Nailed On

Just because I seem to spend most of my time larking around with cancer specialists in Harley Street don’t mistake me for bone idle. Today, after a consultation with my psychiatrist (depression improving, he says) I did the rounds of the beauty shops. Enthusiasm for my work carried me away – I ended up buying a foundation, a lip gloss, some henna and a bottle of nail polish.

Now I shall have to spend hours and hours testing and researching these goodies on your behalf. As my old mate Lao Tzu always says: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” I’ll start with the nail polish.

I have written previously about the ‘big 3’ toxic chemicals in nail polish: Toluene; Formaldehyde and Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP). Thanks in part to the EU banning DBP along with a lot of public pressure in the USA, many cosmetics companies have now reformulated their nail polishes to be ‘3 free’.

My all-time favourite nail polish is a startling shade of neon pink by Essie. I threw the box away long ago so I have no idea what is in it. I search for it on the Cosmetics Database. The following formulation is listed:

Butyl Acetate, Toluene, Nitrocellulose, Ethyl Acetate, Tosylamide/Formaldehyde Resin, Dibutyl Phthalate, Isopropyl Alcohol, Camphor, Stearalkonium Hectorite, Benzophenone 1, May Contain: Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), D&C Red 6 Barium Lake (CI 15850), FD&C Yellow 5 Aluminum Lake (CI 19140), D&C Red 7 Calcium Lake (CI 15850:1), Ferric Ammonium Ferrocyanide (CI 77510), Red Iron Oxide (CI 77491), Black Iron Oxide (CI 77499), Bismuth Oxychloride (CI 77163), D&C Red 34 Calcium Lake (CI 15880:1), Violet 2 (CI 75150), Aluminum Powder (CI 77000), Guanine (CI 75150), Blue 1 (CI 422090), Red 33 (CI 17200), Red 30 (CI 73360), Ultramarines (CI 77007), Polyethylene Teraphthalate, Mica

Now this raises a question in my mind. As far as I know Dibutyl Phthalate has been banned in cosmetics in the EU for some time. I bought the nail polish at Selfridges last year so I think I can safely assume that the ingredient listing on the Cosmetics Database is either USA specific or simply out of date.

Essie don’t seem to make my beloved lurid pink colour anymore. I email them and quick as a flash the answer comes back:

Essie Punchy Pink nail polish

Ethyl Acetate, Butyl Acetate, Nitrocellulose, Phthalic Anhydride/Trimellitic Anhydride/Glycols Co-polymer, Acetyl Tributyl Citrate, Isopropyl Alcohol, Stearalkonium Hectorite, Camphor, Benzophenone 1.

May contain: CI 77891 (Titanium Dioxide), CI 15880 (D&C Red 6 Barium Lake), CI 15880 (D&C Red 7 Calcium Lake), CI 19140 (D&C Red 34 Calcium Lake), CI 19140 (FD&C Yellow 5 Aluminium Lake), CI 77510 (Ferric Ammonium Ferrocyanide), Polyester-3, CI 77491 (Red Iron Oxide), CI 45380 (D&C Red 21), CI 45410 (D&C Red 28)

So the formulation has been vastly improved, although it still contains the suspected carcinogens Ethyl Acetate, Isopropyl Alcohol and Camphor as well as Benzophenone 1 a suspected endocrine disruptor. In addition, there is absolutely no data on Phthalic Anhydride/Trimellitic Anhydride/Glycols Co-polymer, meaning that its safety for cosmetic use has not been assessed by anyone at all.

Q: What do I deduce from all of this?

A (1): That nail varnishes can be and have been made a lot less toxic than they used to be – so what the hell took them so long to do it?

A (2): That I have lots of bottles of nail varnish hanging around in my bathroom and no idea how long they’ve been there, in which country I bought them or what is in them.


(1) Campaigning can produce positive change.

(2) Chuck out any old nail polish – better safe than sorry.

Phew. Now, on to my review.

Priti 631 Kingfisher Daisy. Priti claims to be luxury and eco-friendly nail polish… completely non-toxic and made without toluene, dibutyl phthalate and formaldehyde…” It goes on quite thinly and dries but dries quickly so I am able to apply more coats without endless hanging around. After three coats the colourcoverage is complete – yet completely matte. To be fair, all of that is also true of the Essie Punchy Pink.

I reach for my trusty old bottle of Bloom Crystal Clear and apply a final coat of gloss (ingredients: unknown, age: unknown, country of origin: unknown). Obviously this defeats the object of the whole exercise but my nails now look lustrously gorgeous.

Priti 631 Kingfisher Daisy.

INGREDIENTS: Butyl Acetate. Ethyl Acetate. Nitrocellulose. Acetyl Tributyl Citrate. Phthalic Anhydride/Trimellitic Anhydride/Glycols CopolymerIsopropyl Alcohol. Stearalkonium Hectorite. Adipic Acid/Fumaric Acid/Phthalic Acid/Tricyclodecane Dimethanol Copolymer. Citric Acid.

ALL COLORS HAVE BEEN FDA APPROVED. MAY CONTAIN: D&C Red #6 Barium Lake. D&C Red #7 Calcium Lake. D&C Red #34 Calcium Lake. FD&C Yellow #5 Aluminum Lake. D&C Yellow #10 Aluminum Lake. FD&C Blue #1. Aluminum Lake. Ferric Ammonium Ferrocyanide. Red Iron Oxide. Black Iron Oxide. Guanine. Bismuth Oxychloride. Mica. D&C Violet #2. D&C Red #17. D&C Red #33. D&C Yellow #11. FD&C Blue #1. FD&C Green #3. D&C Green #6. D&C Yellow #10. Polyethylene Terephthalate. Calcium Sodium Borosilicate (and) Tin Oxides. Silica (and) Aluminum Powder (and) Iron Oxides. Aluminum Powder

Ha. My new “eco-friendly… completely non-toxic” nail polish also contains Ethyl Acetate and Isopropyl Alcohol. There’s no Camphor or Benzophenone 1 but it does contain the mystery ingredient Phthalic Anhydride/Trimellitic Anhydride/Glycols Co-polymer as well asAdipic Acid/Fumaric Acid/Phthalic Acid/Tricyclodecane Dimethanol Copolymer, another substance that has not been assessed for safety in cosmetic use.

The truth is that nail polish is one of those products that can never be made totally ‘safe’. At least not if we want it to be colourful, shiny and long lasting. The alternative is to paint one’s nails with little Lily’s watercolour set.

My resolve is to make the best of a bad job by seeking out the most un-toxic nail polishes I can find and then using them only once a month. The rest of the time I shall shine my nails up with mum’s lovely nail buffer.


5 thoughts on “Nailed On

Say Something

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s