Lacquered nails have been all the rage since way back when, in various renditions.  But there is a difference between some nail polishes and lacquers….a BIG difference.  Three ingredients in particular you need to steer clear of because over years of use, they can flat out harm your health.  This can be minor irritation or major hormonal issues, or worse.


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Lacquered nails can look lovely, but you may want to kick your favorite color to the curb: Ingredients in conventional nail polishes might harm your health. “Steer clear of ‘the big three’: formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate and toluene,” says Northern California-based dermatologist Cynthia Bailey, M.D. These chemicals have been shown to cause dermatitis, disrupt hormones and affect the nervous system.

“While many companies are phasing out these ingredients, it has been difficult since they help harden the polish and suspend the color,” Bailey says. But the good news is that many companies now use safer ingredients in their formulas and are working to develop polishes with the same staying power as chemical ones.

Six “big three”- free polishes to try:
1. Deborah Lippmann Nail Lacquer ($16;
2. Dr.’s Remedy Enriched Nail Polish with tea tree oil and wheat protein ($17;
3. Zoya Nail Polish ($8;
4. Priti NYC Non-Toxic Polishes ($13;
5. Suncoat Water-Based Nail Polish ($10; 6. Mineral Fusion Nail Polish ($8;

To get a little more in-depth, what are some of these “dangerous” chemicals?  Well, a minor or even major skin rash is always an issue when it comes to toxin exposure.  But, this is WAY more serious than that.  For example, phthalates  have recently been implicated as a cause of breast cancer.  They can also act as xenohormones to disrupt various essential hormonal processes. The scary thing is that most of us have phthalates streaming out of our urine.  This means the exposure levels are high and ubiquitous.  So just altering your choice of nail lacquer won’t cut it, but it is a start since it is so commonly used by many women.  If you would like to be horrified a little more, read this from Wikipedia.

Some of us  remember that they used formaldehyde to preserve dead animal tissue for dissection in high school anatomy lab.  That is pretty much history, but formaldehyde  is still used very commonly in doing that for preserving medical specimens. It is listed in the “extremely toxic” category by many agencies and is a potent carcinogen.  Enough said.

Finally, toluene, which is a benzene analog paint thinner.  Yes, it is another one of those awful smelling toxic substances.  Low to moderate levels can cause tiredness, confusion, weakness, drunken-type actions, memory loss, nausea, loss of appetite, and hearing and color vision loss.  Are you tired?  Hmmmm…….  Unlikely that nail lacquer alone would make you sick acutely. However, given that multiple personal care products are used daily without much thought it can add up.  Here’s another resource to check up on your favorite cosmetics’ toxin rating : EWG Cosmetic Database.




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