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My daughter is at an age she is curious of everything. She loves wearing Disney princess dresses and plays pretend make-up and hair salon. She likes to try many different things and trying nail polish is one of them. My daughter keeps asking me when she can try applying nail polish. Therefore, I decided to research for non toxic kids nail polish. As I was researching for non toxic kids nail polish, I realized that just because a nail polish product says it is non toxic, that doesn’t mean the nail polish is free of harmful chemicals. Many nail polishes say they are free of certain toxic chemicals, however, they could still have other harmful chemicals in them. Then which kids nail polish is non toxic? In this post, I share with you what toxic chemicals to avoid in kids nail polish and what non toxic kids nail polish is available.
Toxic Chemicals In Nail Polish
Nail polish is typically made of harsh chemicals. Children, especially young children are more vulnerable to toxic chemicals. Therefore, looking at ingredients before buying anything for my daughter has been a routine for me. Whether the toxic chemicals are inhaled or absorbed through skin, children have a larger exposure surface area and body weight ratio. Therefore, they are more exposed to toxins. Their organs are also still growing and developing. They do not have full capacity to process toxins like adult bodies do. Therefore, ingredients should be looked at carefully when choosing products for young children. Conventional adult nail polish often contains harmful chemicals. Therefore, they should not be used for kids especially for young children. Even some non toxic nail polish for kids still contain harmful chemicals. So what chemicals are harmful? Nail polish is commonly made of the following. Let’s take a look.
The first ingredient you see in nail polish is solvents. Solvents are generally liquids that mix and dissolve all ingredients together to make one unified mixture. Toxic chemicals such as Toluene, xylene, and formalin or formaldehyde were commonly used as solvents in the past. Toluene can affect liver, kidneys, central nervous systems, respiratory systems and also cause birth defects and developmental problems. Formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen. Xylene can cause difficulty in breathing, headache, nausea, dizziness, irritation of the skin, eyes, nose, and throat. However, toluene, xylene and formaldehyde were phased out due to their toxicity.
Common solvents used now are ethyl acetate or butyl acetate. Ethyl acetate or butyl acetate are highly flammable. With repeated exposure, ethyl acetate can cause damage to internal organs and also cause skin and eye irritation. Butyl acetate can irritate the lungs and affect the nervous system. Solvents in nail polish removers also can have harmful chemicals. Common solvents used in nail polish removers are Isopropyl acetone, n-methyl-pyrrolidone and methyl ethyl ketone. These chemicals are linked to reproductive toxicity, organ toxicity, cancer, skin and eye irritation.
Nitrocellulose is a film-forming polymer that is the main ingredient in most nail polishes. It makes a film that holds together other substances. Nitrocellulose is highly flammable. According to the New Jersey Department of Health, nitrocellulose can irritate the skin and eyes. Inhaling can also irritate the nose and throat. The exposure to the chemical can also cause headache, difficulty breathing, loss of consciousness and dizziness. However, I could’t really find human health concerns reported about nitrocellulose from other sources. I am assuming maybe the amount of nitrocellulose present in nail polish may not be at a level to cause some of the symptoms listed.
Plasticizers in nail polish make nail polish more flexible and durable. Dibutyl phthalate (DnBP) was widely used as a plasticizer in the past. However, it has been phased out in the US due to its toxicity. It is an endocrine disruptor. Camphor is the commonly used plasticizers in nail polish these days. However, camphor is also harmful as the dibutyl phthalate. If inhaled in large amounts, it causes nausea, headaches and dizziness. It can be also rapidly absorbed from the skin and gastrointestinal tract and cause negative health effects.
Triphenyl phopshte, or TPHP is another plasticizer used in nail polish. A study by researchers at The Environmental Working Group (EWG) and Duke University found that 8 out of 10 nail polishes contained the chemical. TPHP can disrupt hormones in humans, and it also resulted reproductive and development issues in animal studies according to EWG.
