The trend of “going green” is everywhere from the work place to household cleaning products. The growing demand for natural and organic products has also led a number of nail salons and nail products companies to offer a more natural alternative to pampering yourself.
Traditional nail salons are known for their overwhelming chemical odor. Not only can the smell be unpleasant, it can be hazardous to your health. For the occasional patron – getting a manicure and/or pedicure every few months – the health risk is low. However, for the frequent guest and the nail technician who spends years handling these products with hazardous chemicals and inhaling their fumes, serious health problems can occur.
Traditional Nail Products
Two major health problems are associated with nail spas and the products that are used – infection and chemicals.
Allergic reactions have been linked to residues of acrylic resins used in the application of artificial acrylic nails. Skin rash outbreaks, such as contact dermatitis, and infections can cause itching, redness, blisters, swelling and pain.
The nail polishes, removers, and other products used in salons contain petroleum-derived components including:
acetone: A solvent used in nail polish, nail polish removers, and astringents that can cause nausea, ear, nose, and throat irritation, and dermatitis.
benzophenone-1: Can lead to hormone disruption.
benzoyl peroxide: Inhalation of this plastics additive can irritate mucous membranes and has been shown to promote cancer in animal studies.
dibutyl phthalate (DBP): A specific phthalate, common in nail polish to prevent chipping and add shine, that studies have shown can interfere with normal hormone balance, can cause severe birth defects, and is a suspected carcinogen. Phthalates have also been shown to cause liver, kidney, lung, and reproductive system damage, and the production of phthalates pollutes the air, water, and soil.
ethyl lactate or ethyl alcohol: Can lead to neurological damage and irritate the eyes and mucous membranes.
formaldehyde: Used as a preservative in some nail polishes, formaldehyde is one of the world’s most hazardous compounds to both ecosystems and health, according to the Environmental Defense Scorecard and is a known carcinogen.
toluene: Used to give nail polish its fluid quality and improve drying time, this solvent is absorbed easily by the body through the skin or inhalation, affecting the nervous system and causing depression, headaches, nausea, fatigue, and eye, nose, and throat irritation. Toluene has also been found to be toxic to the kidneys and liver and possibly a reproductive disruptor. For more information on the health hazards of toluene, refer to a public health statement issued in 2000 by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
Eco-Friendly Nail Spas
In recent years, consumers have become more aware of these health concerns. In an effort to decrease the risk of infections and health hazards, more eco-friendly nail salons are opening their doors. These nail spas address health concerns while providing the pampering services consumers still want.
The concept behind these all natural nail spas is to create an environment that benefits the well-being of the consumer, as well as the planet. Eco-friendly nail spa treatments utilize products with all natural and organic ingredients.
For example, Color Me Green, located in Southern California, offers a range of organic nail spa treatments for men, women, even children. Color Me Green’s “Breathe” maternity spa treatment caters specifically to pregnant and nursing women. In traditional nail salons children and pregnant women are cautioned due to the health effects from hazardous chemicals.
You can locate an eco-friendly nail spa near you by conducting a simple Google search. In addition to local business listings in your area, “green sites” like Green Your –Your Guide to Green Living provide a few links to eco-friendly spas on their site. However, their list is fairly limited.
Eco-Friendly Nail Products
If you can’t find an eco-friendly nail salon near you, then a good option is to purchase chemical-free nail products and apply the polish yourself.
Opt for water-based, rather than solvent-based, polishes and removers that pose less of a threat to your respiratory tract. Conventional nail polish is usually made of about 70 percent chemical solvents, which, when applied, evaporate into the air and give off chemical fumes which the user then inhales. Water-based nail polish replaces most or all of these chemicals with water. Specifically, look for those that say “water-based” on the label.
But be aware that these water based products still contain acrylic polymers that could cause dermatitis and nasal irritation, ethyl lactate, which can irritate the skin and respiratory tracts, and polyurethane formers and binders.
Here are a few brands that offer more eco-friendly nail products:
åcquarella Water Color nail polishes are composed of 2 parts Hydrogen and 1 part Oxygen. These water-based nail colors help to hydrate the nail to prevent chipping. All of åcquarella’s nail polishes are non-toxic and contain no harmful chemicals or synthetics.
Honeybee Gardens touts an odor-free line of nail colors. The earth-friendly formula contains no FD&C colors, toluene, dibutyl phthalate, xylene or formaldehyde. The long lasting colors are easily removed without harsh, toxic nail polish removers. Honeybee Gardens also offers all natural product lines for hair care, body care, lips care and cosmetics.
No-Miss Nail Care Products offers a healthy alternative for nail care. Their line includes make-up, nail care products and nail polishes. Over 150 colors of nail polish are available containing UV inhibitors to protect nails and omitting any harmful toxic chemicals.
nubar features an expansive line of carcinogenic-free nail care products and nail polishes. All of nubar’s products are also certified by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) as vegan and animal cruelty-free.
PeaceKeeper Cause-Metics not only offers a wide range of natural beauty products, including nail polish, but all after-tax distributable proceeds go toward women’s health advocacy and urgent human rights issues.
Sante Cosmetics feature organic ingredients in their facial, body, and hair care products as well as cosmetics. Sante Cosmetics are available for purchase in retail outlets in the U.K.or on their website.
SpaRitual offers a line of vegan, all organic products, including nail polish. SpaRitual’s philosophy is to be “committed to creating eco-friendly products and packaging perfectly crafted for the enlightened consumer.” All of SpaRitual’s nail polishes are formaldehyde, toluene and dibutyl phthalate (DBP) free.
SunCoat Products were honored at the Canadian Health Food Association Expo in Toronto, Canada for two years in a row. SunCoat water-based nail polishes are a healthy and innovative option for long-lasting nail color.
The Natural Look
If you prefer the natural look of your nails over the polished look, you can still take care of your nails to keep them healthy looking.
The Tea Tree Nail Saver by Jason Naturals, which contains 70% Certified Organic ingredients, fights brittleness and cracking of nails as well as prevents hang nails and infection. The on-line retailer SpaSentiments also offers their Cuticle Oil Balm. The Cuticle Oil Balm helps to nourish and heal dry, cracked and jagged cuticles.
Keeping your nails looking great can also be achieved without spending money on nail care products. Eating foods rich in vitamins A, B-Complex, C, D, E as well as biotin, zinc and iron, to name a few, can benefit your nail health and growth. These nutrients can be incorporated into your diet by eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats.
David H. Rahm, M.D. is the founder and medical director of The Wellness Center, a medical clinic located in Long Beach, CA. Dr. Rahm is also president and medical director of VitaMedica. Dr. Rahm is one of a select group of conventional medical doctors who have education and expertise in functional medicine and nutritional science. Over the past 20 years, Dr. Rahm has published articles in the plastic surgery literature and educated physicians about the importance of good peri-operative nutrition.