Dr. Sears

Formulated by World-Renowned
Anti-Aging Pioneer Dr. Al Sears


What’s Really in Your Nail Polish

Friday, August 23, 2013

Painting your nails is a great way to express your style and feel feminine. But there’s something you should know before you get your next manicure or pedicure.

Manufacturers add ingredients to nail polish to make them shiny, dry quickly and add flexibility. That may sound like a good thing, but these ingredients also come with some serious health risks.

Many brands of nail polish contain certain chemicals that can seep into your skin and into your system. And they’ve been linked to health problems like headaches, asthma, cancer… even birth defects. It’s become such a big problem that these chemicals are now being referred to as the “toxic trio” or the “Big 3.”

In a few moments, I’m going to show you some simple ways you can avoid these toxins and still keep your nails looking good. But before I do, I want to give you a little background on the “Big 3” and why you should do your best to avoid them:

  • Formaldehyde. This is also found in other beauty products like keratin treatments and air fresheners. It’s also a known carcinogen that’s been linked to several different types of cancer including nose and throat. Inhalation of formaldehyde fumes can also irritate your eyes, inhibit your breathing and give you headaches.
  • Toluene. Inhaling toluene can irritate your eyes, throat and lungs. It’s also damaging to your nervous system and is associated with side effects like fatigue, confusion and memory loss. What’s worse is that toluene’s been linked to birth defects in lab animals… and is thought to cause similar effects in humans.
  • Dibutyl phthalate (DBP). DBP is what keeps your polish from becoming brittle. But it can also affect your reproductive system. It can affect your hormones and studies show that it may cause early puberty in young girls.1 Heavy exposure can also cause nausea, vomiting, dizziness, headaches – and in extreme cases, kidney failure.
  • Retinoids. If the other methods don’t get you the results you want, talk to your health care provider about using retinoids. (You’ve probably heard of the brand name Retin-A, but there are many others.) These are very effective for correcting discoloration and evening out skin tone. Retinoids also make your skin much more sensitive to the sun, so it’s important to be aware of your exposure. Your doctor may recommend using the treatment at night.

Thankfully, more and more companies are becoming aware of the dangers of these chemicals and are doing their best to provide you with safer alternatives. There are also some things you can do to help keep your exposure to a minimum like…

1. Choosing the right nail polish. Before you pick up your next bottle, check the label to make sure the ingredients steer clear of “The Big Three.” There are also new nail polish formulas that are water based. They don’t give off harsh fumes or contain these toxic chemicals. The best part is, with most of them you don’t even need nail polish remover to get it off. All it takes is a little rubbing alcohol.

2. Be safe at the salon. If you like going to a salon to get your nails done, try to sit in a well-ventilated spot to reduce your chances of breathing in toxic fumes. Also, check the labels on the polish if you choose one of their colors… or you can always bring in your own if you like.

3. Going natural. . You can also have beautiful looking, natural nails… no polish needed. Just file, wash and soak your nails to help soften your cuticles. Then let your nails dry and use a very fine file or nail buffer to bring out your nails’ natural sheen. Remember to always file in one direction to avoid lines and bumps. Finish up by moisturizing with your favorite lotion or hand cream.

Kamila Signature
Kamila Fiore, ARNP, NP-C

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[Ed. Note: Kamila Fiore is the resident Nurse Practitioner at the Sears’ Center for Health and Wellness in Royal Palm Beach, Fla. Kamila is passionate about taking a natural approach to healthcare. She believes it’s a vital necessity in this day and age – a time when our health is being jeopardized by the chemicals, toxins and processes that are incorporated in almost everything we consume, touch or breathe. She earned her Master of Science degree in Nursing from the University of Florida and became state-licensed and board-certified in 2007. Her professional experience includes Aesthetics, Internal Medicine/Geriatrics and Anti-Aging. Kamila educates her patients on health promotion and disease prevention.]


1 Qiao L, Zheng L, Cai D. “Study on the di-n-butyl phthalate and di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate level of girl serum related with precocious puberty in Shanghai.” [Article in Chinese] Wei Sheng Yan Jiu. 2007 Jan;36(1):93-5.

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