You shouldn’t need a Ph.D. in biochemistry to decode the ingredient list on the back of your “non-toxic” nail polish bottle.
Unfortunately, there are more than a few hard-to-pronounce ingredients in most nail polishes and no real government regulations on which ones warrant a “non-toxic” label. Congress has not updated the federal law regulating cosmetics since 1938 – leaving a lot of the ingredients deemed “safe” back then, still lingering in our unsafe polishes.
What’s Lurking in that Pretty Bottle?
It wasn’t until 2010, when The New York Times ran a piece about growing concern over health risks in the nail-polish industry that many nail-care brands chose to eliminate the three most potentially harmful, red-flag chemicals from their formulas: formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate (DBP, for short), and toluene.
But in 2015, a study from Duke University and EWG found that many brands were replacing one harmful ingredient (DBP) with another: triphenyl phosphate (TPHP). A common furniture fire retardant, brands add TPPH to nail polish to keep it from chipping. But it also finds its way into women’s bodies.
All 26 women who volunteered to paint their nails for the study ended up with TPHP in their systems – a chemical linked to the early onset of puberty, neurodevelopmental problems, and obesity.
So, What do The Numbers Mean?
You might notice newer non-toxic polishes branded with a phrase like “3 Free,” “5 Free,” or even “10 Free.” This classification notes the harmful ingredients excluded from the ingredient list: 3 Free excluding formaldehyde, DBP, and toluene; 5 Free additionally excluding formaldehyde resin and camphor, and so on.
However, even nail polishes branded as “10 Free” still contain potentially harmful ingredients, and may not be devoid of worrisome chemicals.
Let’s test your knowledge of non-toxic polishes – do you know what’s lurking in your polish?