Beautycounter, Clean Beauty, Whole Home Detox

Your Safer Mani/Pedi Guide

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Welcome to week 5 of our whole-home detox! If you’ve missed any of the prior weeks we’ve talked about revamping your makeup drawer for safer products all the way to the best ways to make sure you’re drinking safe water!

This week we’re doing a fun post on nail polish! I know, it sounds super simple but I think you’re going to be surprised by what I have to tell you!

I am a long-time lover of nail polish. It’s a rare occasion that my toes aren’t painted….hands are a different story. I love the look of polish but hate the upkeep on my hands! I know, I know, but I’m a mom to 2 small kids and between swimming lessons and washing dishes my nails just don’t hold up! But come summer time I’m a pedicure junkie! I love going to my favorite spot for a great pedicure and I’ve been going for years.

I’ve been interested in healthier living, buying organic foods, swapping for safer cleaning products, etc for a long time now. Ya know what though, not once did I even consider that my nail polish could be toxic just from wearing it! Did you know that nail polish contains endocrine-disrupting chemicals? Before I get into the nitty gritty of nail polish let’s talk about what that means. According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIH), Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that may interfere with the body’s endocrine system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in both humans and wildlife.

Check out this video, it’s a longer one but completely worth the watch. It comes from the NIH site, I promise it’s not a sketchy documentary (although I do love me a good controversial documentary)! This is real life and these are real concerns that we should all be thinking about.

This was my favorite statement in the video, made by Dr. Linda Birnbaum: Director, US National Toxicology Program

“Fear mongering never helps anybody but denying the existence of concerns is equally harmful. I strongly believe you have to act when you have concerning information in the absence of certainty because science is rarely ever 100% certain.”

(Source: NIH)

Unfortunately, studies on the effects of endocrine-disruptors in humans is scarce but animal data suggests the following:

• Mimic or partly mimic naturally occurring hormones in the body like estrogens (the female sex hormone), androgens (the male sex hormone), and thyroid hormones, potentially producing overstimulation.
• Bind to a receptor within a cell and block the endogenous hormone from binding. The normal signal then fails to occur and the body fails to respond properly. Examples of chemicals that block or antagonize hormones are anti-estrogens and anti-androgens.
• Interfere or block the way natural hormones or their receptors are made or controlled, for example, by altering their metabolism in the liver.

(Source: NIH)

So what should you be watching out for in your nail products?

Here are the top five toxins to avoid:

Dibutyl phthalate (DBP), a member of the phthalate family of chemicals, is used in nail polish to minimize chipping. Phthalates are classified as endocrine disruptors and mimic the hormone estrogen in your body. They are proven to impair the hormonal development of male fetuses, cause organ damage, and may even instigate early-onset menopause.

Animal studies show similar results to human phthalate studies, including decreased fertility, hormonal disruption, bio-accumulation, and liver damage. The European Union banned DBP in cosmetic and personal care products, and the Australian government currently classifies DBP as a risk to the human reproductive system. In the United States, California classifies it as a reproductive and hormonal toxicant, but the federal government does not.

Toluene fumes are highly toxic; studies have shown that exposure to toluene can cause neurological damage, decreased brain function, impaired breathing, hearing loss, and nausea. When inhaled too frequently by pregnant women, it may result in impaired fetal development. Animal studies have also shown that toluene is linked to reproductive impairment, immune system toxicity, and blood cancers like malignant lymphoma.

Formaldehyde is used to harden and strengthen nail polishes, also serving as a preservative that protects against bacterial growth. Exposure to large doses of formaldehyde in the air or on the skin may cause cancer of the throat, nose, and blood. Nail salon workers and their children are especially at risk for chronic health problems caused by formaldehyde, including asthma, convulsions, nausea, and miscarriages. Repeated exposure can cause a build-up of fluid in the lungs and cause abnormal fetal development in pregnant women. The European Union allows only limited use of formaldehyde in personal care products, while Japan and Sweden have banned it completely.

