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I painted my nails - now how to reduce the toxic ick?

 
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For more on how to strengthen nails naturally, please head on over to this thread.  I am working on strengthening them with natural means and consulting a few doctors about this issue.  Most of what follows is a combination of genetics and the medicines I take.  So I work with what I've got.

My fingernails hate me.  They rip horizontally about 1/3rd to 1/2 way up the quick. and if I don't catch it in time, tear off the nail completely.  There is a reason this is one of the most common forms of torture.  It hurts.  It's also really annoying to live my life with my fingertips covered in bandaids while I wait for the rip to grow out.

I've tried lots of different options for glueing them back together from the teabag trick to special powder stuff to whatever, but none of them work for more than about an hour.  That is until I got so frustrated, I bought a bottle of nail polish at the grocery store and slathered three coats on my cruddy nails.  It was almost a week of snag-free living!  Such a beautiful feeling to be able to use my fingers again!

And it is kind of fun to feel like a kid again and paint my nails.  It fits in with this new thing I'm exploring - adornment.  Seeking ways of personalizing and discovering my style.  Although to be honest, I am a terrible painter.

But sloppy painting isn't the worst of it.  Nail polish stinks.  Nail polish remover even more so.  And when I get it on my skin, oh it burns until the solvents evaporate.  This can't be good for me.  

Another downside to painting my nails is that I'm already hard on keyboards.  For a normal keyboard, I wear off the lettering in about 6 months and can wear holes in the keys in a year or two.  So I upgraded to a mechanical keyboard so I can just replace the keys when they wear out.  With the chemicals in nail polish and remover, this will speed up how often I need to replace the keys.  

I asked google about the toxicity of nail polish and it gave me this page: https://davidsuzuki.org/living-green/choose-non-toxic-nail-polish/

Although cosmetics producers in Canada are required to disclose product ingredients, they don’t have to warn you about the health concerns associated with those ingredients.

According to the David Suzuki Foundation 2010 report What’s Inside? That Counts, 80 per cent of cosmetics contain at least one ingredient linked with health and environmental concerns, including cancer, reproductive disorders, asthma and severe allergies.

Your bottle of nail polish has at least three.

Dibutyl phthalate— Used as a solvent for dyes and as a plasticizer to prevent nail polishes from becoming brittle, this phthalate is classified by the EU as a suspected endocrine disruptor and as toxic to reproduction. Health Canada associates DBP with liver and kidney failure in young children when products (and polished little fingers) containing phthalates are sucked or chewed for extended periods. Although Health Canada banned six phthalates (including DBP) in soft vinyl children’s toys, its use in cosmetics is not restricted. The European Union classifies DBP as very toxic to aquatic organisms.

Formaldehyde— Formaldehyde is a common ingredient in nail hardeners in concentrations of up to five per cent. In nail polish, tosylamide/formaldehyde resin is used, and may contain residual formaldehyde concentrations of up to 0.5 per cent. The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies formaldehyde as a known human carcinogen.

Toluene— According the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, toluene is a moderate skin irritant that can cause dermatitis with prolonged contact. It is also a developmental toxicity hazard and has been identified in human milk. Inhalation of toluene vapour can affect the central nervous system causing slight drowsiness and headache at low levels and Irritation of the nose, throat and respiratory tract at increased levels.



ug, that's some nasty stuff.

My concerns are well-founded.

I went to the site they recommended and here are the search results: https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/search/?search=Nail+polish+

It's not ideal, but it does look like a way to choose the lesser evil.

Anyway, that's sort of a thing in my life right now.  There are a lot of complex emotions going on here.  I'm trying to find a way to deal with bad nails while I find a way to strengthen them.  And also playing with pretty colour and wondering why this makes me so happy to have temporary decoration on my body.  But also dealing with my feelings on toxic ick and finding a path to a more natural life while accepting, sometimes it's really hard to find a better solution.  

 
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So to start with, I'm going to ask what do we mean by toxic?

Quite often toxicity can be defined as how nasty something is, multiplied by how much of it we come into contact with. If something is only a little bit nasty but we come into it a lot then that can be just as toxic as something that's really nasty that we only get exposed to once in our lives.

As a quick example, I once did some back of a napkin numbers on Formaldehyde.
There was a small corner of the internet getting very concerned about leaving cans of coke or pepsi in sunlight. Apparently something breaks down to formaldehyde and something else (can remember specifics) anyways, turns out you'd have to drink 100 cans to get the same dose as one apple. Given that generally people accept that apples are fairly safe to eat, then this isn't a good reason to stop drinking coke or pepsi (there are other, much better reasons for that!)

