Nail polishes that are called “Three Free” or “Five Free” are really taking the world by storm. But, what does it really mean, and does it really make a difference? We’re here to find out. First off, what are the chemicals that these polishes are skipping?
What’s in your Nail Polish?
The three free ones omit toluene, dibutyl phthalate, and methylene glycol or Methanediol, which was commonly mislabeled until recently as formaldehyde. Besides the “Toxic Three”, five free nail polishes also leave out formaldehyde resin and camphor. Now, what do all of these chemicals do, and do they really pose that much of a threat to your health?
Can It Affect You?
Well, here’s the skinny on what these chemicals are supposed to do to you. Dibutyl phthalate or DBP has been linked to birth defects, and it may be linked to cancer, though there is no definitive proof either way. Toluene can cause problems with the nervous system if inhaled in large quantities, as well as dizziness and nausea, and formaldehyde is a known carcinogen. As for camphor and formaldehyde resin, they are mostly just skin irritants, or harmful if swallowed. The concern is that since your nail beds much like your skin are very porous, they absorb these chemicals, and they get into your body and start causing problems for you.
Should You Worry?
However, if you look more closely, you will see that actually you might really have nothing to worry about. If nail polish has never irritated your skin before, then there is no reason to avoid camphor and formaldehyde resin, because it doesn’t bother you anyway. Dibutyl phthalate has been linked to birth defects in large quantities; you don’t get large quantities when you paint your nails – in fact, you get extremely small quantities of this chemical actually entering your body after you apply it to your nail bed. The solution to this is simply do not paint your nails when you are pregnant, or if you like, get a three or five free nail polish and only use that when you are pregnant.
Another easy fix is the problem with toluene. It is only harmful if inhaled in large quantities, so all you have to do is paint your nails in a well ventilated area with a fan. Or, if you want to be extra careful, wear a disposable mask over your nose and face while you paint your nails and as they dry. Again, you aren’t going to inhale this nail polish for extended periods of time. Or at least not long enough that it should do any lasting damage to your system. And finally, the commonly mislabeled, misrepresented formaldehyde. There is no formaldehyde in nail polish; and the reason you can be completely sure of this fact is because formaldehyde is a gas. The first time you ever opened the bottle, you would release all of the formaldehyde into the air, and it would be completely useless to the product, which is totally impractical.
What is actually in nail polish is called methylene glycol or methanediol, which is formaldehyde after it has had a chemical reaction with water. Those who manufactured this chemical first did so in the 1900s before there was much understanding of the molecular structure of things; they simply introduced formaldehyde with water, assumed that the gas was dissolved into the liquid, and continued to call it formaldehyde. We now know that it is actually a completely different chemical, and there is no link between methylene glycol and any health problems whatsoever.
To buy or not to buy?
Certainly, I am not telling you not to buy three and five free nail polishes. If that is the way you want to go, they are not necessarily any better for you than traditional polish formulas, since they are not all that harmful to you if used properly. It doesn’t help that these special polish formulas tend to run you between 10 and 12 dollars per bottle at most stores. But, if you have the money to replace your entire nail polish collection and you are really worried about your health, then by all means go ahead and purchase them. It is your money after all. But I hope that after reading this you at least aren’t as worried about painting your nails with your regular polish!
About the author: I am a blogger in love with makeup, nails, hair – anything fashion or luxury related, and I am into it. Especially luxury locations; it would be so great to move somewhere exotic like the Mediterranean! I’ve always wanted to – I even looked into places like Icon Property Monaco to see how much it would cost xD But, it looks like I’m going to remain a New Yorker for a few more years and work on my beauty blogging for a little while longer.