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Nail Polish: The Toxic Trio

Nail Polish Bottles


Article by Ainsley Crase


While many of us are conscious about avoiding chemicals in food and makeup products, there is a commonly used product that we tend to forget. Almost every woman has used nail polish in her lifetime, but most are blissfully unaware of the harmful toxins each little bottle may contain.


The most common chemicals in nail polish are known as the ‘toxic trio’ or the ‘big 3’. These chemicals are formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and toluene. Formaldehyde is a preservative and steriliser and is considered a carcinogen. It is often used to preserve bodies and its vapor can cause asthma and skin irritation.


DBP is added to nail polish to prevent cracks and chips but studies have shown it to be mutagenic and linked to cancer, The chemical has been banned in Europe but is still approved for use elsewhere. Toulene is what makes nail polish smooth and even, but is linked to problems with the nervous system. It can cause dizziness, headaches, eye irritation and nausea. Toulene has also been linked to birth defects when used by expectant mothers.


Aside from this toxic trio, there are still other chemicals to be wary of. Camphor is a plasticiser that makes the polish flexible after it dries, and is a poisonous substance that is linked to seizures. Parabens are also present in most nail polishes and these are thought to be harmful carcinogens.


Next time you pick up a pretty nail polish colour, make sure to study the ingredients list first. It is important to be educated on the substances that you are using on your body and although it may be a pretty colour, it could also be pretty dangerous.