How Toxic is your Nail Polish? And what you should use Instead!
Because skin is porous and the largest organ of the body, it absorbs whatever you put on it.
This is why it’s important to know what ingredients are in your bath and beauty products.
The truth is the majority of everyday products contain tons of chemicals, including many that interfere with our health.
Items such as hair spray, dish soap, deodorant, body wash, shampoo, toothpaste, make up, and nail polish are just some of those products containing tons of chemicals.
(To read about some of those products and the chemicals they contain, as well as what to use instead, read 5 Toxic Ingredients you’re putting on your Skin Everyday, & how to avoid them.)
If the products you are using contain harmful ingredients such as toxic and harsh chemicals, fragrances, and artificial colors, those ingredients are making their way into your blood and lymphatic system.
What Makes Nail Polish Toxic?
There are many toxic chemicals in common nail polish brands. And some have been linked to hormonal and reproductive issues, cancer, and birth defects.
In 2015, a study was conducted by the Environmental Working Group and Duke University researches. For this study, 26 women volunteered to paint their nails.
The researchers found evidence of a common nail polish chemical called triphenyl phosphate in every woman’s body. Triphenyl phosphate is also referred to as TPHP or TPP.
Besides being in nail polish, TPHP is also used in plastics and as a fire-retardant in foam furniture. Triphenyl phosphate interferes with normal hormone functions in the human body. This is why it’s so concerning that it’s quickly absorbed into the body.
In animal studies, TPHP caused reproductive and developmental problems. And according to the EWG recent scientific studies have shown that TPHP may even contribute to weight gain and obesity. 
An article by the Environmental Working Group said all 26 women in the study had increased levels of diphenyl phosphate. Diphenyl Phosphate (or DPHP) forms when the body metabolizes triphenyl phosphate.
“Two to six hours after they painted their nails, 24 of the 26 volunteers in the study had slightly elevated levels of DPHP in their urine. Ten to 14 hours after polishing their nails, the DPHP levels in all 26 participants had risen by an average of nearly sevenfold, suggesting that more of the TPHP had entered their bodies and been metabolized into DPHP.” 
Currently, triphenyl phosphate is listed on many nail polishes’ ingredient labels that contain it, but not all.
In fact only 49% of the over 3,000 nail polishes and treatments on the EWG’s database disclose that TPHP is contained in the product. Keep in mind that not every nail polish contains this chemical. However, there are also some that contain it, but do not disclose it.
“It is very troubling that nail polish being marketed to women and teenage girls contains a suspected endocrine disruptor,” said Johanna Congleton, Ph.D., MSPH, a senior scientist at EWG and co-author of the Duke-EWG study. “It is even more troubling to learn that their bodies absorb this chemical relatively quickly after they apply a coat of polish.” 
The EWG says exposure to TPHP may be a long-term hazard to women who use nail polish frequently.
Formaldehyde is a chemical that is a component in plywood and particleboard. It is often used as a sterilizer, preservative, and embalmer.
Also, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified formaldehyde as a carcinogen as it’s linked to lung and nasal cancers.
“An article published in the April 2010 volume of Contact Dermatitis looking at products from the FDA’s Voluntary Cosmetic Registration Program database, found that nearly 20 percent of products contained formaldehyde or formaldehyde-releasing preservatives.” 
The most common side effects are skin and eye irritation, scalp burns, hair loss, as well as nose and throat irritation.
Because it’s difficult to know if your nail polish contains formaldehyde, check the Skin Deep ADD Cosmetics Database.
Dibutyl Phthalate is added to nail polish to make it more flexible and less prone to cracking and chipping.
DBP has been banned in Europe as it’s been linked to reproductive issues. However, the United States still approves this chemical to be in many products (surprise, surprise).
According to Nail-Aid, “Scientists now have strong evidence that dibutyl phthalate is teratogenetic—a fancy way of saying it causes birth defects. DBP causes damage to the reproductive organs of male fetuses in laboratory animals, in some cases rendering them sterile. So far there’s nothing to suggest that this damage isn’t also happening to human fetuses, because nobody has studied the issue in detail yet.
Scientists have tested human subjects to see how many people are carrying DBP in their systems, however. The answer? 100%.
This isn’t surprising: for 40 years, DBP has been used in thousands of common products, including shower curtains, children’s toys, pharmaceutical capsules, and, perhaps most famously, nail polishes and nail treatments.” 
This chemical is used to help keep nail polish even and smooth when it’s being applied. However, toluene has been linked to many issues affecting the nervous system.
Toluene can cause dizziness, headaches, eye irritation, cracked skin, nausea, reproductive damage, and respiratory issues.
And, like dibutyl phthalate, “toluene has also been linked to birth defects and developmental problems in children whose mothers were exposed to the chemical during pregnancy.” 
And, please note, it’s not just adult women who are exposed to these chemical frequently.
Unfortunately, “millions of American teens, tweens and even younger girls are being exposed to a suspected hormone-disrupting chemical at a time when their bodies are rapidly developing and entering puberty. Nails Magazine, a nail salon industry trade publication, reported in August, 2014, that according to market surveys an overwhelming 97 percent of American girls’ ages 12 to 14 used nail products, including polish, and 14 percent of all teens and tweens used them daily.” 
So What Products Should Be Used Instead?
It can be hard to know if the nail polish you’re looking at has all these chemicals. But these three brands of nail polish contain natural ingredients.
You can also research brands that you commonly use to see if they are free of the chemicals discussed here.
Another option is to visit www.safecosmetics.org to find nail polish brands without all these questionable and dangerous toxins.
While it’s impossible to never expose your body to chemicals, doing what you can to limit that exposure is important.
And using products without harmful chemicals, such as TPHP, formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate, and toluene, helps your whole body stay healthy.