In an effort to rid myself of toxins, hormone inhibiting compounds, and other chemically-laden crapt, I’ve made an effort to change out my beauty products. That sounds so fancy—“beauty products”—like I spend more than 5 minutes getting ready in the morning. Nevertheless, I have tried to use up what I have, and then replace it with something greener and healthier as the need arises.
However, some items simply cannot be used up. The old saying “ignorance is bliss” may hold true for some, but for me, I follow a different saying: “knowledge is power.” I know, I know, I could totally be on one of those cheesy after-school infomercials…Anywho, once I know what’s in a product, or how something is affecting my body, I simply cannot continue to use it. For severe offenders, it gets tossed right away. Like, fingernail polish (or rather toenail polish—I don’t think my fingernails have been painted since my wedding day…2 years ago.)
One would think that a water-based, “healthy” nail polish would not withstand life on a busy-girl’s toes, right? Especially with the amount of walking (and stumbling) that I do, in peep-toe pumps at that. However, I am very, very surprised and impressed with Acquarella. Acquarella is a water-based polish, non-toxic product. Their website boasts little to no odor, relatively low drying time, and actual benefits for the nail. I was skeptical, but that skepticism was unwarranted, as this stuff holds up.
It seemed somewhat complicated—washing, and buffing, and smoothing, and evenly painting…Oh. What? Normal girls do that anyway when they paint their nails? Let me just say, that the first time I used this, I painted my nails 30 minutes before walking out the door. I did no prep work—just slapped on a coat and went. I stood up too early and smudged it, but I easily wiped it off and put a new coat on. At this point, I was still skeptical, as I thought—wow, that wiped off easily. However, it wasn’t until a little over a week later that I got my first chip. Some may be appalled that a paint job only lasted that long, but considering the amount of effort I put into making it perfect, I was pleased with my week of cuteness.
I then used their “super-special” remover to take it off. Now, this was a bit tricky. It did take a lot of rubbing and soaked cotton balls to actually get it off. It also seemed to leave behind a pinkish hue. But I hate, hate, hate traditional remover, and would often just let polish chip completely off so that I didn’t have to use it, so I won’t complain too much about the extra scrubbing.
I then went through the process of buffing and prepping according to the directions before painting them again. Over three weeks later, they looked like this: (WARNING: creepy feet picture ahead.) This is Plasma, a brighter red color.
There’s no doubt that this stuff is durable, and looks nice, but is it really any healthier? To answer that question, you must know what is in traditional polish.
My super-googling skills (also known as research for all your “old-timers”) has turned up a few main concerns.
Formaldehyde is among the 25 most abundantly produced chemicals in the world and is used in the manufacture of plastics, resins, foam insulation, glass mirrors, explosives, artificial silk, dyes, disinfectants, germicides, embalming fluid, fumigants, preventatives for mildew in wheat and rot in oats, germicides and fungicides for plants, insecticides, slow-release fertilizers, construction materials such as plywood adhesives, sugar, rubber, food, petroleum, pharmaceuticals, and textiles.
While the actual polish may not contain pure formaldehyde, it does contain compounds and resins made up of formaldehyde. Additionally, formaldehyde in all its pure glory state is found in many, many nail treatments—hardeners, conditioners, lengtheners, etc. The use of formaldehyde in cosmetics is banned in the European Union, Canada, and Japan, but the good ole’ FDA has not seen anything that warrants concern.
Okay…serious research aside, formaldehyde brings back high school memories of frogs in jars and eyeballs in jars, and other forever frozen-in-time objects swimming in formaldehyde. That, coupled with common sense, led me to realize this is not something I want anywhere near my precious, precious body.
However, there has been serious research done. In 2004, formaldehyde was reclassified as a known human carcinogen—meaning that it will cause cancer—after further research that showed formaldehyde causes nasopharyngeal cancer in humans. Kind of brings new meaning to the phrase “high school is killing me”, no? Formaldehyde can also be absorbed through the skin causing irritation or even allergic dermatitis or burns. Once it makes its way through the skin, it can enter the bloodstream finding its way to any part of the body it chooses.
Toluene is a colorless, flammable liquid used paints, paint thinners, silicone sealants, many chemical reactants, rubber, printing ink, adhesives, lacquers, leather tanners, and disinfectants. It can also be used in the manufacture of polyurethane foam and dynamite (yep). Toluene can be used to break open red blood cells in order to extract hemoglobin in biochemistry experiments…whoo whoo.