So about the contact, inhalation is one of the fastest ways to get something toxic straight into scary places like the blood stream. However, there are lot's of defence layers in place, which are normally very effective but not as effective as the multiple layers of skin, and then dead skin cells and then the really thick layer of dead nail cells. Now tearing out all of those layers of protection is making a great path for other toxic stuff to get into the body.

As a completely untrained person with no medical background, my advice is worth nowt. However, I'd say have fun painting your nails and use a carbon filter with a fan to absorb any fumes.
 
r ranson
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For me, at this moment, I have two big concerns.

a) the solvents aren't fun to breathe, irritate my eyes and skin.
b) there are a lot of forever chemicals in cosmetics.

With poisons and toxins, the does makes the difference.  But for most toxins, our body can clean itself out given enough time and healthy living.  Forever chemicals are difficult for the body to clean.  It takes decades to break down and clean out these toxins... if it's even possible.

So even if the exposure is tiny with one nail polish application, we apply it every week, that's 50+ times a year... so maybe it's the 100th exposure or the 1000th that we start to show symptoms.  But the damage can be done before the symptoms show.

I worry about the lack of transparency with cosmetics.  We find out one chemical harms the humans, then replace it with one that hasn't enough data to say it harms humans (but equally, not enough data to say it doesn't)




That said, I did learn some new things this week.

Because I needed a quick fix, I began with a $2 nail polish.  It took three coats to cover thick enough and the first time I opened the bottle, I got kicked out of the house because the fumes were too strong.  It took about 24 hours to cure (even with a quick dry top coat) and I could still smell the solvents up to three days later.  By then it was chipping and by day five, my nails were breaking even with the polish.  

A friend suggested I try a mid-range brand like OPI.    I also picked up a base coat as this is supposed to make the polish last longer - like how primer makes paint go better.  I choose a formula with strengthing stuff in it.  

This made a massive difference.  The solvents don't hurt my skin with this brand.  It's been over a week and there is only one tiny chip (instead of it half gone after 5 days).  I gardening without gloves and not cosseting my nails at all, but they feel so much stronger with this OPI Nail Polish.  The polish cures in about 4 hours and the smell of the solvent is gone in about 6.

Once I get the hang of this, I should be able to make the polish last at least two weeks, which means less frequent exposure to the solvents.  I suspect if I get a top coat in this brand, it will last longer.

Although I hear Holo Taco brand has a much longer-lasting top coat (and good reputation for being skin friendly), it's also more expensive.  I'll probably stick to OPI for now and when these bottles are used up, I'll try something different.


 
r ranson
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In other news, I found the second-hand shop sells almost-full bottles of nail polish.  So this would be a way to learn about different brands and colours.  I picked up an OPI red for $2 (instead of nearly $15 after tax to buy it new).

But is used nail polish safe?  I don't know, so I asked The Internet.


“In general, sharing nail polish does not present a health or infection risk,” she says. “This is because the solvents in nail polish are chemically toxic to microorganisms by degrading their cell walls within seconds of contact. In fact, there have been studies that show that microbes cannot survive in nail lacquer, whether they are in a salon or deliberately contaminated with microorganisms for laboratory studies.” So, you don't have to give that much-used bottle of Mademoiselle at your local nail joint the stink-eye anymore.



The article goes on to suggest that hands with painted nails have less bacteria on them over time.  

That's another possible problem with nail polish - the death of good bacteria (as well as bad).  

 
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This company came up on my Facebook feed. https://www.ellamila.com/pages/about


Quickly becoming one of the most sought-after nail polishes, this line of lacquer was born from the simple idea of creating an eco-friendly yet high-end product. Initially inspired by the twin daughters (darlingly named Ella and Mila) of one of the founders, the luxury brand took sail....

...With a passion for color and dedication to healthy beauty, the founders strive to provide fashion-forward beauty products without compromise. In addition to being chip-resistant, quick-dry and high-shine, ella+mila nail colors contain no Acetone, Animal-Derived Ingredients, Bisphenol-A, Camphor, Ethyl Tosylamide, Formaldehyde, Formaldehyde Resin, Gluten, Glycol Ether of Series E (Gycol ethers derived from ethylene oxide), Nonylphenol Ethoxylate, Parabens, Phthalates (including DBP), Styrene, Sulfate, Toluene, Triphenyl Phosphate (TPHP/TPP), Xylene, making it a seventeen chemical-free product. But the advantages don't end there! ella+mila polishes are also PeTA-certified.

