What To Look Out For In "Non-Toxic" Nail Polish Claims

Whether it’s by ditching plastic or going organic, there are many ways we’ve tried to go non-toxic over the years. And if you’ve brought that same mentality into your mani-pedi routine, then you’ve likely used the bottles labeled “3-free,” “7-free,” or “13-free.” But if the latest study will show us anything, it’s that we should be a little more wary of the non-toxic marketing claims we’re seeing around us.

The latest study, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, proves that those claims you see on labels may not mean what you think they do—and those claims vary from brand to brand.

“It’s sort of like playing a game of chemical Whac-A-Mole, where one toxic chemical is removed and you end up chasing down the next potentially harmful chemical substituted in,” Anna Young, a doctoral student at Harvard University who co-authored the study, tells Time.com.

Chemicals in nail polish (among many other cosmetics) have regularly been linked to hormonal irregularities, nervous system troubles, cancers, and even infertility. They’ve been noted by previous researchers and other studies for having negative effects—especially when used on a regular basis—and major brands have started to take steps to reduce their footprint.

From that, the “3-free” claim began. With this label, brands noted that their nail polish did not contain three toxic ingredients:  dibutyl phtalatetoluene, and  formaldehyde.

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