Monday, October 15, 2018

Are "x- Free" Nail polishes just as Harmful as Conventional Polishes?

I have two boys but if there is anything I know about little girls is that the many of them love to get a special manicure and/or pedicure just like there mamas.    Just today we were at a preschool birthday party and two little girls came to show me their glittery nails.

I also get asked by mamas quite often about safe nail polishes for their children.  Lucky for them (and us grown women who enjoy having manis and pedis) in the past couple of years there has been an explosion in the 'eco/clean' nail polish market.  Many new nail brands and even older established brands now proudly claim to be "three free"- meaning that they are made without dibutyl phthalate (a plasticizer used to enhance a polish’s texture and function, but that is linked to potential reproductive and developmental problems), toluene (a nervous system and developmental disruptor) and formaldehyde (a carcinogen). 

After the popularity of '3 Free' skyrocketed, we began to see the arrival of seemingly newer, greener brands that claim to go beyond the '3 free' and have eliminated even more chemicals commonly used in nail polish, labeling their products “five-free,” “10-free” and even “13-free.”  But what do these labels mean? Is anyone regulating these labels?

No.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates cosmetics but does not require products to be tested for safety or approved before entering the market In fact, less than a dozen ingredients have been prohibited or restricted since 1938 (in Europe the number is over 1,000).  Labeling and advertising claims such as '3-Free' or 'non-toxic' also do not need premarket approval by the FDA or the Federal Trade Commission 

A new study published this week found that:
1.  While '3 Free' has become standardized in the industry (it means it is free of the same 3 chemicals),  what '5 Free", "10 free'  or "13 free"  really means varies greatly from brand to brand and that, while they may be free of 'some ' chemicals' it does not mean that the chemicals they still contain are better.  

2. These "cleaner" nail polished might be just as bad as the original versions.  The reason? Companies seem to be substituting known toxic chemicals for equally dangerous alternatives.   

Sound familiar? It might, considering this is the same conundrum with BPA and its most popular and equally hormone mimicking substitute BPS, as well as  PFOA, the Teflon/water repellent,  cancer causing chemical which is now being substituted with a very similar chemical called Gen X.

The Findings

This particular study tested  the contents of 40 nail polishes (no brands were disclosed)  from 12 different brands, all of which are labeled from three-free all the way up to 13-free.  They found:

1.  Manufacturers have generally removed the harmful dibutyl phthalate ( DnBP) , yet some producers are using similar toxic substitutes, such as bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, and not disclosing this

2. Overall, the researchers also found that polishes with labels that promote fewer ingredients don't necessarily have a reduced toxicity

3. All of the samples included significant levels of at least one plasticizer.  40% had TPHP, which has been found to affect hormones, metabolism, reproduction and development and which is used as a plasticizer and flame retardant in a number of consumer products, but this phthalates was not list it as an ingredient.

4.  The nail polishes that did show lower TPHP levels tended to have higher levels of didiethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), a hormone-disrupting chemical and possible carcinogen that was banned from cosmetics in the EU 

What this means for you
 Bottom line?  Labels mean very little in the cosmetic industry.  

An occasional manicure probably isn’t cause for major concern but if you have young daughters who enjoy, not only having their nails done, but also tend to place their fingers in their mouths, you might want to rethink manicures.   

Similarly, if you are pregnant I would consider taking a break from your weekly/monthly mani and pedi- Two studies of pregnant or lactating women found that urinary concentrations of the DnBP metabolite were significantly higher among recent or frequent nail polish users.

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