Perfect manicure, hidden dangers

By Breanne Nicholson

Image from Wikimedia Commons

There’s a big trend in the world of nail polish, and it isn’t the latest OPI collection. Formaldehyde, an ingredient often used in cosmetic products, is being removed from countless nail polish brands, and here’s why: it’s unhealthy.

For many die-hard nail polish lovers, formaldehyde isn’t the first thing to consider when picking the perfect manicure colour. In fact, some women aren’t even aware of the ingredients used in nail polish.

“I wear nail polish all the time and I’ve never really known what’s in it,” said Bianca DiQuattro, 19, York University student. “I think people today assume that nail polish is 100 per cent safe to use because they’ve never had any strong reactions to it.”

According to dermatologist Dr. Gail Nield, formaldehyde is one of the “leading causes in skin problems.”

“Exposure to formaldehyde absolutely can be a problem,” said Dr. Nield. The Woodbridge, Ont., dermatologist often advises her patients to avoid the chemical altogether.

Although nail polish ingredients may be a mystery to some, many women agree that the smell alone can be unhealthy.

“The fumes definitely bother me, and I know that they bother other people as well,” said DiQuattro. “I always get a headache if I leave the bottle open for too long.”

In fact, DiQuattro isn’t the only one who dislikes the smell of nail polish.

While traveling on an airplane, DiQuattro saw a woman who was asked to stop painting her nails because of the smell.

“Many people on the plane complained, and I totally understand why,” said DiQuattro. “Everyone could smell it, it was really powerful.”

Found in products such as nail polish and shampoo, formaldehyde is a chemical commonly used for its disinfectant and preservative properties.

According to Dr. Nield, products that carry preservatives and parabens, such as formaldehyde, are one of the main ingredients that she looks for when treating a patient with skin irritations.

Health Canada claims that exposure to moderate levels of formaldehyde can spur temporary burning of the eyes and cause skin, throat and nose irritation. They also report that exposure to high levels of formaldehyde can lead to long-term health issues including cancer and asthma.

But with consumer awareness coming to a rise, many nail polish manufacturers have changed their product ingredients for the better.

In 2006 OPI reformulated their entire line of nail treatments, hardeners, and lacquers to remove toluene and DBP, also known as dibutyl phthalate, which are ingredients that can spur respiratory and organ issues.

Although a large portion of their line is formaldehyde-free, OPI still carries some products that use the chemical. The company is currently researching formaldehyde-free alternatives.

In fact, many brands today are keeping with the trend of safer polish ingredients.

The nail polish company Zoya credits their popularity from their natural and long-wearing formulation.

With constant innovations in the cosmetic industry, there may soon be an alternative to formaldehyde. But until then, experts recommend to read your labels, and be aware of what you use on your body.


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