Have you noticed?
These days you can’t buy a nail polish without someone telling you what’s NOT in it.
“Buy me, I’m free fom Toluene!”
“No, pick me! I’m free from Toluene AND Formaldehyde”.
It’s like a race. The brand who removes the most nasties win.
But are there any nasties in nail polish? Mmmm…
I’ve put under the microscope three of the worst offenders that are quickly being removed from nail polishes: Dibutyl Phthalates, Formaldehyde and Toluene.
Here’s what I discovered:
Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP)
What is it? Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP) is a plasticizer. It makes nail polish more flexible so it’s easier to apply and doesn’t chip easily.
Why does it have a bad rep? DBP causes birth defects and miscarriages in animal tests. Scary, huh?
Is it dangerous for humans? Not likely. In the study above, mice were exposed to a huge amount of DBP. In nail polishes, the dose is tiny and very likely safe.
Verdict: probably safe, but easy to avoid these days (just in case).
What is it? Formaldehyde is a preservative used to kill bacteria, fungi and germs (it’s also used to preserve dead bodies). The type used in nail polishes is Tosylamide/Formaldehyde resin. It’s there to harden the nail polish and make it more resilient.
Why does it have a bad rep? Huh, did you miss the part where I said it’s used to preserve corpses? It’s carcinogenic, too.
Is it dangerous for humans? In high does, yeah! In the tiny amounts used in cosmetics, it’s unlikely to cause problems. Plus, Tosylamide/Formaldehyde resin is less irritating than formaldehyde itself. Still, if you’re a manicurist, nail technician or someone who paints nails a lot, make sure to do it in a well-ventilated environment so you don’t breathe in its fumes.
Verdict: probably safe for most people. I prefer to avoid it.
What is it? Toluene is a solvent. It dissolve all the pigments and other ingredients in your nail polish so it applies smoothly (no clumping).
Why does it have a bad rep? It can cause irritations, headaches, dizziness and nausea.
Is it safe for humans? It depends. If inhaled too often over a long period of time, it can damage your lungs, liver and kindneys. But in the tiny doses used in cosmetics, it’s probably safe.
Verdict: very likely safe (in nail polishes).
The Bottom Line
It is the dose that makes the poison. Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP), Formaldehyde and Toluene are dangerous in high doses, but likely harmless in the tiny amounts used in nail polishes. Most brands have removed them from their nail polishes, making them easier to avoid anyway.
Do you avoid Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP), Formaldehyde and Toluene in your nail polishes? Share your thoughts in the comments below.