Natural Nails

When I was in middle school, my mom and I started getting biweekly mani-pedis. During our mother-daughter ritual, my mom used to recall that her first manicure was a special treat for her high school prom. By contrast, I was fortunate enough to have the luxury of getting my nails done regularly starting at the age of twelve. Or was I? It turns out, there's a caveat: mani-pedis are posh, but nail polish can be noxious.

Nail salon workers, who are exploited and poisoned, are not the only ones who should worry about the toxins in nail polish. This morning, EWG reported that "Researchers at Duke University and Environmental Working Group have found evidence of a suspected endocrine-disrupting chemical widely used in popular nail polishes in the bodies of more than two-dozen women who participated in a biomonitoring study. The study, published today in Environment International, found that all women had a metabolite of triphenyl phosphate, or TPHP, in their bodies just 10 to 14 hours after painting their nails. Their levels of diphenyl phosphate or DPHP, which forms when the body metabolizes TPHP, had increased by nearly sevenfold." This news should be particularly concerning to individuals for whom polish changes are a weekly or, worse yet, daily occurrence. 

We already knew that many nail polishes contain the "toxic-trio" (DBP, toluene, and formaldehyde), but discussions regarding the negative health implications were mostly limited to salon workers and children. Some major polish brands, including Essie and OPI, are supposedly "three-free" but contain TPHP, camphor, formaldehyde resin, parabens, and other toxins.  Dr. Mercola, Prevention, and Care2 offer non-toxic recommendations including polish-free buffing (best option) and non-toxic polishes (good for special occasions).

I have always been health-conscious about food, but I didn't used to think about chemicals besides pesticides. On a rainy Saturday afternoon this summer, my husband and I watched The Human Experiment on Netflix and learned about endocrine disruptors and other toxic chemicals that are commonly used in cosmetics and household products. Since that fateful day, I have not only stopped wearing nail polish, I also began swapping out our chemical-ridden antibacterial hand soaps, toiletries, dish and laundry detergents, and other cleaning products for natural alternatives. 

In retrospect, believing I was fortunate to have fiery red nails was folly. I still get my nails done regularly, but I no longer get any nail polish, not even a clear coat. My mani-pedis are now limited to nail cutting/filing and cuticle cleanup. As an added benefit, without 2-3 coats of polish plus drying,  I'm in and out of the salon in half the time, which means I'm breathing in fewer toxic fumes. Moreover, my nails haven't looked this good or been this strong and healthy in nearly two decades. My nails now have a natural sheen and no white scuff marks. They don't break, and they grow so fast I have to cut them every week.   

Next time the manicurist says "pick a color," say "no polish for me, thanks."