What Is A Non-Toxic Nail Salon? Toxic Fumes, Studies (2020)

Natural Pioneers What Is A Non-Toxic Nail Salon

Non-toxic nail salons are trending and do more for their client’s and staff’s health. They make conscious choices when it comes to ventilation, nail polish & nail polish remover.

Non-toxic nail salons commonly offer 3-free nail polishes (without toluene, formaldehyde & dibutyl phthalate) along with soy-based nail polish remover (acetone-free). Sufficient ventilation in the salon limits toxic fumes and creates a healthier environment for staff and clients.

Let’s first take a look at regular salons and the toxins we’re exposed to as a client.

1. Are Nail Salons Dangerous?

Throughout my research on non-toxic nail polish, I got introduced to non-toxic nail salons. And I can’t tell you how much I love the idea! While I usually tell my clients to bring their non-toxic nail polish along with them to the salon, creating an entirely non-toxic salon experience is certainly a game changer.

On a global scale, 85-90% of women and 10-12% of men use nail care products across the world. [1] That’s a significant amount considering that the EWG found toxins in over 1,500 nail products – including polishes made by Sally Hansen, OPI, Wet N Wild, butter LONDON, Essie, Revlon, Milani, SpaRitual, Orly, theBalm, Nuance by Salma Hayek, Maybelline, and Beauty Without Cruelty. [2], [3]

The bad boys? Formaldehyde, toluene, plasticizers (for example dibutyl phthalate), triphenyl phosphate (TPHP), camphor, ethyl tosylamide, xylene, benzophenones, and butyl alcohol.

You should also know that some manufacturers don’t disclose all their chemicals. A recent study tested 10 nail polishes for TPHP and found it in eight of them. Two of the eight polishes that tested positive for TPHP did not disclose its presence on product labels. [4]

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Health Hazards In Salon Nail Polish

Nail salons usually offer a wide range of nail polishes. You find big drugstore brands as well as generic non-famous options. These nail polishes may contain tons of health threats such as formaldehyde, toluene, plasticizers, triphenyl phosphate (TPHP), camphor, ethyl tosylamide, xylene, benzophenones, and butyl alcohol.

Currently, TPHP is undoubtedly one of the most concerning toxins in our nail polish. That is because studies were able to detect a 7-fold increase in toxicity in our urine after 10-14 hours of applying nail polish. [5] This translates into TPHP permeating our nail and being absorbed by our body.

TPHP is linked to endocrine disruption. In animal studies, it has caused reproductive and developmental problems. Recent scientific research suggests that TPHP may contribute to weight gain and obesity. [6], [7] Moreover, TPHP may decrease testicular testosterone levels in men and is associated with decreased semen quality. [8], [9]

TPHP is only one of many health hazards in nail polishes. Next to the toxic exposure through polish permeating our nails, there are other hazards you should be aware of.

Other Health Hazards In Nail Salons

Next to toxins in nail polish, you should also pay attention to the nail polish remover that is in use along with the overall air quality in a salon.

The most widely used nail polish remover is acetone. The chemical is lower in toxicity than most other organic solvents but comes with a strong odor. Since many salons are small and poorly ventilated, workers and clients find the smell objectionable.

Like other solvents, acetone causes central nervous system effects like headaches and dizziness. Another strong disadvantage of acetone is that it dries out the nails and leaves them brittle. [10]

Natural Pioneers What Is Non-Toxic Nail Polish toxins in nail polish

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As I started my research on acetone, I was ready to learn all about the health hazards of this chemical. Only to find out that 100% acetone nail polish remover is rated 1 on the EWG scale. That blew my mind.

I learned that all the punched products, trying to mask the smell of acetone by adding fragrances & other ingredients, are far worse than 100% acetone. While acetone isn’t perfect, it is currently the best option on the EWG Skin Deep database. I strongly recommend you stick with a simple 100% acetone remover over any nail polish remover blends.

Ever stepped into a salon having the urge to take a deep breath and inhale all the toxic fumes in the air? I doubt it. Commonly, the smell makes us cringe as we first step in.

Toxic products along with insufficient air conditioning leave clients and employees sitting and working in an environment that is a toxic cocktail and far from the healthy and safe air we should be breathing. The smells come from volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and are linked to headaches and respiratory irritation to reproductive complications and cancer. [11], [12]

The Take-Away: Nail salons expose you to many dangerous chemicals such as formaldehyde, toluene, plasticizers, triphenyl phosphate (TPHP), camphor, ethyl tosylamide, xylene, benzophenones, and butyl alcohol. Some chemicals permeate our nail and are absorbed into our body. For instance TPHP, which is linked to endocrine disruption, reproductive and developmental problems, weight gain, obesity, and more. Toxic fumes in nail salons come from volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and are linked to headaches and respiratory irritation to reproductive complications and cancer. The use of toxic products along with poor ventilation takes a toll on the health of staff and clients.

2. Non-Toxic Nail Salons | Safer Products

Non-toxic nail salons (also called natural nail salons) are committed to protect the health of their clients and staff. They strictly avoid products that create the fumes and odors you’ll find in typical nail salons. When choosing products for their salon they take special consideration – here’s what non-toxic nail salons commonly use.

