Why I Gave Up Gel Manis

I'll be the first to admit I love a fresh manicure. It's become stationary to my self-care routine, and with coveted spas like Miniluxe sprouted all over the city, who can resist? Although I typically opt for a neutral pallette, I'm always scoping out the latest trends in the nail world including the latest "tiger's eye" mani. As someone who is constantly using her hands whether it's typing, cleaning, working out, or merchandising the endless piles of jewelry in our collection, a basic manicure never seemed to cut it for me.

But lately, I've been doing some self-analyzing and came to the realization that the chemicals in the acetone and polish I've been using may not be so beneficial to my health. I've always strayed from chemicals in everything from skincare to household cleaners, so why did I make an exception when it came to my nails?

So last week, I decided to remove my gel polish, and switch to non-toxic polish. Through my research, I've discovered some information that you may find helpful in deciding whether to make the switch to embrace your mani the natural way. I've had my fun with acrylic nails and gel manis, but I must say there's something about natural nails that never seem to go out of style. I feel more at ease knowing I'm not applying harmful chemicals to my skin that can leech into my body and cause potential harm. Plus there are dozens of quality and affordable brands like Zoya and Ella + Mia that offer safer alternatives to chemical-based polishes. 

Here's a list of the common ingredients in chemical-based polishes, and how they're harmful to your nails: 

  • Formaldehyde
This is the main ingredient in most chemical-based polishes that is used to harden and strengthen, also acting as a preservative that protects against bacterial growth. Although it's naturally produced by the body in tiny amounts, exposure to larger doses may cause cancer of the throat, nose, and blood. Salon Manicurists are more likely to be at risk for chronic health problems caused by formaldehyde including asthtma, convulsions, nausea, and miscarriagesThe European Union allows only limited use of formaldehyde in personal care products, while Japan and Sweden have banned it completely.
    • Formaldehyde Resin
    This is a by-product of formaldehyde that can cause severe skin irritation and allergic reactions, depigmentation, and loss of nerve sensation. 

    • TPHP (Triphenyl Phosphate)
    This potential toxin is a plasticizer that makes things like nail polish more flexible and less brittle. Known as an endocrine disruptor, it changes our bodies hormones and has been linked to infertility, abnormal fetal development, hormone imbalances, and several types of cancer. 

    • Toluene
    Used to create a smooth application and finish, Toluene has a sweet, pungent smell and can be found in most conventional nail polish removers. Its fumes are considered highly toxic and studies have shown that exposure can cause serious neurological damage, decreased brain function, impaired breathing, hearing loss, and nausea. This chemical has been banned in personal care products by The European Union and California has listed it as harmful to fetal development.

    • Camphor

    Camphor is the ingredient that gives nail polish its glossy appearance. Although less toxic, the safety of its use on the skin has been a cause for concern. It has been shown to irritate skin and cause allergic reactions when applied topically, and inhaling the fumes has been linked to symptoms like nausea, dizziness, and headaches. 


    Thank you for reading! I hope this information will help you make safer and more infomed choices with the products you use every day. I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments. 

    -Jackelyn, founder and creative director




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    Featured image credit: Chillhouse NYC

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