 
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Thank you, Joylynn! My daughter is now getting to the age/stage of wanting to play with nail polish (she's covering her nails with markers a lot, hahaha!).

I looked on the Environmental Working Group's SkinDeep site, but they don't rate nailpolishes, sadly (upon further searching, they do list nail polishes--they just didn't show up when I searched the site. Ella+Mila does have a nice, low, level 1 rating. Here's the SkinDeep site's best rated nailpolishes). I did find the ingredient list for the Ella+Mila nailpolish (listed on their webpage):

Nail Polish Ingredients: Butyl Acetate, Ethyl Acetate, Nitrocellulose, Acetyl Tributyl Citrate, Phthalic Anhydride/Trimellitic Anhydride/Glycols  Copolymer, Isopropyl Alcohol, Stearalkonium Hectorite, Adipic Acid/Fumaric Acid/Phthalic Acid/Tricyclodecane Dimethanol Copolymer, Citric Acid, Bis(glycidoxyphenyl propane/Bisamino methylnorbornane Copolymer, Aluminum Hydroxide, Polybutylene Terephthalate, Polyethylene Terephthalate, Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer

Polish May contain (+/-): Aluminum Powder (CI 77000), Iron Oxides (CI 77499 / CI 77491), Red 34 Lake(CI 15880), Red 6 Lake (CI 15850), Red 7 Lake (CI 15850), Yellow 5 Lake (CI 19140), Ferric Ammonium Ferrocyanide (CI 77510), Mica (CI 77019), Blue 1 (CI 42090), Yellow 11 (CI 47000), Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Violet 2 (CI 60725), Yellow 10 (CI 47005), Red 28 (CI 45410), Red 22 (CI 45380)

 
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I was looking into this topic last year because my nieces like to paint their nails, and I came across this article for "pregnancy-safe nail polish": https://www.whattoexpect.com/baby-products/beauty-skin-care/pregnancy-safe-nail-polish
Their take away may not be satisfying to everyone, but I found their explanation of categorization of formulas as "3 free" "5-free" etc etc helpful just to know what I'm looking at within the child safe/pregnancy safe nail polish lists.
Quoted from the link:
Here’s a breakdown on the difference between these terms:

“3-Free” formulas: These do not contain formaldehyde, toluene (a less-common solvent) or DBP, which are considered the most problematic ingredients, says Dr. Garshick.
“5-free” formulas: Like a 3-free formula, these do not contain formaldehyde, toluene, and DBP. They also lack formaldehyde resin and camphor, which may cause allergic contact dermatitis in some people, notes Dr. Weitz.
“7-Free” formulas (and up): In addition to being free of everything in a 5-free formula, these formulas also typically lack ethyl tosylamide (which can cause allergic reactions in some people) and xylene (which can irritate the eyes and throat when inhaled in large amounts). “8-free,” “10-free,” and other such formulas will also lack other potentially irritating/harmful ingredients, depending on the product.
Vegan: If a product has a certified vegan logo, that means it doesn’t contain any animal-derived ingredients or animal by-products, nor was it tested on animals. (Certain common nail polish ingredients, like shellac, come from animal secretions, while some pigments like carmine are made from insects.) Don’t conflate this label with “plant based,” which simply means that there are ingredients derived from plants in the product. (And cruelty-free means the product was not tested on animals.)
Non-toxic: Usually, brands use this to mean that their product doesn’t include ingredients that are believed to be potentially harmful. (For nail polish, brands will often pair this with “3-free” or “5-free” messaging.) But remember, this is primarily a marketing claim without a standard legal definition, so take these claims with a grain of salt.


They also included a list of their top picks. I agree though that you do get a better product by paying a bit more to a point and the cheapest ones are terrible aand won't last for beans.
 
r ranson
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Another concern I'm having is nail polish remover.  That's usually acetone which if memory serves is one of those chemicals that has a big "don't get on your skin" sticker on it.  

Need to learn more about this and the alternatives.



In my reading, I found two other kinds of nail polish that are common these days.

Gel nail polish seems to require a UV light to cure.  I wonder if that would be kinder or harsher on the skin?

The other is called a powder coat which I haven't looked in to yet.  Looks a bit complicated for me.


 
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I have not had gel nails applied for many years so the process may have changed but it used to be that the nail technician would lightly abrade the entire nail surface to help the gel adhere which might not be so good if your nails are split and already thin.

The gel nails are very strong and as your natural nails grow out, the gap can be filled but I have reservations about wearing the gel nails for extended periods of time.

As far as I am aware, acetone is the only way to remove the gel.