Non-Toxic Nail Polish Brands

Safe, non-toxic nail polishes can be made with as little as 4 ingredients. Make sure that you don’t fall for empty claims. Even some 13-free polishes contain toxic ingredients and should not be considered safer than regular drugstore polish. I personally always recommend for my clients to check their current and future products on EWG Skin Deep.

Non-toxic nail polish is formulated without toxic ingredients including but not limited to formaldehyde, toluene, triphenyl phosphate (TPHP), camphor, ethyl tosylamide, xylene, benzophenones, butyl alcohol, and plasticizers like dibutyl phthalate (DBP).

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Most non-toxic salons offer 3-free products excluding toluene, formaldehyde, and dibutyl phthalate. While that’s a start, I definitely recommend you take it a step further and ask your salon for even safer options that exclude all the above mentioned chemicals. Another option is to bring your own nail polish to the salon – safer and definitely more sanitary as well!

What brands of nail polish are non-toxic? Non-toxic brands include Sophi, Piggy Paint, Kapa nui, Poofy Supernaturals, Côte, and Honeybee Gardens.

Non-Toxic Nail Polish Remover

You’ll find that most natural or non-toxic nail salons will use a nail polish remover that doesn’t contain acetone.

While acetone may cause headaches and dizziness, and can dry out nails, newer formulations (without acetone) don’t have a better safety profile. [13] In fact, 100% acetone nail polish remover is rated 1 on the EWG scale. Remover blends with fragrances as well as alternatives to acetone rank lower than 100% acetone at this point.

I am optimistic that we’ll have a completely safe option in the future. In the meantime, I recommend you ask your salon for 100% acetone nail polish remover (no fragrances), remove your nail polish at home, or bring your own nail polish remover to the salon.

If you don’t want to use acetone, give soy based removers a try. They take longer to work, so hold the remover over the nail longer before attempting to wipe it away. For acetone-free nail polish remover, we recommend Karma Organic Spa, Priti, or Tenoverten.

Natural Pioneers What Is A Non-Toxic Nail Salon safe nail polish remover soy-based acetone-free

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The Take-Away: Most non-toxic nail salons offer 3-free products, eliminating toluene, formaldehyde, and dibutyl phthalate. Ideally, salons should carry 13-free or non-toxic brands like Sophi, Piggy Paint, Kapa nui, Poofy Supernaturals, Côte, and Honeybee Gardens. Most non-toxic salon owners also step away from acetone-based nail polish remover as it is very drying and can cause headaches and dizziness. At this point, 100% acetone nail polish remover (no fragrance) is the best rated nail polish remover on EWG Skin Deep (EWG Score: 1). Make sure to stay away from acetone blends with added fragrances (phthalates!) that mask the smell. Alternative soy-based nail polish removers include Karma Organic Spa, Priti, and Tenoverten.

3. How To Find A Non-Toxic Salon | Prices

To find a non-toxic nail salon, I recommend you search online and use keywords such as “non-toxic”, ”natural”, or ”organic. For example, type in “non-toxic nail salon near me”. While there is non such thing as an “organic” nail salon, some salon owners use this word to set themselves apart from regular salons. Be mindful of claims like “nail bar & organic spa”, as organic only relates to their spa where they likely work with organic products.

As far as prices are concerned, we found that non-toxic salons were no more expensive than regular salons of similar interior makeup. For example, my favorite non-toxic nail salon in LA charges 65 USD for a non-toxic pedicure which is equal to the price range in regular salons around here.

5. Conclusion

Nail salons expose you to many dangerous chemicals such as formaldehyde, toluene, plasticizers, triphenyl phosphate (TPHP), camphor, ethyl tosylamide, xylene, benzophenones, and butyl alcohol.

Some chemicals permeate our nail and are absorbed into our body. For instance, TPHP is linked to endocrine disruption, reproductive and developmental problems, weight gain, obesity, and decreases testicular testosterone levels and semen quality in men.

Toxic fumes in nail salons come from volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and are linked to headaches and respiratory irritation to reproductive complications and cancer. The use of toxic products along with poor ventilation takes a toll on the health of staff and clients.

Non-toxic nail salons are different as they commonly offer 3-free products, eliminating toluene, formaldehyde, and dibutyl phthalate. Non-toxic nail polish brands include Sophi, Piggy Paint, Kapa nui, Poofy Supernaturals, Côte, and Honeybee Gardens.

Most non-toxic salon owners also step away from acetone-based nail polish remover as it is very drying and can cause headaches and dizziness. At this point, 100% acetone nail polish remover (no fragrance) is the best rated nail polish remover on EWG Skin Deep (EWG Score: 1). Make sure to stay away from acetone blends with added fragrances (phthalates!) that mask the smell. Alternative soy-based nail polish removers include Karma Organic Spa, Priti, and Tenoverten.

To find a non-toxic nail salon, I recommend you search online and use keywords such as “non-toxic”, ”natural”, or ”organic”. As far as prices are concerned, we found that non-toxic salons were no more expensive than regular salons of similar interior makeup.