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You may look more beautiful with painted nails, but some of the ingredients in that nail polish may be harmful to your health. Certain nail polishes contain substances that are known to contribute to reproductive health problems, heart problems, and cancer.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates nail polish like any other drug, but it does not require nail polish manufacturers to demonstrate the safety of their products before putting them on the market.
The FDA does, however, require the labels on nail polish to list all their ingredients. The next time you’re shopping for nail polish, check the label and don’t buy it if it has any of the following four ingredients in it.
Formaldehyde is used in nail polishes as a hardening agent, but it evaporates, and you can easily breathe it in. According to the National Healthy Nail Salon Alliance, formaldehyde is a carcinogen (chemical that causes cancer).
The FDA has determined that some people may experience allergic reactions to formaldehyde, especially if it comes into contact with the skin. The most common allergic reaction is a type of rash called dermatitis.
In addition, breathing in too much formaldehyde may increase your chances of developing asthma. If you often suffer from allergies, be careful to avoid using any nail polish that lists formaldehyde as an ingredient.
Acetone is a component of butyl acetate and ethyl acetate, both of which are commonly used in nail polishes as solvents. They speed up the drying and hardening of the polish. However, it’s believed that the fumes these chemicals give off, when inhaled over long periods of time, may contribute to liver, lung, and heart problems.
Not only that, but acetone is a highly flammable substance. According to the FDA, exposing some nail polishes to flames (such as a stove burner, or even a lit cigarette) or hot tools (like blow dryers and curling irons) can cause them to catch fire. Therefore, to avoid burns, you should always maintain a safe distance between your nail polish and any flame or heat source.
The FDA report on toluene states that, like acetone, it is a common solvent in nail polishes. A solvent is a substance that dissolves other substances. In addition, toulene gives nail polish an even tone and a smooth finish.
Toluene also evaporates into the air, where it can be breathed in. The National Healthy Nail Salon Alliance believes that toluene fumes may lead to eye, lung, and throat irritation and health problems affecting the nervous system, and perhaps abnormalities in the reproductive system.
However, it’s worth mentioning that in 2005, the FDA conducted an evaluation of how toluene might affect human health, and identified it as safe for use in consumer products.
4. Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP)
According to the FDA’s report on this chemical, its purpose as an ingredient in nail polish is to help keep it from chipping and add a moisturizing sheen to its surface.
The National Healthy Nail Salon Alliance advises that DBP can have detrimental effects on the function of the thyroid, and that it has been linked to birth defects in baby boys (when the mother was exposed to DBP while pregnant).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted a study of phthalates in 2006. It tested the urine of over 2,600 American adults to measure their phthalate levels, and discovered that these chemicals were widespread. The study also found that women had higher levels of the specific phthalates used in cosmetic products than men did.
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