I've never used or had powder polish applied but have had shellac nail polish which also requires a UV light to cure the polish.

The shellac polish lasts almost as long as a gel polish and also requires acetone to remove.

These days, I tend to paint my nails at home rather than go to a salon.

Even when using very light coloured/nude regular polish, I found that my nails become discoloured after several weeks of continuous applications of nail varnish.

A couple of coats of base coat helps to reduce the staining and a top coat keeps the polish shiny and reduces chipping.

When I want to give my nails a rest from nail varnish, I cut them really short and buff them with an old fashioned chamois buffer and cream. The spring can be prised off and I replace the chamois when it wears through.

Buffing gives my nails a lovely natural shine almost as good as clear varnish.

 
r ranson
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Here are some alternatives to nail polish remover
(some of these seem more likely to cause harm to me than acetone)



The thing that got my attention is that acetone can make nails brittle and more likely to split or delaminate.  Exactly the issues I'm dealing with.

So I think I'll look into no-acetone nail polish remover.
 
Mercy Pergande
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I ran across a soy based type of nail polish remover that is said to be far less drying and that type usually includes other things like vitamin E etc to counteract the effects of the solvent.

Have you tried "press-on" type nails? They have come a long way from the early days and have short and reusable shapes that might be a happy medium approach. It would give the hardness of a gel nail and a lot of abrasion protection but without as much contact with irritants and is a lot easier to remove. Just a thought.
 
r ranson
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Brief overview of some of the issues with different kinds of nail polish

https://youtu.be/tclJMZ1OqBQ
 
r ranson
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Some advantages so far:
- the nails are stronger and the nail polish takes the damage that would normally shred my nails (I really need to wear gloves when gardening)
- I can monitor how fast they are growing.  The slower growth tends to indicate stronger nails, so I suspect by the end of the year with my current nutrition, I shouldn't need the nail polish so much.
- sheep nail art
 
r ranson
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This article has some good stuff in it and although they talk about salon nails a lot,  there are some useful tips for home nail care

https://www.goingzerowaste.com/blog/vegan-ecofriendly-nail-polish/


Nail files are typically made from sandpaper, cardboard and glue. While they certainly can last a while, they’ll eventually need to be tossed out because they can’t be properly sanitized. Instead, choose an eco friendly nail file made from stone, glass or metal. These can be easily sanitized and reused for years to come, making them zero waste. 



Instead of disposable cotton rounds, try switching to reusable nail polish remover pads. I really like these homemade ones from Etsy – they’re made using 100% bamboo felt.  If you’re good at sewing, you can even craft your own cotton rounds from an upcycled flannel shirt like I did. 



How to make reusable make up pads from fabric scraps
https://www.goingzerowaste.com/blog/diy-cotton-rounds/

 
r ranson
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I still have cracks forming on the side of the nail bed, but they aren't developing into big rips like they would normally.  So it's working.

It's also nice to see that these rips are further up than before.  That is more likely due to the improvements I'm making in nail health.  
 
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One thing that's interested me is observing other people's nails.  Depending on where in town, 40-90% of the people I see with visible toes (of all genders) have painted toenails.  Older people and men seem to have less. The more affluent communities have more. None of these have obviously painted finger nails.

Maybe 2-5% of the people I've seen in the last few weeks have painted fingernails.  Several men I've seen have manicured hands with polished (as in someone buffed them, not necessarily lacquer) nails.  These tend to be more professional fields like admins, bankers, etc.  People that work with their hands might have a clear coat on their nails but seem unlikely to have polish (doctors, nurses, gardeners...)

Of the ones I've seen, a couple were men (a father let his 4-year-old daughter paint his nails for her birthday.  Of the androgynous-looking people, none of them (save maybe me - not really sure if I fall into this category as I often get called by random pronouns), and the obviously female, maybe 5 had their fingernails painted.  

My sample size is about 400 right now.  It's not a fully scientific study, just being observant when waiting in a public place - like a game to pass the time.

Since I was looking at body adornment, I noticed what else these people had.  Maybe 10 people didn't wear any jewellery.  Half wore at least one obvious shiny thing bigger than a stud earring.  One-third to half of the people had permanent tattoos visible depending on how affluent the neighbourhood.  

The tattoo thing to me was really interesting.  It's a permanent adornment so one has to be confident they want it and they want it visible.  What's more, this was socially unacceptable when I was growing up - and painting one's nails was almost as bad as it showed you were a "painted woman".  Having my nails painted darker colours definitely gets a second and third look.  (I'm going to find a more subtle colour soon) It's almost like tattoos are now socially acceptable (woot!) but nail polish on my hands isn't.  

