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The Hidden Dangers of Painting your Nails

The Hidden Dangers of Painting your Nails

Many of us value a quality manicure—and for good reason. Having perfectly polished nails looks good and feels good. But what harmful chemicals could be hiding in that little bottle? And how might they be affecting your health?

Research and Risks

According to Dr. Thu Quach, of Stanford University and the Cancer Prevention Institute of California, exposure to toxic chemicals found in nail polish can lead to issues from fertility problems to cancer. The three biggest toxic offenders found in name brand nail polishes are toluene, formaldehyde, and dibutyl phthalate, each of which may cause harm to the nervous and reproductive system, cancer, and reproductive problems, respectively.

The Daily Mail lists these three chemical ingredients as the “toxic trio.” The article goes on to describe the unsafe working conditions in salons, where improper ventilation combined with the chemicals in nail products cause severe health problems for salon workers.

A list of other potentially harmful chemicals found in nail salon products include:

    • Acetone (nail polish remover): headaches; dizziness; and irritated eyes, skin, and throat.
    • Acetonitrile (fingernail glue remover): irritated nose and throat; breathing problems; nausea; vomiting; weakness; and exhaustion.
    • Ethyl methacrylate (EMA), (artificial nail liquid): asthma; irritated eyes, skin, nose, and mouth; difficulty concentrating. Exposures while pregnant may affect your child.
    • Isopropyl acetate (nail polish, nail polish remover): sleepiness, and irritated eyes, nose, and throat.
    • Methacrylic acid (nail primer): skin burns and irritated eyes, skin, nose, mouth, and throat. At higher concentrations, this chemical can cause difficulty breathing.
    • Methyl methacrylate (MMA), (artificial nail products, though banned for use in many states): asthma; irritated eyes, skin, nose, and mouth; difficulty concentrating; loss of smell.
    • Quaternary ammonium compounds (disinfectants): irritated skin and nose and may cause asthma.



It’s important to do your research before deciding on a brand of nail polish to use.  Alternatives include painting your nails less frequently, reading labels to avoid harmful chemicals, and avoiding inhalation. But perhaps the most effective alternative is to switch to a nail lacquer that is entirely free of harmful chemicals. Ani Michele’s Nail Lacquers are 5 Free of Chemicals, Cruelty Free, Made in the USA and Vegan Friendly, so you don’t have to say goodbye to that freshly-manicured look!