There are plenty of people around the world who choose to use cosmetics and other personal care products to accentuate their beauty, complete an outfit, or even simply for fun. It is extremely surprising however, how many of these are bad for our own health, as well as the health of the environment. One of the biggest culprits in this category is: nail polish.
It is astounding how we get stuck in some habits, such as applying something to our body which smells as bad as nail polish. In addition to the fact that it smells toxic, it can be almost impossible to get off, leaving stains on our nails, and is commonly presented in a bottle with a flammable symbol on the side. These should all act as warning signs, letting us know that something is wrong, and yet, we ignore them.
WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?
The unmistakeable chemical odor from nail polish is because of the cocktail of alcohol, solvents, and other toxins which enable the polish to stick to the nail, give it a shine, and prevent it chipping when we grate our finger on the microplane… ouch! Some of these ingredients should be avoided for health reasons, most importantly dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde, and toluene, which have been collectively identified time-and-time again as the “toxic trio.”
Dibutyl phthalate is used to prevent chipping and provide sheen. It is a known carcinogen, causes reproductive and thyroid problems, and has also been linked to changes in hormones. Formaldehyde is used to harden nails. It is also a known carcinogen, inhaled while evaporating, and causes allergic reactions if it comes into contact with the skin. Toluene gives a smooth finish to the nail, helping to keep the color uniform. It is a volatile organic compound, causing irritation to the eyes, lungs, and throat when inhaled, and also affects the central nervous system.
Besides our own health, there is the health of the environment to consider. That which poisons human beings, poisons the earth and all of the other species living on it. For example, what happens to the nail polish once removed from the nails? Inevitably it ends up on cotton wool balls in the garbage which get tossed into landfill. Furthermore, what happens to the little jars that it comes in? These can’t be recycled because traces of polish are considered hazardous, but while authorities recommend the bottles go to hazardous waste facilities, unless those who sort through the garbage take responsibility for this, millions of bottles will also end up in landfill each year.
As if this wasn’t enough to make your skin crawl, hundreds and thousands of experiments are conducted on animals for cosmetic and skincare products. For nail polish, the ingredients (as well as the final product) are administered orally, applied to the eyes or skin, inhaled through a mask or in an inhalation chamber, and injected. These procedures are repeated regularly for months or the animal’s entire life in order to test carcinogenicity, damage to organs, eye and skin irritancy, general toxicity, mutagenicity, and reproductive issues. All of this causes excruciating pain for the animals who are subjected to these tests, while others die during the testing procedure.
WANT GREEN AND CRUELTY-FREE NAILS?
All ingredients used in nail polish must be listed on the label, so read the label and watch out for the “toxic trio!” Nowadays, there are a plethora of cruelty-free and eco-friendly nail polishes from which to choose, five of which are listed below:
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