But this is all local to me and my life. We live in a town where socks and Birkenstocks are still the height of fashion year 'round.  That's black socks of course
 
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One more thing while I'm thinking about it.

I've tried a few colours now and I've discovered that cool undertones stand out more from my hand whereas warm colours blend in with my skin.  

I can use this information in my wardrobe selection and since I usually like to blend in, I'll be more careful to choose warm colours - which I'm attracted to anyway, so this is good.
 
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When I wear nail polish, I use piggy paint. It doesn't stink and it comes off with rubbing alcohol. It stays on really well if you cure it with a hair dryer after applying. I wear it on my toes and I can't speak to how well it strengthens but it's all 1 or 2 on the toxic meter. I wish it came in more colors but I'd rather safe than toxic.
 
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Some more observations.

The purple nail polish I love the most right now stains my nails bright orange, even with a base coat.  That's a risk I expected with dark reds but not bright purple.  

On the other hand, I'm digging this 1930s nail polish trend where they only paint a limited amount of their nail.  



As my nails are growing stronger at the base, I've been following the growth so that my polish doesn't go all the way to the base of my nails, but looks like it's growing out.  I'm going to try and improve my technique so I can get the half moon and it looks like I'm doing it deliberately.  
 
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I'm wondering about peelable nailpolish. When I was buying nail polish for my nieces a few years back, I ran across "peel-off" nail polish. That would allow for adornment and fun, but--hopefully--wouldn't need any nail polish remover.

One of the brands I see a lot of is Townley. They make cute little themed sets of nail polish aimed toward kids, like this one:

My Little Pony Nailpolish


It's made for kids, so it should be safe...right? Not so fast. The Environmental Working group give them a rating of 7. It seems that some of the colors have far worse effects than others. This seems to be the info on the black pigment:

D&C BLACK NO. 2 (CI 77266)
Appeared as: BLACK 2 (CI 77266)
Data Availability: Robust
CONCERNS • Cancer (moderate)
• Developmental/reproductive toxicity (moderate)
• Allergies/immunotoxicity (moderate)
• Use restrictions (high)
• Neurotoxicity (low)
• Endocrine disruption (low)
• Persistence and bioaccumulation (moderate)
• Non-reproductive organ system toxicity (moderate)
• Contamination concerns (CADMIUM (pyrophoric))



Maybe it's just that brand that has issues? I thought I'd look into another peelable nail polish brand I'm seeing on Amazon, one that says things like "non-toxic." Initially, I thought this brand was called "Honey"....but then I realized that many of the different listings on amazon are by different sellers. This makes me wonder if a bunch of companies are trying to make nailpolish that we assume comes from a different company. More worrisome is the fact that none of these companies are showing up on Environmental Working Group's website. This makes me wonder if they're being made in a country with even less health and safety regulations than in the US.

Three nail polishes named 'Honey,' all by different companies. Why?


When looking for more info about this random "Honey" company, I did come across another option for nail polish: water-based nail enamel from Honeybee Gardens. The company is on the Environmental Working Group's website, but their nail polish (and nail polish remover) are not. The main ingredient in their enamel is Acrylates copolymer, which is rated at a 1 on EWG's website, so that's good.  Their nail polish remover has these ingredients. I'll put their EWG rating in (bold):

Methyl acetate (2), butoxydiglycol (2-5, depending on if you'll inhale it's fumes), aloe barbadensis leaf juice (1-3, depending on if the leaf is decolored?!), equisetum arvense (horsetail) extract (1), tocopherol (vitamin E) (1), denatonium benzoate (bittering agent to deter ingesting) (1)

All in all, this one seems to be coming out the cleanest. The nail polish looks safe, and the remover seems a lot better than other nail polishes. It also seems to last a long time.

I'm wondering, though, if there's a safe peelable nail polish. My daughter seems to like to customize her nails all the time (recently she's been using bits of colored wax and taping colored paper on her nails).  I've tried looking up various brands of peelable polish on EWG's site, and I'm not finding anything on them. I did find out on reddit that Piggy Paint chips off really easily, and comes off in the bath. So maybe that's a good option for my daughter, especially since it's rated a 1 on EWG's site. It might not be the best for someone who wants their nailpolish to last!
 
yeah, but ... what would PIE do? Especially concerning this tiny ad:
Come visit Wheaton Labs - SEPPing at Basecamp for 40% off if you arrive before May 10th!
https://permies.com/wiki/251726/visit-Wheaton-Labs-SEPPing-Basecamp
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