Is your nail polish free of toxins?

Turns out, nail polishes with ‘n-free’ labels are not necessarily free of toxic compounds. Consumers are growing more knowledgeable about the potential health effects of nail polish, and manufacturers have taken action. They have started removing potentially toxic ingredients and labelling their products as being free of those substances. However, these labels aren’t always accurate, and reformulated products aren’t necessarily safer.

Plasticisers improve flexibility and chip resistance in nail polish. In the 2000s, concerns grew about the use of the plasticizer di-n-butyl phthalate (DnBP), a reproductive and developmental toxicant. In response, nail polish manufacturers began switching to other plasticisers. The trend spread, and labels now tout the absence of as many as 13 different chemicals, though there’s little standardisation about which chemicals are excluded.

But recent evidence shows that some substitute ingredients, such as the plasticiser triphenyl phosphate (TPHP), also may be harmful. This raises the concern that one toxic chemical is being replaced by others, a practice known as “regrettable substitution”. To give producers, consumers and nail salons guidance in designing and selecting safer nail polish, Anna Young and colleagues studied DnBP substitutes in polish and evaluated the types and accuracy of plasticizer labelling.

The scientists examined 40 different nail polishes and found that manufacturers have generally removed DnBP and are reducing the amount of TPHP they use. The researchers also found that polishes with labels that promote fewer ingredients don’t necessarily have a reduced toxicity.

The full findings appeared in Environmental Science & Technology.

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First Published: Oct 13, 2018 16:29 IST

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