Three sets of products have gotten a lot of media attention for their scary levels of toxicity: lipstick (loaded with lead), Brazilian Blowouts (full of formaldehyde) and nail polish (which are simply brimming with unpronounceable ingredients of mysterious origin). These are the main 3 that have been on morning news shows, in newspaper articles, and are responsible for bringing a lot of much-needed attention to the general issue of toxic chemicals in our beauty products, since they are really that bad for us. Let’s take a closer look at nail polish, since I have noticed a lot of “3-free” stickers on nail polish bottles recently and figure we should have a conversation about this trend and what it means. What are the “3” that these bottles are boasting that they lack, and just how safe are they?
A few years ago, nail polish started to come under serious fire when it was discovered that they contained 3 notoriously toxic chemicals: toluene, dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and formaldehyde. These three are just a few of the slew of synthetic chemicals that comprise nail polish formulas to make them shiny, sparkly, dry fast, harden completely and stay on our hands for days on end. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen, linked to leukemia in humans and is a general irritant, causing reactions on the skin, in the nose, eyes and throat. Toluene (a chemical that makes the nail polish liquid easy to apply) causes dizziness, headaches, nausea and fatigue, while DBP (which is a plasticizing phthalate that prevents chips and cracks) is a known to disrupt developmental and reproductive health and is especially potent in young people. Add all three together, and this trio is truly nasty.
The European Union banned DBP from products in 2005 but the FDA hasn’t caught on to the fact that these chemicals desperately need to be regulated, so it has been nonprofit activist organizations like the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics that have pushed the nail polish industry to self-regulate and factor consumers’ health into their formulas. A few major nail polish companies like Sally Hansen and OPI promised in 2006 to remove the “Toxic Trio” from their formulas, and many nail polish companies have emerged in the nail polish market as makers of safe, consumer-health-conscious nail polishes, including Butter London, Scotch Naturals, American Apparel, Julep Nail Polish and Tenoverten.
On a recent trip to NYC I got to stop by the Tenoverten nail salon in midtown underground at Le Parker Meridien, a delightful, simple little salon full of relaxed ladies enjoying nontoxic pedicures with Tenoverten’s exclusive line of colorful polishes. I snapped a few pictures and chatted with their beauty team who shared with me the businesses’ passion for nontoxic nail polishes, and informed me that actually their polishes are “5” free! The 5 that are missing in this case are: DBP, toluene, formaldehyde, formaldehyde Resin, and camphor. Awesome news! Upon doing a little digging online, I realized that there are a lot of other major companies making the switch, including Dior, Chanel, Revlon, Givenchy and L’Oreal, all boasting “5” free nail polish. This is excellent news.
However, being the scrupulous label-reader that I am, I do have to wonder: what are these formulas replacing the aforementioned chemicals with, such that they are still making glossy liquid formulas that dry and feel the same as the good old toxic stuff? I’m no chemist so the words on the labels still look like gibberish to me, but I can only hope that these companies are committed enough to health and safety that they will replace these toxins with truly safe substitutes, not just obscure chemicals that no one has heard of but that are as equally as bad. Fingers crossed that this is not the case! Do you think we’ll ever see a 100% natural nail polish?
What has been your experience with nontoxic nail polish? Do you like it just as much as your original Sally Hanson from the early 2000’s?
Author: Tata Harper Team
The team at Tata Harper Skincare is passionate about promoting a modern, health-conscious natural beauty lifestyle that’s committed to safety, honesty and sustainability.