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Formaldehyde free nail polish

Date Posted:11 October 2022 

Many people have started seeking out nail polish that's been made without certain ingredients, particularly formaldehyde. While you may not be able to avoid all chemicals in nail polish, many companies have removed formaldehyde and other potentially harmful substances from their products. In this article, we'll tell you about the dangers of these chemicals in nail polish - and why some people are choosing "10 free" products over their traditional counterparts.


If you have ever had a manicure at a salon, you would have most likely noticed the intense fumes that emanate from these places. So much so, that staff often wear protective masks over their mouth and nose to prevent breathing in toxic fumes all day long. Unfortunately, customers aren’t given any masks, so maybe we should bring our own? But aside from breathing in chemical fumes in the air, our nails, much like our skin, are actually semi porous, meaning that whatever we put on it, such as nail polish, actually ends up in our bloodstream, and eventually in our tissues and cells. Resin contained in nail polish in particular is linked to hormonal disruption, increased cancer risk and even infertility.



What is formaldehyde?

Formaldehyde is a colourless, flammable chemical with a very strong smell which is used in building materials, cleaning agents and as a preservative in medical labs. It is most commonly known as the chemical used to preserve dead bodies. Formaldehyde exposure and side effects are unfortunately linked with mainstream (chemical laden) nail polish.  

Formaldehyde is used in nail polish for its ability to harden the polish. However, it can be absorbed through the skin and has been linked to cancer in some studies. Regardless, many people are still willing to risk the health impacts of formaldehyde exposure if it means they won't have to worry about chipping their nails after a day or two.

In addition to formaldehyde, other chemicals have been found in nail polish that are known toxins:

  • Toluene – causes dizziness, headaches and nausea; may cause kidney damage over time
  • Dibutyl phthalate (DBP) – linked with birth defects like male genital malformations; also may damage fertility

On this basis, it is imperative that you consider swapping you traditional nail polish for a natural nail polish.


Formaldehyde exposure and side effects

Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen and in the short term, can contribute to irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat and cause coughing and wheezing, nausea and skin irritation. The long term effects of formaldehyde are still unknown, however, a study conducted in 1980 showed that formaldehyde exposure caused nasal cancer in rats. It has also been suggested in human trials, that formaldehyde can contribute to cancer in humans, and since 2011, has been listed as a known carcinogen by The Department of Health and Human Services.   

Formaldehyde and dibutyl phthalate are also known as endocrine disruptor. Toluene is a known neurotoxin. It's also highly flammable and can be toxic to the kidneys, liver, central nervous system and brain if inhaled in large enough doses over time. There are some companies that make nail polish without these ingredients, but it's generally not easy to find them at your local drugstore or beauty supply store (besides health stores).

Formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate and toluene are also known as volatile organic compounds (VOC). The effect of formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate and toluene on humans is not fully understood but they have been linked to serious health issues such as cancer, birth defects, respiratory problems and skin irritation. Formaldehyde can be found in nail polish but the amount differs depending on the type of product you buy or your personal use habits. It is also possible to find other chemicals in nail polish that may affect your health such as DBP (dibutyl phthalate) which can mimic hormones in our bodies or cause birth defects if it gets into our bloodstreams; TPHP (toluene) which has neurotoxic effects including damage to nervous system tissue; DMDHHCMCHCOOH which causes irritation of eyes and skin when exposed through inhalation or contact with skin.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has identified formaldehyde as a potential allergen that can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, respiratory issues and more when inhaled over long periods of time. As such, when shopping for nail polishes it is important to keep this in mind and opting for formaldehyde free nail polish.



10 Free nail polishes 

So what about natural nail colour I hear you ask? Thankfully, natural beauty brands have stepped up to the plate and developed a range of 3, 5, 7 and 10 free nail polishes. What does all this mean? 3 free nail polishes are free from formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate, and toluene. These 3 ingredients combined can increase cancer risk, disrupt hormones and cause headaches, dizziness and liver and kidney issues. 5 free nail polishes also exclude formaldehyde resin or camphor (which contributes to the discolouration and yellowing of nails). 7 free also exclude ethyl tosylamide and andyxlene, while 10 free nail polish also exclude parabens, fragrances, and animal products.  

Many companies have pledged to remove these chemicals from their products. Some have already removed them entirely, while others are working towards this goal. If you're unsure, contact the manufacturer directly! Some companies have removed formaldehyde and DBP from their products but have substituted them with other potentially harmful chemicals like camphor, toluene and parabens - all of which may be just as bad or even worse than what they replaced.

While nail polish cannot be made entirely with organic and natural ingredients, Hanami Cosmetics nail polishes include a 'Ten Free' formula, which means they are free from toluene, formaldehyde, DBP, camphor, formaldehyde resin, ethyl tosylamide and xylene, parabens, phthalates and benzophenone.

Hanami nail polishes are also certified vegan and cruelty free. Choosing a vegan nail polish means that products are free of animal by products. With a variety colours to choose from, Hanami is the best cruelty free nail polish in Australia. It's non chipping formula and easy application with vegan brush will brighten your day.


Natural nail polish remover

On top of nail polish, nail polish removers are just as bad, containing many toxic chemicals such as acetone, phthalates, and toluene. Most natural nail polish brands will also make natural nail polish remover, while water-based chemical free nail polish can actually be removed simply by soaking in warm water and scraping off.

The main ingredient in Hanami nail polish remover is water, meaning this natural nail polish remover is so much gentler than traditional nail polish removers, and there's no acetone or ethyl acetate. It contains moisturising ingredients (glycerin, vitamin E and aloe vera) to minimise any drying out effects. With other brands, chemicals strip the nail; with Hanami Nail Polish Remover, your nails are nourished!

As Hanami is much less toxic than other brands, you will need to work a little harder to remove polish from your nails. We recommend applying a Hanami remover wipe/cotton bud soaked in Hanami remover directly to your nails for five to ten seconds, then wipe from base to tip, and repeat if needed.



Nail polish in pregnancy

In general, it is recommended that pregnant women avoid exposure to formaldehyde and other chemicals in nail polish. Formaldehyde can be found in most brands of nail polish, as well as dibutyl phthalate and toluene. When these ingredients are combined together, they can become even more harmful than when used on their own.

Many doctors recommend avoiding all kinds of nail polish during pregnancy or while trying to conceive; however, if you’re not sure whether or not your brand has been linked with health problems (or how much formaldehyde it contains), it might be best to err on the side of caution until more research is done on this topic.

Therefore, it is advised to skip nail polish all together and go bare in pregnancy, as chemicals in nail polish can have negative health implications to the developing foetus. Even natural nail colour is best avoided in this case, as although toxic free polish does not contain all the nasties of conventional nail colour, the only way to exclude all chemicals in pregnancy is to go naked. 


Final thoughts

So, there you have it! Now you know all about nail polish and what makes it so dangerous. Hopefully, this article has given you some tips on how to avoid using it. Remember that formaldehyde free products are not only good for your health but also kinder to the environment - so why not try them? Go and check out Hanami nail polish colours!