Sometimes there’s nothing better than picking up that fresh new Essie shade and hunkering down in front of the latest episode of Game of Thrones to ogle at Jon Snow and paint your nails. A hot manicure makes you look—pardon the pun here—much more polished and makes you feel cute as hell, so it’s all good, right? Eh, maybe not so much.
As it turns out, nail polish contains lots of chemicals, three of which can have some not-so-great effects on your body. Toluene gives the nails that smooth look but can also cause headaches and mess with your central nervous and reproductive systems, among other issues. Formaldehyde can trigger some pretty unpleasant side effects in those who suffer from allergies, such as dermatitis (AKA a nasty skin infection) and chemical reactions. Dibutyl Рhthalate gives nail polish its fragrance (which isn’t even good, so WTF?) but can also cause endocrine, gynecological and respiratory illnesses. Yikes.
While the chances of serious side effects are pretty slim, scientists conducted a study in which they found that 10 hours after painting their nails, women had seven times the normal levels of diphenyl phosphate in their bodies, which is formed as a byproduct of a normal metabolism.
There are some brands out there that make “healthier” nail polish, though—just look for bottles marked “5-Free” and “3-Free” since the most harmful nail polish substances will be absent from them.
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