Cute but toxic?
March 25, 2014 1:28 PM   Subscribe

How safe is it for a child to have adult nail polish on her fingernails?

My wife sometimes puts nail polish on our five year old daughter's fingernails. To me it smells really "toxic" and I question whether it's a good idea to have that on her fingers since I assume some of it will inevitably end up inside her body (from eating food with her hands, licking her fingers, etc.). I've tried suggesting using the kids type nail polish that basically has no smell, but because it comes off very quickly, my wife and daughter prefer regular (adult) type nail polish.

How concerned should we be about this stuff's potential harm (not in liquid form in the bottle but after dried on our daughter's fingernails and possibly being ingested from later mouth contact)?
posted by Dansaman to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This is totally safe and normal.

When I was the same age, I put nail polish in my hair (shutup i wanted to look like Jem ok), and my mother had to clean it out with nail polish remover. I'm still here, have a college degree, haven't come down with cancer yet, etc.

This is on top of the many occasions when I had painted nails and put my fingers in my mouth for one reason or another. A situation which occurs to this day.

I think if she always has painted nails and has a distinct habit of eating the polish off her nails, pica style, that could be a problem. But garden variety "but what if she eats a chicken nugget and her nails happen to be painted that particular day" worries are not a big deal.
posted by Sara C. at 1:35 PM on March 25, 2014 [18 favorites]

I think you can cut a happy medium by finding great adult polishes that are either 3 free or 5 free. Some major brands are 3/5 free (google or just read ingredient labels carefully) and lots and lots of super fun indie polishes are. That way you'll be able to avoid the most toxic ingredients and still maintain the grown up fun of real polish.

You could also suggest that polish only goes on the toes (where there's (hopefully) less of a chance for your kid to ingest it), and the fingernails can be decorated with stickers or something.
posted by phunniemee at 1:36 PM on March 25, 2014 [7 favorites]

Oh, and now is as good a time as any to make sure your kid knows good ventilation habits. Using glue? Do it by a window! Using paint? Do it by a window! Using some sort of aerosol craft stuff? Do it outside! Using nail polish/nail polish remover? Do it by a window! Sniff permanent markers? No! Etc.
posted by phunniemee at 1:38 PM on March 25, 2014 [7 favorites]

Go to the Environmental Working Group's "skin deep" database and enter the brand/type of nail polish your daughter is using. The database tracks ingredient lists and rates the ingredients by known risks and toxicities, and gives you information about how good our scientific information about that ingredient is.

I entered several common drugstore brands just as an experiment and I was surprised to discover two things: 1) several brands have reformulated in the last 5 years and released less-toxic version (my guess: either boosting their environmental bona-fides due to public pressure or meeting more strict European standards and using the same formula in the US) and 2) nail polishes aren't actually as bad as I thought -- or at least there are perfectly common drugstore brands that rank under "5" (in 10) on the EWG toxicity scale -- Johnson & Johnson's baby shampoo is a 4. (There are also some that are ranking "9" so, you know, make choices.)

If she's a nail-biter I probably wouldn't allow it (it's why I don't wear nailpolish myself ... I find nailbiting a very hard habit to break!), but if she doesn't routinely chew on her nails, or if this is a sometimes special thing, it's probably fine.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:40 PM on March 25, 2014 [6 favorites]

would you feel ok with it on her toenails? that's what I do for my girls.
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:11 PM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm a pretty paranoid parent who freaked out about using shampoo with parabens in it while pregnant, and I pretty frequently paint my 3-year-old daughter and 16-month-old son's toes. I use mostly "3 free" stuff and I don't usually put it on her hands, but that's only partly because she'll ingest it and more because she messes it up before it's dry. I did a lot of research and the cost-benefit was pretty much landing me on the side of "meh."
posted by celtalitha at 2:14 PM on March 25, 2014

I do almost always use it with the windows open or on the patio, because the smell is still pretty bad.

FWIW, in case you wondered about the remover - my daughter came out of the bathroom one day a year or so ago with a bottle of nail polish remover and was DRINKING IT and wrinkling her nose saying "yucky juice mom." I freaked and called poison control while driving to urgent care and poison control told me essentially "go home, it's ok, it tastes bad and she probably only got a gulp and the worst that might happen is if she got a lot she'll throw up." That was surprising, but she didn't even throw up, she was fine.
posted by celtalitha at 2:19 PM on March 25, 2014 [6 favorites]

I wouldn't let my daughter wear nail polish, because of the polish and the remover. A batch of chemicals on my precious child's growing nails (which are often in her mouth) that are untested and not pulled from the market until a decade of bad outcomes, and for what? Colored nails? Totally not worth it. (FYI, I am generally on the non-paranoid end of the scale.)
posted by Capri at 4:04 PM on March 25, 2014

Re 3-free polish: most major brands (Sally Hansen, OPI, Essie, Orly, Sinful Colors, and many others) are in fact 3-free now and have been for years. There are a few quick-dry top coats (Seche Vite) that are not, but most are.

Does she bite at her nails or pick the polish off with her teeth when it chips? (Some kids/people totally do.) If she isn't ingesting it, then I wouldn't worry, personally. If she does, then maybe the polish can be a good way to get her to stop before it's a long-term habit that will be difficult to unlearn!
posted by lysimache at 6:13 PM on March 25, 2014

The quick dry top coat Seche Vite has warnings on the bottle re birth defects so I would definitely make sure you are not using that on her. Good luck!
posted by onlyconnect at 10:56 AM on March 26, 2014

Piggy Paint as an alternative?
posted by oceano at 9:24 PM on March 27, 2014

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