Nail Products

Painting FingernailsThere are 10,000 chemicals used in nail products, 89% of which have not been evaluated for safety. In the US, there is presently no independent governing agency that reviews cosmetic ingredients for safety prior to being placed on the market and manufacturers are not required to list hazardous chemicals such as cancer-causing phthalates on their ingredient labels.

The cosmetology industry is the largest professional licensed population in the nation and is still growing. Nail salons have more than tripled in quantity over the last two decades. Women comprise over 95% of all nail salon workers, and most are of reproductive age, making them particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of dangerous chemicals. Cosmetic chemicals linked to birth defects in animal studies have been found in acetone, glycol ethers, and methyl methacrylates. Other chemicals in nail products include phthalates, toluene, formaldehyde, benzene, and  methylene chloride, all of which are known or suspected carcinogens. Below is just a few of these ingredients, as reported by

Phthalates are found in high concentrations in nail polish and have been linked to cancer, miscarriages, and infertility. U.S. consumers are constantly exposed to phthalates contained in items such as beauty products, water bottles and saran wrap. Because products individually contain phthalate levels deemed safe by U.S. standards, they are allowed in a wide variety of consumer products. It is the exposure to a combination of all these products that can add up and become harmful. The European Union has banned phthalates from all cosmetics for these reasons.

Toluene acts as a solvent in nail products, it helps form the smooth finish across the nail. Toluene evaporates into the air as nail polish dries, and breathing in these fumes can affect the central nervous system with low level symptoms such as headache, dizziness, and fatigue. At very high exposures, toluene has been found to be toxic to the kidneys and liver, and is a possible reproductive or developmental toxin.

Formaldehyde in nail products functions as a nail hardener and helps create a smooth finish. Known as a human carcinogen, formaldehyde is an irritant to the eyes, nose and throat, and repeated skin exposure can lead to skin irritation, an allergic rashes or dermatitis, and coughing and wheezing.

Toluene and formaldehyde are linked to both reproductive harm and cancer.

It is important to support non-toxic nail products, not only for your own well being, but for the well being of salon workers, who are exposed to inhaling these products for long working hours, usually over 10 hours each day. The lax labeling requirements mean consumers and nail technicians have no way of knowing which cosmetics and beauty products are safe and which contain chemicals that may be hazardous to their health. Karma Organics makes chemical-free nail polish remover in Tea Tree, Lavender and unscented versions available at Whole Foods or online at and For nail polish free of toluene, formaldehyde, and dibutyl phthalate (DBP) check out Gaiam and Zoya.

Photo Credit: bellatonic,com
Disclaimer: The information in this article and on this website is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. None of the products mentioned in this article or on this website are intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. The information in this article is not intended to provide personal medical advice, which should be obtained from a medical professional. This information is made available with the understanding that the author and publisher are not providing medical, psychological, or nutritional counseling services on this site. The information on this Web site does not cover all possible uses, actions, precautions, side effects, and interactions. Liability for individual actions, opinions, or omissions based upon the contents of this site is expressly disclaimed. This information has not been evaluated or approved by the U.S. FDA.


Written and posted by: Jessica Cerka in New York

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