Toddlers and nail polish were rarely used together in one sentence when I gave birth more than a decade ago. Today, it is not the most shocking question you'll encounter, and I'd like to think we all understand that kids with painted nails do not signal they want to date soon.
We all know why toddlers want their nails colored — they see mommy's nails have paint! And many moms have taken the opportunity to turn mani-pedis into a bonding session. Other parents apply nail polish to little kids' fingernails to curb the habit of thumb-sucking or nail-biting; it serves as a reminder not to put their nails near their mouth.
Before you apply those coats on nails, however, here are some things you need to know.
Check the chemicals present in the nail polish
Even if your little one is past the stage where she puts her fingers (or toes) in her mouth, it doesn't mean using polish on toddler's nails are entirely safe. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lists the chemicals present in nail polish. These include formaldehyde, phthalates, and toluene, which many would instantly recognize as harmful even to adults.
Formaldehyde, also identified as "formalin" or "methylene glycol" in labels, is a chemical used as a nail hardener that may cause the nail to be brittle and more likely to break or peel. It has been linked to causing skin irritation and allergic reactions.
If not formaldehyde, nail polish may contain resins, such as toluene sulfonamide/formaldehyde resin (TSFR), which helps the polish be applied smoothly on the nails and stay on them, as well as add a bit of gloss finish.
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Toluene is a chemical used in paint thinner, artificial fragrances, and household cleaning solutions. The FDA said it's only harmful if exposed to high levels. The good news is a lot of nail polish brands have dropped toluene.
Dibutyl phthalate (DBP) has been linked to birth defects and developmental problems in animal lab tests. Thankfully, most nail polish brands have begun to get rid of phthalates like dimethyl phthalate (DMP) and diethyl phthalate (DEP).
Avoid nail polishes with the following chemicals:
- Ethyl acetate
- Butyl acetate
- Triphenyl phosphate (TPHP)
- Lead and other heavy metals
- Ethyl tosylamide
Choose safe nail polish alternatives
Reading labels is a skill all parents should master. Many products say they're organic and natural, but they're not chemical-free exactly.
To set the record straight: there is no such thing as chemical-free nail polish, but you can at least opt for nail polish that doesn't have the abovementioned chemicals.
Go for the water-based variants instead of solvent-based ones. Water-based nail polish is non-toxic, odorless, and eco-friendly. These kid-friendly nail polish can be removed either by peeling off or by rubbing alcohol. Your little one can also just wash it off as she washes her hands.
Moms recommend Snail Nail Polish and Piggy Paint, and they strongly suggest you buy only from reputable stores. Better yet, switch to water-based nail polish, too. It's just as nice-looking, easy to apply and fast to dry. By using a safer nail polish variant, you can avoid accidents such as ingestion.
What to do if your tot bites nails with nail polish
Nail polish often comes with a strong scent, especially if you're using the solvent-based ones. None of the studies links nail polish to cancer, respiratory disease, or other health problems in adults. But there is not enough research on nail polish use and its short- or long-term effects on babies and toddlers.
While nail polish has chemicals, dry nail polish is not toxic in small amounts. But if your baby ingests a bottle, then it warrants a rush to the emergency room. Nail polish is regulated as cosmetics, which is why you should buy them only from legitimate sources.
When in doubt, call the National Poison Control Center at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) at +632 524-1078 or +632 554-8400 local 3276 / +63 922 896-1541 / +63 966 718-9904.