three ingredients to avoid in nail polish

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 that removes the most “nasties” wins. 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.

Are they really as dangerous as people claim? Let’s see what the science says:

1. 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. Plus, it’s an endocrine disruptor that affects the reproductive system of male rats.

IS IT DANGEROUS FOR HUMANS?

The studies above were done using high concentrations of DBP. In the smaller concentrations used in nail polishes, it could be safe. But, as we don’t have any studies proving its safety (or lack of) in humans, you may want to avoid it just in case.

VERDICT: Probably not as bad for us as it’s for rats, but still better safe than sorry. Most brands don’t use it anymore, so it’s easy to avoid, anyway.


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2. Formaldehyde Resin

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. Unless you’re allergic to it. 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 in moderation. Avoid it only if you’re allergic to it.

3. Toluene

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. Just don’t drink it or inhale it (that’s when it causes problems!)

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.