Nail care

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GreenYour Nail care

Skip the nail polish and use natural nail treatments instead

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Natural nail treatments and nail care accessories—like cuticle creams, nail strengtheners, emory boards, and anti-fungal oils—allow you to take care of your nails while avoiding the eco-perils associated with polishes and removers. You can go green—and have healthy nails—by using no color at all.

Find it! Natural nail treatment products

In addition to the basics of nail hygiene and care—trim, file, and avoid biting and picking nails and cuticles—add some sizzle to your naked nails with these natural, earth-safe nail care products, designed to strengthen, moisturize, and repair.

Skipping the nail polish and using natural nail treatments instead helps you go green because...


  • Polishes and conventional nail treatments contain chemicals like formaldehyde, phthalates, acetone, and toluene that can pose various eco- and health-hazards.
  • Like other conventional skincare and cosmetic products, nail polishes and nail polish removers contain petroleum-derived components. Petroleum is a non-sustainable resource whose extraction and production has caused major environmental damage to soil, surface and ground waters, and local ecosystems, and contributes to global warming.
  • You avoid the packaging waste associated with various polishes and removers.

Conventional nail care products—a market worth $951.2 million in 2004—can contain eco- and health-unfriendly chemicals, such as:[1]

  • acetone: A solvent used in nail polish, nail polish removers, and astringents that can cause nausea, ear, nose, and throat irritation, and dermatitis. Can contaminate waterways in production and pollutes indoor air: its presence tends to be higher inside homes than outside due to the use of chemical products.
  • benzophenone-1: Can lead to hormone disruption.
  • benzoyl peroxide: Inhalation of this plastics additive can irritate mucous membranes and has been shown to promote cancer in animal studies.
  • dibutyl phthalate (DBP): A specific phthalate, common in nail polish to prevent chipping and add shine, that studies have shown can interfere with normal hormone balance, can cause severe birth defects, and is a suspected carcinogen. Phthalates have also been shown to cause liver, kidney, lung, and reproductive system damage, and the production of phthalates pollutes the air, water, and soil.
  • ethyl lactate or ethyl alcohol: Can lead to neurological damage and irritate the eyes and mucous membranes.
  • formaldehyde: Used as a preservative in some nail polishes, formaldehyde is one of the world's most hazardous compounds to both ecosystems and health, according to the Environmental Defense Scorecard, and is a known carcinogen.
  • toluene: Used to give nail polish its fluid quality and improve drying time, this solvent is absorbed easily by the body through the skin or inhalation, affecting the nervous system and causing depression, headaches, nausea, fatigue, and eye, nose, and throat irritation. Toluene has also been found to be toxic to the kidneys and liver and possibly a reproductive disruptor. Toluene is petroleum-based, so its production supports the pollution and greenhouse gases associated with petroleum production.
  • xylene: Like toluene, this chemical solvent is petroleum-derived, toxic, and may be linked to cancer.

Avoiding nail polishes and removers keeps these chemicals out of the environment and off of your body.

Salon eco-woes

Having nails done-up at a nail salon—an industry worth $6.53 billion in 2003—also poses environmental and health issues.[2] According to a 2007 study released by Women's Voices For the Earth, 95 percent of nail salon workers are female and of childbearing age; a large percentage of these women speak English as a second language—approximately 37 percent are Vietnamese-American—and may not be able to comprehend warnings and information regarding the potential toxicity of the products they work with on a daily basis.[2] A 2004 survey conducted by New York City's Committee For Occupational Safety and Health and a Korean workers' advocacy group revealed that health issues among salon workers are rampant: 57 percent reported experiencing allergies, 37 percent complained of skin problems and eye irritation, and 18 percent suffered from asthma. It's believed that these complications arose from inadequate ventilation in salons.[3]

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