To protect their health and that of their baby, pregnant women are subject to numerous restrictions: dietary, physical activity, cosmetics... Nail polish is one of the products often discouraged during pregnancy. What is the real situation?
Nail Polish and Pregnancy: Are They Compatible?
Pregnancy can be a frustrating time for a woman as she sees her range of possible activities diminish over the months. The same goes for cosmetics. Some contain active ingredients that pose a risk during pregnancy. Nail polishes are no exception and their use by pregnant women is often discouraged.
Indeed, most "traditional" nail polishes contain substances that are toxic to the fetus when inhaled. Once these substances are present in the mother's bloodstream, they can easily reach the placenta. It's important to note that blood circulation between the mother and child is established as early as the fourth week of pregnancy.
Among the main substances found in nail polish that are contraindicated for pregnant women, we can mention the formaldehyde. It is classified as a "possible carcinogen for humans" in Europe and is considered a potential endocrine disruptor. As a reminder, an endocrine disruptor is a substance capable of disrupting hormonal function.
We also frequently find toluene in nail polishes. This irritating solvent emits an odor that can exacerbate nausea in pregnant women. Moreover, a recent study has correlated high exposure to toluene during pregnancy with the birth of a baby suffering from hydranencephaly, a severe brain abnormality. While researchers themselves are not entirely sure of the established link between toluene and the disease, it is preferable in such situations to apply the principle of precaution.
Natural nail polishes, a solution?
Natural nail polishes provide a viable alternative for pregnant women. They can be identified by the labels "3 free", "5 free", or even "8 free". It's important to note that the number preceding the word "free" indicates the number of controversial ingredients that have been removed. This is a standard, the characteristics of which are summarized in the table below.
|Toluene, dibutyl phthalate (DBT), formaldehyde
|Toluene, dibutyl phthalate (DBT), formaldehyde, camphor
|Toluene, dibutyl phthalate (DBT), formaldehyde, camphor, xylene
|Toluene, dibutyl phthalate (DBT), formaldehyde, camphor, xylene, formaldehyde resin
|Toluene, dibutyl phthalate (DBT), formaldehyde, camphor, xylene, formaldehyde resin, parabens
|Toluene, dibutyl phthalate (DBT), formaldehyde, camphor, xylene, formaldehyde resin, parabens, rosin
Natural nail polishes typically replace solvents with plant extracts, such as potato, cassava, corn, or sugarcane. Some are also rich in active ingredients beneficial for the nails. Here are a few examples: green tea, known for its softening properties, durian recognized for its ability to strengthen keratin, the avocado having a nourishing action. Regardless, wearing nail polish during the 9 months of pregnancy should remain occasional. It is also advised to thoroughly rinse hands after application to eliminate any potential toxic residues.
Regarding nail polish remover, the ideal choice is a non-acetone version. This substance is volatile, and inhaling its fumes during application on the nails is inevitable, even in a well-ventilated room. These emissions are harmful to the nervous system of a pregnant woman and her baby. Additionally, acetone proves to be irritating to the respiratory tract. Also, be wary of ethyl acetate, often used as a replacement. It also tends to irritate the respiratory tract and can exacerbate nausea.
FANUCCHI M. & al. Formaldehyde exposure during pregnancy. The American Journal of Maternal Child Nursing (2015).
AKYOL S. & al. Hydranencephaly in a newborn due to occupational toluene exposure during pregnancy: a case report. Acute and Critical Care (2022).