Manicures And Health Risks

What girl doesn’t want a gorgeous manicure? Complete with an artful design, a polished look is something some women schedule, and others treat themselves with occasionally.  If it’s a habit worth spending time and money on for you, then you may want to consider the health risks.

nail polish- toxic stuff imageAre you aware of the dangers involved with using what is referred to as the “toxic trio” – toluene, formaldehyde, and dibutyl phthalate (DBP)—chemicals that have been linked to cancer and reproductive harm.

There are proven dangers associated with prolonged exposure to gels, acrylics, polish removers, nail polishes and the like without proper ventilation for the customer and protection for the manicurist. Many continue to use these products and are free to sell their products without listing the ingredients.

“We have an industry that by definition is based on certain chemical building blocks that we know are hazardous to human health,” says Anuja Mendiratta, cofounder of the healthy-nail collaborative and an environmental health consultant.¹

Hazardous chemical applications from these ingredients are the cause of some allergic reactions suffered by patrons of regular manicures. Many workers in nail salons suffer from regular headaches because of poor ventilation and no exhaust system. In 2013 according to Alexandra Scranton , director of science and research at the Women’s Voices for the Earth – an environmental health advocacy organization, The Safe Cosmetics Act would require “ingredients of concern” to be disclosed on either the product label or the manufacturer’s website.



Current regulation from Personal Care Product Safety Act of 2015  was written to reform a $71 billion industry that is currently regulated by approximately two pages of federal law that has only been updated once in the past 76 years. Strong provisions in the bill would advance the FDA’s ability to protect Americans’ health by improving current law in the following areas:


  • – Directing the FDA to assess the safety of a minimum of five cosmetics chemicals a year;
  • – Requiring companies to register their facilities, products and ingredients with the FDA;
  • – Requiring companies to comply with good manufacturing practices;
  • – Closing labeling loopholes by requiring full ingredient disclosure for professional salon products and web-based sales of cosmetic products; and
  • – Giving the FDA mandatory recall authority to get unsafe products off the shelves. ²

We as consumers should be responsible for reading these labels and following some common sense reasoning such as, if you can’t stand the smell of the fumes get out of the salon. If you go inside and the manicurist isn’t keeping a clean workspace- leave! We are sometimes a “blame it on him” kind of society for all our ills. All the regulation in the world  can’t replace reason.

My thought is give yourself a break from nail art and polishes and opt for the natural look with a good, clean manicure. Your manicurist will benefit from the break in  working with the chemicals they are so regularly exposed to.

So many salons employ and are owned by Vietnamese-Americans. English is not a first language for a majority of these particular salon workers. Find a way to communicate clearly to your manicurist you do not want any harmful chemicals used on your manicure. There are many healthy oils and cuticle treatments they will be glad to use for you. Sometimes, the “green” manicure may be more expensive, but in the long run it will be worth it.


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