Ethyl Tosylamide is also used as a film forming plasticizer. It is banned in Europe for use in cosmetics because it can cause allergic reactions.
Colors can come from pigments or dyes. Pigments can be organic or inorganic. Dyes are only organic. The word organic here is not the same as the word ‘organic’ we use for organic vegetables and fruits. Organic pigments are carbon-based (contain carbon). Dyes (organic dyes or synthetic dyes) are typically labelled with ‘FD&C’ or ‘D&C’. D&C color additives are synthetic dyes that are permitted for use in drugs and cosmetics. FD&C color additives are also permitted to use in food. Dyes (synthetic dyes), lakes (organic pigments) and botanicals (organic pigments) are all organic color additives. Most organic pigments and dyes used today are synthetic and derived from coal tars and other petrochemicals. Coal tar is a known human carcinogen. Red 40, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 have been found that they are contaminated with carcinogens. Red 3 causes a cancer in animals. Impurities in Red 33 have been shown to cause cancer when applied to the skin. EXT D&C Violet 2 is a human skin toxicant or allergen. Some dyes and organic pigments also cause genotoxicity and hypersensitivity.
Inorganic pigments are made of metal oxides (by oxidation) or other naturally occurring ingredients. Chromium oxide for greens, iron oxide for reds and oranges, and ferric ferrocyanide for blues, ultramarine for blues are some examples of inorganic pigments. These mineral compounds including ultramarines, oxides and mica are safer in general than dyes and organic pigments which are derived from coal tars and petrochemicals. Some synthetic dyes and lakes can cause negative health effects including cancer. However, some inorganic pigments can also be toxic if pigments are based on toxic heavy metals such as cadmium, mercury or lead. Chrome yellow and zinc yellow and cadmium pigments, for example, may cause lung cancer according to the book, Medical Toxicology.
Ground titanium dioxide, ground mica, aluminum powder or small bits of plastic glitter mixed in with the nail polish can provide the glittery or shimmery look. Organic pigments such as fine powder or dust of titanium dioxide or mica are considered to be toxic when the powder is inhaled from make up products. However, they won’t be in a powder form when they are used in nail polish since they will be mixed in liquid. Therefore, they shouldn’t pose a threat. Plastic glitter which is often made with polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is a microplastic which is very tiny in size. It can end up in our water system and pollute our environment. It can also end up in fish that we eat.
To resist color changes when the nail polish is exposed to sunlight, benzophenone-1 is typically used as an ultraviolet stabilizer. Benzophenone-1 is an endocrine disruptor.
Stearalkonium hectorite is also often used as a thickener in nail polish and it is considered safe in general. However, it could be contaminated with nitrosamines which is a possible human carcinogen.
Here are some other toxic chemicals that are used in some of nail polish products.
Parabens – Parabens are used as preservatives. They promote an abnormal growth of breast cells which can lead to breast cancer.
Phenoxyethanol – Phenoxyethanol is used as a preservative. It is manufactured using ethylene oxide which is a carcinogen.
Glycol Ethers – Glycol Ethers are used as a solvent. Inhalation and oral exposure of the glycol ethers can have reproductive and developmental effects to the animals in animal studies. Long term use of glycol ethers in humans can cause neurological and blood effects, including fatigue, nausea, tremor, and anemia according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Fragrances – Fragrances can be made up of tons of chemicals but their ingredients are proprietary so the ingredients in the fragrances are not listed. Styrene which is a human carcinogen is allowed to be used in fragrances. Phthalates, an endocrine disruptor is also typically used in fragrances.
PEG compounds – PEG compounds can be used as a surfactant, a film former or an emulsion stabilizer. They may be contaminated with ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane. Ethylene oxide is a known human carcinogen and 1,4-dioxane is a possible human carcinogen.
