde in cosmetics, specifically in nail polishes, is not controlled. For the nail hardeners, the amount of formaldehyde is around 5%, and for regular polishes, the amount is around 0.5%.
Other toxic materials in nail polishes
Besides the trio, there are other products in nail polish that are not the leaders in toxicity, but they seem to have their own takes. These are included in the seven toxic materials, and those free from them are known as 7-free.
Triphenyl phosphate, or TPHP, is used as a plasticizer in nail polish and is supposedly absorbed into the body. People who used TPHP-infused nail polish had the chemical found in their urine. So they might lead to chronic diseases.
Benzophenone: According to European safety standards, benzophenone is a toxic material and is mostly an allergen and an endocrinological disruptor. They might be related to endocytosis, disruption of testosterone secretion and semen production, increasing estrogen levels, etc.
Camphor: they can cause discoloration of the nails as well as a decrease in their strength. They can cause seizures and imbalances in humans.
Ethyl tosylamide: these are also known as epoxy resins and pose a low hazard to human bodies.
Xylene: this is considered a carcinogenic material, and it might also irritate the skin and eyes.
How do I identify the “safe” nail polishes?
When you think about non-toxic nail polishes, you might want to go with three sorts of nail polish. And they’re all followed by the word “free.” They are:
3-free: they are free from toluene, formaldehyde, and DBP.
5-free: they are free from DBP, camphor, formaldehyde resin, toluene, and formaldehyde.
7-free: they are free from DBP, toluene, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, camphor, ethyl tosylamide, and Xylene.
And now that you know what to select for your nail polishes, here are some ways that you might be able to find the right and safe nail polish for further use.
- Use a nail polish that is at least 3-free; if possible, go for 5-free, 7-free, or 10-free nail polishes. The 13-free nail polishes would be the best choice.
- Choose water-based, vegan, and odor-free polishes.
- Do not put nail polish on the cuticles or skin to avoid chemical absorption of any sort.
- Don’t let the odor of the polishes circle around the room; thus, the gases will not be absorbed by the body.
- Keep the hands stretched away from the body and avoid fumes.
- Check the ingredients list to identify the allergens if you have sensitive skin.
- Find a formula that is chip-resistant.
Formaldehyde present in nail polishes is a cause of cancer, so avoid using those polishes altogether.
Using nail polish might stain your nails, and the removal of polish with acetone will weaken the nails and dry out your skin.
Well, they are not very toxic, but they can certainly cause irritation in the mouth, nose, or throat. And they are not good for your health when you are pregnant.
Essie is a 3-free nail polish, but it contains other ingredients that are toxic.
If nail polishes have toxic materials, they can dry out the skin, cause irritation and allergies, and even cause acute diseases.
The safety issue of nail polishes is not something that is widely discussed, as most people tend to care only for the look and finish of the polishes. Again, there have been many concerns about nail polishes, including their absorption into the skin. And while none of this makes nail polishes a total nightmare, it is important to take precautions. You may want to start with the ingredient lists when shopping for nail polish. If there are any known toxic chemicals, you might want to avoid them. And another better solution would be peel-off nail polishes.
These do not give any chances of peeling, don’t have chipping, and can be taken off without harming the nails. And again, when buying nail polish, go for the products that are labeled “7-free” or “10-free.” They tend to be less toxic and are often considered a good alternative for humans, animals, and the planet. But as a disclaimer, there’s no nail polish brand that is 100% non-toxic. So look for a brand similar to your benchmark and has better color off.
- Nail polishes are not harmful to people, but they are safe. Nail polishes include harmful ingredients such as formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate, or DBP.
- Acetone is used to remove nail polish, and it can dry up the skin and injure the cuticles. And, because the gel is removed mechanically, the removal procedure of the hard gel is rather forceful.
- The top three hazardous compounds in nail polish are regarded as the most dangerous of all. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen. Toluene, a neurotoxic and irritant, and DBP, which is toxic to animal reproductive development.
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