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The weather is warming up, so you know what that means…sandal season! Almost every lady, including your little lady is going to want to paint her nails. I absolutely love matching my daughters’ nail polish color with my own; it’s an awesome mother/daughter bonding moment.

But did you know that your nail polish may contain some extremely harsh and hazardous chemicals? Right now, go grab a bottle of your favorite polish and read the ingredient list on the back. I’ll tell you the two major problems:

The words are so small that you will need a magnifying glass to see them.

Even if you could see the words, the chemicals listed are difficult to pronounce and practically a different language.

Three Extremely Hazardous Chemicals


The most common uses for toluene include: solvent in paints, synthetic fragrances, cleaning agents, pharmaceuticals, dyes, amongst many others. The primary target organ for toluene is the central nervous system. Symptoms of toluene exposure include: fatigue, headaches, and nausea. High levels of toluene may cause irritation of eyes, nose, throat and dizziness. There is not enough information to link toluene exposure to cancer, but high levels will negatively affect your kidneys.


Formaldehyde is most commonly used as a preservative in a number of different industries; its best known for preserving bodies in a mortuary. It is a known cancer causing substance, which I believe is not safe at any exposure level.


Dibutyl Pthalate is used to make hard things (mainly plastics) softer. The most common places to find DBP include: nail polish, carpets, paints, hair spray, insect repellant, and rocket fuel. There are no conclusive studies to show a relationship between DBP and any cancers in humans. Yet, animal studies show that exposure to this chemical can affect the reproductive organs.

Let’s not get into the exposure limits and “how much is too much” discussion. The truth of this matter is that these are very harmful chemicals and they are present in your nail polish. Once again, this is a situation in which young children are at a higher risk of experiencing harmful effects because they constantly put their hands (and feet depending on their age) in their mouths.

Although these three chemicals are only present in small amounts, I personally would prefer to minimize my children’s exposure to them. Because it’s difficult to read the ingredient list on the back of nail polish I always choose the polish that clearly states “Toluene, Formaldehyde, and DBP Free.” My favorite brand to use is “Sinful Colors,” but I am sure there are other brands that eliminate these substances from their polish formula.

If you are ever unsure about a chemical in your personal care products just look it up on the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry website ( 

Did you know there were hazardous chemicals in your nail polish?

Will knowing about chemical hazards in personal care products be enough to make you choose healthier options?



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