Unwanted chemicals are difficult to spot in nail polish

17. jan 2017

Test shows that nail polish comes both with and without problematic ingredients. However, this is not easy to spot when you examine the products.


Unwanted chemicals are difficult to spot in nail polish
Photo: Nikoline Oturai

Difficult to spot problematic chemicals in nail polish

When you choose a nail polish there are no eco labels to look for. You will have to check whether or not the nail polish contains any problematic chemicals. However, it is challenging to understand the chemical substances on the ingredient list that can be written with micro sized letters. And all in all it can be very difficult to find the ingredient list in the shop, if it is not on the product. You will have to look for a small book or likewise in the shop.

There are clear requirements for information about cosmetic products. The Danish Environmental Protection Agency writes on its website that the ingredient list “should be presented with indelible, legible and visible letters”.

If it is not possible to attach a note, band or etiquette to the product, for example on small products without packaging, the ingredient list must appear in immediate proximity of the container that the products are sold from.

However, The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals’ examination shows the statutory information is often inaccessible for the consumers.

Of a total of 62 nail polishes 49 had the statutory ingredient list on the product. But on one of these the ingredients were written with text of below one millimeters height which made it practically impossible to read. On another one the ingredient list was found inside the packaging so it was not accessible before the purchase. On a third one the ingredients were written on the inside of the etiquette label so you could not read it without damaging the etiquette.

See the test of 62 nail polish products (in Danish)

13 nail polishes without ingredient lists on the product

One nail polish – without ingredient list on the etiquette – had the list available as an integrated part of the display.

The remaining 12 nail polishes did not meet the requirements about available information:

In the case of four of these products it took 20 visits and queries to get the necessary information about the ingredients. In only four of 20 stores was it possible to find the information in close proximity to the products. In two out of 20 instances the ingredient list was found in a drawer after contacting the staff.

For four other nail polishes the ingredient lists were not possible to find in the store, but were accessible on the manufacturer’s website.

For the remaining four of the 13 nail polishes it was only possible to receive the ingredient list on a mail from the store, importer or manufacturer.

The Danish Environmental Protection Agency receives many reports of nail products.

“Obviously it is not acceptable that the labelling regulations are not complied with,” says Jane Pedersen, deputy head of unit in the Danish Chemical Inspections Service.

“The Danish Chemical Inspections Service launched a ‘nail campaign’ in the summer 2015 and learned that the industry generally was not aware of the regulations and the responsibility of the manufacturers and dealers,” says Jane Pedersen.

2.000 potential dealers and importers of nail products received in October 2016 an information letter about the rules. The trade organizations SPT and VKH wanted to inform about the cosmetics rules in 2017 in cooperation with the Danish Environmental Protection Agency.

“There are clear rules for labelling and sales of cosmetic products like nail polish and those demands should of course be followed by manufacturers and dealers,” says chemical engineer Gurpreet Kaur Rehal from SPT, who sometimes experiences that the packaging from the manufacturer has been removed in the shops to show the products, but as a consequence the products lack the ingredient list.

Nail polish can contain endocrine disrupting substances

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals has checked the content of 62 nail polishes. Among the problematic substances often used in nail polish is benzophenone-1. Benzophenone-1 is a UV filter which has shown endocrine disrupting effects in animal studies.

Another problematic ingredient often used in nail polish is triphenylphosphate which can be used as a softener. Triphenylephosphate but is suspected to be endocrine disrupting.

The exposure to endocrine disruptors in a nail polish is most likely not a problem in itself. The exposure through the nails is also smaller than for example from a body lotion. But every exposure to endocrine disrupting substances is a small contribution to the total exposure – the cocktail effect.

Consequently it is advisable to avoid these substances when possible.

For further questions about the test contact Christel Søgaard Kirkeby, projectmanager in The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals, on e-mail csk@fbr.dk.