Updated on 1/22/09
We all have our 'cheat days,' when we are faced with doing something that we know isn't good for our health or the planet, but choose to do it anyway. From May to October, I am a pedicure junkie. I love getting my feet massaged, my toenails clipped, the cuticles oiled and pushed back, the nails painted in a different color each appointment. I'm partial to blood-reds, but sometimes will go for a pearlescent pink or a shiny orange for fun. I feel more organized and in charge when my toes look pretty, and I figured it was such a tiny thing that it didn't make much difference.
But it does, and in the middle of this pedi season (I enjoy biting my fingernails too much to paint them), I literally took another step towards sustainability. No, I'm not giving up my pedicures, but I am bringing my own less-toxic nail polish and remover with me when I get them done (it's always OK to bring your own to the salon).
There are quite a few companies that make polishes that are free of ingredients like formaldehyde, solvents, dyes, artificial fragrance, preservatives and phthalates, which is a class of chemicals that gives off that distinctive âfresh polish' smell. Phthalates make nail polishes harder and keep chips and scratches away. But prenatal exposure to the chemical has also been linked to liver and kidney damage, effects on baby boys' reproductive organs, (due to testosterone-lowering phthalates stored in their mother's bodies), and even to making men fat.
These health concerns have led the European Union to ban phthalates (along with formaldehyde). Both ingredients are still legal in the United States, since cosmetics are not subject to safety testing here (harmful ingredients are only removed-voluntarily, after they have been found to cause illness). The biggest problem with phthalates is that they are in all sorts of personal care products, from hair gel to perfume to lotion, and while one exposure- from your nail polish- might not be a lot, everybody uses multiple products that contain them, so you can't be sure of your body burden. Detox your toes with some of these pretty polishes instead! Acquarella has a unique selection of colors (even black, for you goth girls!) that are non-toxic and water-based, free of phthalates and formaldehyde, and dry to touch in about 3 minutes. ($16 at amazon.com or store.aquarellapolish.com)
ToeShades advertises itself as especially long-lasting, and instead of using polish remover to take your color off, it peels away instead. They have a great green color if you're looking for a mermaid-like shade and haven't found it elsewhere.
No-Miss polishes are available at Whole Foods (that's where I got mine), and use lots of Earth-based ingredients for color including iron oxides and mica, and zinc oxide to protect your nails from the sun's rays. They also carry glitter polishes, and even glow-in-the-dark polish! ($7 at amazon.com or $8 at nomiss.com)
If you like to match your lipstick and your nail polish (I'm not quite that organized!) Honeybee Gardens offers both peel-off and non-peel-off polishes that are non-toxic and match their line of ColorBalm Naturals Lipstick. They also have a great French manicure kit, if that simple and elegant look is more your style. ( $7.25-$10.25 at amazon.com or $10 at honeybeegardens.com)
And don't forget acetone-free (and totally non-stinky) polish remover for when you're ready to change it up! Try Honeybee Gardens ($7 at amazon.com or $9 at honeybeegardens.com), No-Miss and Acquarella ($6 at amazon.com).
Update: However, according to the Good Housekeeping Institute, the Honeybee Gardens remover contains methanol, which may be even more toxic than acetone.
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