How Green is Your Mani-Pedi?

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Body Shop's Colour Crush Nails line has 24 colors and is a "5-free" formulation excluding some nasty chemicals.
Body Shop’s Colour Crush Nails line has 24 colors and is a “5-free” formulation excluding some nasty chemicals.

Every two weeks or so, many women take part in a satisfying beauty ritual: the mani-pedi.  But what’s in those shiny and colorful nail polishes? Are there any chemicals to avoid?  Though you won’t find a chemical-free nail polish or remover, smart brands have developed some that work without toxins.

Until 2006, most nail polish formulas included the “toxic three,” that is, three known carcinogens: formaldehyde, toleune and DBP (dibutyl phthalate).   As the non-profits Environmental Working Group and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics beat up nail polish manufacturers to stop including the toxins, several popular companies responded by eliminating the three chemicals. OPI, butter LONDON, and Sally Hansen are all “3-free.”

Some companies have gone further and developed “5-free” formulas, also nixing camphor and Bisphenol A. Body Shop’s new Colour Crush collection, Zoya and Revlon are all “5-free.”

There are also water-based and vegan brands that strive to be eco-friendly: Piggy Paint, Honeybee Gardens and Suncoat. You may want to check out Environmental Working Groups Skin Deep website to see whether your polish and remover has a safe score. EWG’s Skin Deep data base is a valuable resource for consumers to aid in understanding the safety of 70,000 everyday consumer products. 

Removing nail polish requires a solvent and your best bet is to find an acetone-free brand that uses the chemical ethyl acetate versus the more harsh acetone. Both are not good to ingest, but an acetone-free blend is less drying.

If you’re looking for an eco-friendly nail salon, check out the Scrub Nail Boutique near Inner Harbor East. The salon offers a natural mani-pedi in a fume-free environment.

Surprisingly little regulation exists over the the $56 billion cosmetic industry. Did you know that U.S. cosmetic regulations are from 1938?!  And with the exception of color additives, cosmetics aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Since World War II, over 80,000 synthetic chemicals have been introduced into our world. Are they bad for us and is anyone in our government asking that question? 

The topic seems important enough to examine, so we’re launching a new series called Beneath the Surface: What’s in Everyday Consumer Products. We found some local experts to help us find answers and offer tips for making safer choices when buying personal care products.  It seems reasonable that we should expect products that help us look our best to also be safe.

Let us know if you’ve had any burning questions about personal care products or cleaners you like us to look into.  

Check back tomorrow and enter our Body Shop Colour Crush Nails collection giveaway. Three winners will receive eight eco-friendly nail varnishes, a new sweet oil nail varnish remover, a gentle nail file and a new nail art pen; a $90 value. 

Laurel Peltier
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Laurel Peltier

Laurel writes the environmental GreenLaurel column every other Thursday in the Baltimore Fishbowl. A graduate of UVA's MBA program, she spends her time with her family and making "all things green" interesting.
Laurel Peltier
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