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This Will Make You Rethink Your Weekly Manicure (Plus 5 Practices For Safer Nail Use)

[Credit: Pinterest]
There is something to be said about immaculately manicured hands featuring the latest in-season color, both as a form of self-expression and to look put-together. 

The truth is, when you paint your nails, you are putting more than a glossy coat on your fingertips, and it’s not pretty. The $7 billion nail polish industry, like the rest of the beauty industry, is largely unregulated and has come under scrutiny for using potentially toxic chemical ingredients.

You may have noticed that some companies reformulating their products to be 3 or 5-free of the following:

  • Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP)Banned in Europe and poses the greatest danger and linked to cancer in lab animals and underdeveloped genitals and reproductive problems in newborn boys
  • TouleneKnown to cause nausea, headache, dizziness and reproductive harm
  • FormaldehydeAn eye, skin and respiratory irritant and a known carcinogen that comes with strict warnings to avoid skin contact or inhalation 
  • Formaldehyde Resin: Known to release levels of formaldehyde over time and a skin allergen known to cause dermatitis
  • CamphorScented substance that causes nausea, headache and dizziness when inhaled

More recently, Triphenyl Phospate (TPHP) joined the list when researchers at Duke University and Environmental Working Group found in a small study that traces of the substance in the bodies of every woman in 10-14 hours after painting their nails. Intended as a substitute for DBP, TPHP is added to the nail polish to improve the durability and flexibility of the product, but it has been linked with changes in hormone and reproductive systems of humans.

As if the list isn’t worrying enough, studies have reported that some products claiming to be “free of” still contained some of the offending substances, so you shouldn't take the labels at face value either.

[Credit: Isabel Kho]
Does this mean you have to give up your manicures altogether? It is my opinion is that a manicure once in a while is not going to kill you, but painting your nails regularly puts you at unnecessary risk. What we really need is better regulation of the industry, but until that happens, here are 5 ways you can limit your exposure and practice safer nail use:

1. Choose your brands carefully.
I have tried over a dozen brands and my favorite brands are Treat Collection, AILA, Habit Cosmetics and Mineral Fusion. I’ve also heard great things about 100% Pure, Scotch Naturals and tenoverten, but I haven’t tried them myself.

2. Paint your nails less.
Save the nail polish for special occasions and go for naturally shiny nails by buffing them instead. When you do have to paint your nails, avoid the cuticle and surrounding skin so that you can minimize absorption. 

3. Do it yourself.
Most nail salons are not properly ventilated and the air is hazardous to both customers and the workers. New York Times wrote an exposé on the medical conditions plaguing nail salon workers, and I personally wouldn’t step into a place that is not properly aired out with open doors and windows.

4. Skip the gel manicure.
You don’t want to hear this, I know, but your nails can’t breathe through the thick gel and will become extremely weak over time, and that UV light is so bad for you. It photo-ages the skin faster and puts you at risk of skin cancer, and melanoma under the nails is often diagnosed very late.

5. Use acetone-free remover.
Acetone instantly dries out your nails and causes brittleness and breakage, and it also cause post-polish yellowing. I personally love AILA's 3-in-1 Nail Polish Remover fortified with argan oil. Don’t forget to follow up with a cuticle oil afterwards, and I recommend Chidoriya’s Nail Treatment Oil.

How often do you use nail polish?
Have you switched to safer brands yet?

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