Short term problems can be fatigue, nausea, confusion, weakness, and long term exposure can cause serious nervous disorders, negatively affect kidney function and even death. Even just low to moderate levels can cause tiredness, confusion, weakness, drunken-type actions, memory loss, nausea, loss of appetite, and hearing and color vision loss.
Toluene may enter the human system not only through vapor inhalation from the liquid evaporation, but also from air and soil contamination. It is toxic as the body cannot simply rid the body of toluene through normal routes (urine, feces, or sweat). It must actually be metabolized—broken down and sent through the body—in order to be excreted.
Phthalates are chemical compounds that come in many different forms. They are used for adhesives, building materials, personal-care products, medical devices, detergents, packaging, children’s toys, modeling clay, waxes, paints, printing inks and coatings, pharmaceuticals, food products, and textiles. Phthalates are used in a variety of household applications such as shower curtains, vinyl upholstery, adhesives, floor tiles, food containers and wrappers, and cleaning materials. Personal-care items containing phthalates include perfume, eye shadow, moisturizer, nail polish, liquid soap, and hair spray.They are also found in modern electronics and medical applications such as catheters and blood transfusion devices. As of 2004, manufacturers produced about 800 million pounds of phthalates each year.
Phthalate exposure can occur through direct use of a product with them, or indirect, such as inhalation or drinking contaminated water. Diet is believed to be the main source of exposure–fatty foods such as milk, butter, and meats are a major source (I’m assuming because of all the crapt we do to cows). Another scary source is medications. The coating on pills, the plastic bottles they’re stored in, and the machines used to manufacture them all contain phthalates. Studies have shown time and time again that people taking medications have the highest amount of phthalates—and these are the people with weakened bodies to begin with! They can also be absorbed through the skin. Phthalates are quickly released into the environment as plastics age and break-down.
There are some super-scary things in regards to phthalate exposure. While other contaminants are scary, phthalates seem to be more so simply because they are in EVERYTHING.
Phthalates are turning boys into girls, girls into boys, and some children into such gender-confused messes that they don’t know what’s going on. One study found that prenatal exposure to antiandrogenic phthalates may be associated with less male-typical play and behavior in boys, and they have the potential to alter androgen-responsive brain development in humans. Likewise, most of this damage is being done while the poor kid is still developing because they can upset the delicate balance of hormones. The male reproductive system is particularly at risk since phthalates interfere with androgens most—male hormones like testosterone—causing defects in testicular development and fertility. I’m assuming that my future teenagers are going to have reason enough to hate me without adding—“thanks for insisting on drinking bottled water and painting your toenails, Mom. Now I have no balls!”
As well, women who deliver prematurely have, on average, up to three times the phthalate level in their pee-pee compared to women who carry to term. It’s also known to accelerate puberty in girls, insulin resistance, obesity, and has been linked to liver cancer. A study published just last month found the first strong link to phthalate exposure and autism.
A study published in September 2000 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the presence of phthalates in every person tested — and the highest levels in women ages 20 to 40. The CDC suggested that cosmetics were a source.
Good ole’ George W. signed a law that limited the amount of phthalates allowed in certain products to 0.1% concentration. Any child’s toy or care item manufactured, sold, or imported in the U.S. after Feb. 10, 2009 must adhere to these standards. But wait…I thought most of the problems for kids were happening in-vitro? And, the mother’s use of products is a huge contributor? Wait, what?
When liquids dry, something must evaporate. When the resins and compounds in nail polish dries, vapors are released. Remember, those resins are made up of formaldehyde, toluene, and phthalates. Those are going straight up the nose, wreaking havoc there before making their way down the throat, through the lungs, etc., etc. etc.
Inhalation of vapors can produce narrowing of the bronchi and an accumulation of fluid in the lungs. Malaise, headache, sleeping disturbances, irritability, loss of vision and impairment of dexterity, memory, and equilibrium may result from a single exposure to fumes, even at very low doses.
Many brands have begun moving away from these concerns, and some claim to have eliminated them altogether. However, instead of simply taking these chemicals out, they are being replaced with compounds nearly as hazardous. Check out the Skin Deep Cosmetic Database to see how your favorite brand stacks up. Skin Deep ranks cosmetics from 0-10, with zero being a low risk, and ten being a severe risk.
I chose Acquarella based on their product rating of 0-1, and positive reviews. There are a few other brands, notably Honeybee Gardens, that are also revered. Aquarella is a bit pricey at $18, there isn’t a huge range of modern color options, it can only be ordered online, and it’s not 100% safe. However, it is a better choice, and a small, simple step towards healthier living.