Thursday, June 12, 2008

Eco-Friendly Nail Polish?

Sooooo, I like pedicures as much as the next gal. Well, maybe a little less. I happen to like short nails and am pretty happy if they are just clipped with one of those drugstore nail clippers? But I can get behind pretty toes. I got a pedicure right before I got married. And you know what? I really liked it. Those vampy toes make summer come alive. Anyhoo, I shifted over a while back to PeaceKeepers nail polish and acetone-free remover from Whole Paycheck 'cause conventional polish smells bad enough to warn me away even before I dig into EWG's Skin Deep database. EGirl, naturally, would paint her digits a new color every day if I'd let her (awhich I do not).

So what's the deal? Can I safely brighten her mood and her tootsies?

You can pretty much guess that conventional nail polish is bad news. Ever wanted to go hang out in a nail salon just to catch up with a friend while she's getting her fingers beautified? Katydidnot's cannibal kindergartener is clear enough about the hazard. He won't even consider eating humans because of those painted nails.

A bunch of companies are marketing less-toxic nail polish and removers. What are the ingredients to avoid? Toluene, dibutyl phthalates aka DBP, VOCs (in remover), acetone, and formaldehyde. Check here for a good summary (thanks to Tiny Choices for the link). Mmmmmm, pretty. Pretty toxic.

Apparently OPI, Orly and Sally Hansen lost the most toxic chemicals, and Acquarella's got a nontoxic line which is water-based (thanks to Green LA Girl for the tip). Suncoat's water-based and free of many of the top carcinogens (thanks to Green Mom Finds for the tip). Well, Suncoat's site comes down pretty hard on the non-water-based polishes out there, noting "Chemical solvents, namely acetates, are still the major ingredient in the polish: 60-70%. These nail polishes still give off chemical fumes, pollute the air, have an offensive odor, and are highly flammable and explosive." They're trying to sell the water-based stuff, of course, but they certainly make a strong case.

Tiny Choices pondered this weighty question a bit ago and has a great roundup of the enviro conundrum. They basically say that since polish remover itself is no great shakes you should skip the whole scene altogether. It's good to have less-toxic choices if you're going to go down the path, though. I remember going to Nusta Spa a few years back and having to bring my own nail polish because, despite it being an eco-spa, they only had conventional polish in there. That's what Ideal Bite recommends: bringing your own less-toxic polish to the salon. Sounds like the market's coming around since I had my first kid and all hope of getting a pedicure went out the window (thanks to the EU and California, for banning awful ingredients).

I think most of us probably err on the side of caution. Heck, they were singing the sad old refrain of "it's commercially viable and safe until you prove it's deadly" on BPA until pretty recently. Whatevah. I'd rather rub beet juice on my kid's nails than poison her. And yes, I do realize the therapy bill may be higher. Back to the question: is the so-called eco friendly nail polish really safe and/or a solid environmental choice? I think the eco bloggers were in agreement: not really. It's better than the conventional alternative but really, your best bet is to skip it altogether. Sorry, EGirl, we're sticking with special occasion polish for the foreseeable future.

Don't forget, you can always do the shape and buff -- shiny nails look A-OK too, in my humble opinion. As do nails that have lots of rich dirt from the garden or sand from the beach under them, for that matter. Living-your-life hands...gotta love 'em. (Click here for an interesting look at the historical fascination with long nails aka 'I don't do any manual labor' hands.)


*Photo courtesy of sxc.

11 comments:

Annie said...

Thanks for doing this post. Some great info! I have not painted my toe nails since we found out my dad has cancer (at 56!!!) I am terrified of everything these days, especially cosmetics. I have missed the colors though. Thanks, I am going to check out some of your links:)

MamaBird said...

Hey, Annie, so sorry about your dad. When trying to buy only safe products, EWG's Skin Deep database is obviously our best bet. I wish that there would be better regulation of cosmetics and beauty products, though.

Green Me said...

Mmm. Pedicure. If they weren't so expensive and if their wasn't a toxic issue I'd have one every week! Instead, I opt for one at the beginning of summer (each year for the last few) and wear it until the polish grows out...almost. I just got my annual pedi last week at a pretty green spa, they used OPI, so good to know it is not as bad as it could be!

I agree that these things really should be regulated better. Just as it is not fair to make a waitress inhale fumes, it is not fair to make the pedicurist inhale/absorb toxic chemicals, let alone the potential effects on the environment or the folks wearing the polish!

Mrs. G. said...

Yay! I can't stand the smell of regular polish. My toes might sparkle soon if I can find some of these.

Great Big Veg Challenge said...

I think I may keep my toes a natural colour of broken nail and pink this summer....

Laura/CenterDownHome said...

I just read a post about Peacekeeper's polish over at sonotcool's blog! I had never heard of it.

As I bite my fingernails to the quick, I have no nail polish, myself, but the 21yo daughter is a paint and polisher. I will pass the info to her. Maybe buy her a nail buffer and some almond oil? :)

eco 'burban mom said...

I am so with you on the pedicure! It's the only spa treatment I let myself indugle in when we go on vacation. It's the treat my husband always arranges for me each time we go away. So, that's like once a year, sigh... I have 4 boys, I deserve it!

Thanks for the great tip on the polish and remover for home use!

wrekehavoc said...

butter london also does "three free" nail polish. i found a color i adore: i just have to get myself to the point where i am willing to pay $12 for a bottle of polish ;-) i'm cheeeeeep ;-)

wrekehavoc said...

doh: forgot the link:

http://www.butterlondon.com/news/turn-your-toxins

Gruppie Girl said...

I never wore polish on my toe when I was pregnant with the kids, but now I think that I need it.

Thanks for posting polish alternatives. I will have to find a cute color for myself.

Minnesota Matron said...

Interesting. . I never really gave nail polish much thought. Probably because I don't wear any. Whew.