Styrene Acrylates Copolymer – Styrene acrylates copolymer is considered safe but there is a concern of styrene contamination with this ingredient. Styrene is a possible carcinogen. 2016 study of kids’ make up products found trace amounts of residual styrene in one stick-on nail product. According to the study, the residual styrene was most likely the result of residual styrene in styrene-acrylates copolymer. Styrene-acrylates copolymer was an ingredient listed on the label. I have seen some non toxic kids nail polishes that use styrene acrylates copolymer as their ingredient. It is possible that there is no contamination of styrene but personally I would stay away from this ingredient just to be safe.
Safe, Non Toxic Kids Nail Polish
There are actually a handful of nail polishes that say they are non toxic and free of harmful chemicals. You will see many nail polishes are marketed as 3-free, 5-free, 8-free, up to 13 free. That means the nail polishes are free of the number of the harmful chemicals. 3-free usually means a nail polish is free of ‘Big 3’ or ‘Toxic Trio’ which are formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate and toluene. The variation of what toxic chemicals are free will depend on each manufacturer. However, most commonly listed toxic chemicals that are listed as free in these nail polishes are formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, dibutyl phthalate, toluene, camphor, parabens, xylene, phthalates, fragrances, animal ingredients, gluten, ethyl tosylamide, and triphenyl phosphate (TPP). It’s great that these chemicals are free and they should not be included in the nail polish.
However, this doesn’t necessarily mean these nail polishes don’t contain harmful chemicals. I was surprised to find that even some nail polishes that are marketed as non toxic still contained some harmful chemicals. For example, one popular kids nail polish that says it is non toxic contains fragrance, phenoxyethanol, methylparaben, red 40, yellow 5 and yellow 6. Another non toxic kids nail polish contains a very long list of chemicals (40 +) which includes butyl acetate, ethyl acetate, nitrocellulose, stearalkonium hectorite, styrene/acrylates copolymer. Another non toxic kids nail polish contains styrene/acrylates copolymer, phenoxyethanol, all of its colors come from FD&C or D&C dyes. Another non toxic kids nail polish contains phenoxyethanol, PEG-150, PEG-12, PEG-40, styrene/acrylates copolymer. The amount of harmful chemicals present in these nail polishes may be minimal. You may not use the nail polish often so it may not cause any negative effects to your child’s health. However, some chemicals can accumulate in the body especially when you are exposed to them many times over a long period of time. Kids are exposed to chemicals everywhere. It’s probably best to avoid any harmful or potentially harmful chemicals as much as possible.
Here is a list of non toxic kids nail polishes. I wanted to only include ones that I feel are the safest. You can take a look and decide for yourself which non toxic nail polish may be right for your child.
Suncoat Girl Peelable Kids Nail Polish – Non Toxic Nail Polish
The Suncoat Girl kid-friendly non toxic nail polish line was created by a mom looking for polishes safe enough for her daughter. It is tested by board-certified toxicologists for an extra safety precaution. Their formulas are water-based but give the same quality and finish as traditional polishes. Suncoat Girl has also won the Family Choice Award for their Party Palette Mini Nail Kit.
Age: This nail polish is safe for children 3 and up.
Nail Polish Removal: You can simply peel off the dried polish to remove it from the nail. Therefore, no nail polish remover is needed which means your child is not exposed to harmful vapors and chemicals from the nail polish remover.
Ingredients: Water, acrylic copolymers, polyurethane. May contain: mica, titanium dioxide, carmine, iron oxides, ferric ferrocyanide, chromium oxide green, ultramarine, polyethylene terephthalate (plastic glitter).
12-Free: Free of formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, dibutyl phthalate, toluene, camphor, paraben, xylene, alcohol, nano particles, phenoxyethanol, PEG, PPG
Made in: Canada
Piggy Paint Safe, Chemical-Free, Non Toxic Kids Nail Polish – Non Toxic Kids Nail Poish
Piggy Paint non toxic kids nail polish is non toxic, water-based formula, eco-friendly, cruelty free, chemical free nail polish. Natural ingredients make Piggy Paint nail polish odorless. This nail polish is kid-friendly and safe for pregnancy or nursing.