Formaldehyde resin is a by-product of formaldehyde that makes its way into many nail polish formulas that include formaldehyde. Preliminary studies show that it can cause severe skin irritation and allergic reactions, skin depigmentation and loss of nerve sensation

Camphor is the ingredient used to give conventional nail polishes their glossy, shiny appearance.  It has been shown to trigger severe skin irritation and allergic reactions when applied topically, and inhaling its fumes can cause nausea, dizziness, and headaches. Observational studies have also linked camphor exposure to organ damage, such as liver dysfunction. Camphor in personal care products is limited to a concentration of 11% in the US, and it is being phased out in markets within the European Union.

I also want you to note the trend here, the EU bans far more potentially harmful chemicals than the US, with the EU banning 1,400 (or more) and the US sitting at a measly 30. Beauty and health care products (and their labels) are not regulated under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA), and thus an assessment of the potential health risks associated with their use is typically not required by any regulatory agency.

Toluene, DBP, & Camphor in the literature

A recent study evaluated the dermal and inhalation exposures to toluene and dibutyl Phthalate (DBP) in salon patrons, home users, and technicians. Both toluene and DBP act as endocrine disruptors by mimicking the hormone estrogen in your body. They found that while inhalation exposures were below air concentration benchmarks, all user scenarios resulted in absorbed dermal DBP that exceeded the DBP maximum allowable dose level (MADL). The analysis suggests that nail polishes with high chemical concentrations, could result in exposures that exceed health-based benchmarks.

What’s even more troubling to me is the review of camphor studies and exposure in toddlers by Love and colleagues. Toxicity from over exposure to camphor has been widely debated. While camphor can be found in many over the counter products, data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers shows that it continues to be  a common source of pediatric exposure. The highest concern is for children under 6 years old. While there are no definitive studies linking camphor exposure through the nail bed from nail polish, that’s just not a risk I’m willing to take with my daughter.

So now that you know the scoop on what you should stay away from how about I share the fun stuff? I’m going to share with you some amazing brands making safer polishes so we can still enjoy those mani/pedis without the guilt and worry. Read all the way to the end for a special discount code to grab some for those little baby toes too!


Top Picks:

Ella+Mila – cruelty-free, vegan, and fair-trade; My favorite color from this line is Desire, it’s the perfect mauve that I’ve been looking for!



PritiNYC -Luxury Nail Polishes Vegan, Cruelty Free and Gluten Free; I also grabbed their Soy nail polish remover in lemongrass. It smells so great and not harmful like other removers!




côte – all of côte’s polishes are created free of the major toxins and allergens that are often associated with nail polish

For the kiddie piggies! 

I think I’m even more excited to share these than I was to share the brands I use personally. Big thanks to Piggy Paints for sending us some super cute colors to try. Piggy Paint is not just free of the top 5 harmful ingredients they are free of ALL of them! They have an advanced water-based formula that allows mommas to be worry free! You won’t find any harsh chemicals in these fun colors. If you’d like to snag some for yourself use my special code healthybeauty15 at checkout to get 15% off!

Oh and the best part, they have scented polish! I legit wanted to use this on myself (I actually did and rocked 4 different colors on one hand for the evening so I could test the scents ha!). We tried the scented polish gift set. It’s a pack of 4 scented polishes in Wacky Watermelon, Grouchy Grape, Banana Besties, and Cocoa Loco. These are not only cute but super affordable and would make great gifts for little girls.

I gave Everly a quick sleeping pedi last night. I mean have you ever tried to paint the toes of a mobile 19 month old child?? It’s tough. So I’ll just keep my fingers crossed that one day she’ll sit still for this and I won’t have to do it in the wee hours of the night ha!




But hey little girls aren’t the only ones enjoying a mani/pedi….

Thank goodness for safer polish because we found my son like this after we thought he was quietly watching Dino Dan. I should know by now that silence is not golden it’s highly suspicious!

I’m really looking forward to using more colors, the blue in this sampler pack is so vibrant and will be super fun for the summer!



I’d love to hear from you, have you used a great safer brand that you love? Drop me a comment and let me know what other safer brands are out there!

Product Reviews: I received free product from Piggy Paint in exchange for my honest review. All opinions within this post are my own.

Affiliate Links: This post contains affiliate links, which means, at no extra cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase. The reviews and opinions in this post are solely my own and I am not being compensated specifically for a review.


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