Nail polishes are considered by the FDA as Cosmetic Products, which means, unlike drugs and foods, they are not subject to regulations or testing. Basically, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve nail polishes, period. The nail polish product landscape can be quite challenging to navigate for the average consumer.
Just like what we do to our walls and cars, nail polish is basically paint for nails. Paints are, by nature, toxic substances regardless of being labeled as "non-toxic” or "organic".
For business reasons, most nail polish manufacturers keep their formulas confidential and locked up in a bulletproof vault, the majority of the ingredients in just about every bottle of nail polish can be categorized into:
- Film-forming agents
- Coloring agents
Nail polish formulations in themselves, are already very tricky. To make matters worse, some companies resort to marketing keywords such as “clean,” “non-toxic,” "organic", "all-natural", which mean absolutely nothing and create a completely wrong understanding of what nail polishes are. Due to FDA's stance on cosmetic products, nail polish companies are basically free to say or market whatever they want.
THE POPULARITY OF "X-FREE"
Roughly 15 years ago, nail polish manufacturers launched splashy campaigns promoting they were no longer using certain toxic solvents and plasticizers in their products:
- Toluene, a neurotoxin and skin irritant
- Formaldehyde, a known carcinogen that may also cause reproductive harm
- Dibutyl phthalate (DBP), which has limited evidence for negative effects in humans, but has been linked to reproductive and developmental harm in animals
So, the fact that 3-Free nail polish is free of these chemicals makes it healthier, right? Not necessarily.