Age: It can be used on babies, toddlers and young children.
Nail Polish Removal: Nail polish can be removed with a Piggy Paint Nail Polish Remover
Ingredients: Water, acrylates copolymer, neem oil. May contain (depending on shade): ultramarines, iron oxide, titanium dioxide, mica, red 28, red 34, red 22, red 7, yellow 10, violet 2, zinc sulfide/copper, chrome green, orange 5.
Free: Free of formaldehyde, toluene, dibutyl phthalate (DBP), formaldehyde resin, bisphenol A, ethyl acetate, acetone or camphor, parabens, triphenyl phosphate, benzophenone-1
Made in: USA
EWG’ Skin Deep Rating: Their nail polish is rated at 1 or 2 which is low hazard. The ones with 2 contain some D&C dyes such as D&C RED 34 Calcium Lake. The ones with 1 don’t contain D&C dyes.
EWG’s Skin Deep Rated 1 Piggy Paint Nail Polish Colors
Honey Bee Gardens Watercolors Nail Enamel – Non Toxic Kids Nail Polish
Honey Bee Gardens Watercolors Nail Enamel is a safe alternative to solvent-based, toxic nail enamels. This nail polish is water-based, non toxic, earth-friendly with no harsh chemicals and odors. It is gluten-free, vegan, PETA Certified Cruelty Free, Non-GMO.
Age: Safe to use on children and perfect for those with sensitivities.
Nail Polish Removal: Nail polish can be removed with a nail polish remover.
Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Acrylates copolymer. May Contain: Iron Oxides (CI 77490), Mica (CI 77019), Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Ultramarine Blue (CI 77007)
12-Free: Free of formaldehyde, toluene, dibutyl phthlate, camphor, formaldehyde resin, xylene, parabens, fragrance, nitrocellulose resin, animal ingredients, triphenyl phosphate or benzophenone-1
Made in: USA
Kids Non Toxic Nail Polish Remover and Accessories
Piggy Paint Nail Polish Remover
Piggy paint Nail Polish Remover has no acetone and it has low odor.
Piggy paint products are made in USA.
Ingredients: Corn alcohol (Ethyl Alcohol), Aloe Vera, Vitamin E, embittering agent
Piggy Paint Accessorize Me Pedicure Nail Art Set for Girls
This Piggy Paint Accessorize Me Pedicure Nail Art Set for Girls includes:
- 4 piece pedicure set – toe nail file, pedi brush, toe separator and foot file
- set of 2 nail files – printed with the cute signature colors and pig
- 2 nail art sticker sheets – dancing and princess themed stickers
My choice of non toxic kids nail polish is Suncoat Girl Peelable Non Toxic Kids Nail Polish. I really like its simple ingredients and feel they are the most non toxic. I also like the fact that you don’t need any nail polish remover to remove the nail polish. Leaving kids’ nails natural without applying any nail polish would probably the best thing to do. However, if you want occasional nail polish fun for your kids, these nail polishes may be a good option. My little girl will be so excited to find out that she will get to try some nail polish. Occasional nail polish will add so much fun when she plays her princess stories.
For non toxic art supplies for kids – ‘Non Toxic Art Supplies For Kids – Which Art Supplies Are Safe?‘.
For non toxic toys for toddlers, please read my post, ‘Non Toxic Gifts For Toddlers.’
For non Toxic toy brands, please read my post, ‘Best Non Toxic Toys – What Are The Best Non Toxic Toy Brands?‘
For healthy toddler shoes, please read my post, ‘Toddler Shoes Guide and Review – Toddler Shoes That Promote Healthy Foot Development‘.
For what foods to avoid for kids ‘Harmful Chemicals In Children’s Foods – What Foods To Avoid For Children‘.
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