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Scientific Study Finds Some Toxin-Free Nail Polish Has (Surprise!) Toxins

Nevenka Backstage nail polish
Kristian Dowling, Getty Images

A study of different “toxin-free” nail products shows they may not be living up to their labels.

California’s Environmental Protection Agency tested 25 different nail products with an independent laboratory more than half of which came with toxin-free labels. The lab found that many of the so-called “toxin-free” products still had a series of chemicals that, if inhaled, could cause some serious side effects.

The study looked mainly at nail color or lacquer products and found that some carried one or all three of chemicals that make up what scientists call the “toxic trio”: dibutyl phthalate (DBP), toluene, and formaldehyde. Each chemical presents a different danger to those who inhale its fumes. Toluene and DBP has been known to cause birth defects and developmental problems in prenatal children and formaldehyde is a known carcinogen.

The Professional Beauty Association’s Nail Manufacturers Council issued a statement criticizing the study as flawed and biased. It also noted the brands included in the study were not “major brands…found in every salon.”

“Toxin-Free” Nail Products That Contained One or More of the “Toxic Trio”

• Sation 99 base coat
• Sation 99 top coat
• Dare to Wear nail lacquer
• Chelsea 650 Baby’s Breath nail lacquer (fast dry)
• Poshe fast dry base coat
• Orly Flagstone Rush nail lacquer
• Nail art striper brush Magenta Glitter
• New York Summer nail color
• Paris Spicy 298 nail lacquer
• Sation 53 Red Pink nail color

“Toxin-Free” Nail Products That Contained No “Toxic Trio” Chemicals

• Color Madnic Luscious nail lacquer
• Zoya professional nail lacquer

Nail Products That Were Not Labeled “Toxin-Free” and Contained No Toxins

• OPI Birthday Babe nail lacquer
• Cali nail polish thinner
• Essie Starter Wife 596 nail lacquer
• Out the Door topcoat


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