At WiseGEEK, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.
Pregnant women can certainly use plenty of pampering, and manicures and pedicures come high on the list of luxury experiences. Yet these are perhaps not the best way to take care of the self or a growing baby. Nail polish and remover may contain chemicals that can pose problems for fetal development and has been linked in some studies to birth defects.
One of the main chemicals of concern is dibutyl phthalate (DBP), which since 2006 has been removed from many polish formulas. In some places like Europe, DBP can’t be used in any cosmetics and a few states in the US prohibit its use also. This doesn’t mean that all nail polish will be free of this substance, and research suggests it is potentially toxic to developing fetuses.
Organizations that specialize in support and awareness of birth defects, such as the March of Dimes, emphatically request that women avoid using either nail polish or polish remover during pregnancy. Some of these organizations suggest that people not use salons that have significant nail polish smell while pregnant. It might be best to consider salons that do not have nail services to accomplish this.
DBP has been used in a variety of cosmetic products, and it's unclear whether minimal exposure to a small amount of polish constitutes a huge risk. It isn’t necessarily obvious that if the only exposure during pregnancy were to nail polish, that this would be problematic. Yet because of the use of this chemical in a number of cosmetic products, exposure might be higher than people realize. People might encounter this chemical from a number of sources and not just nail polish. In general it’s a good idea to read labels, especially if a person doesn’t live in an area where this chemical is banned, and avoid any products that contain it.
There are other reasons why some places have banned the use of DBP, and this includes the fact that it may be potentially elevate the risk of cancer. Organizations like the Breast Cancer Fund in California exerted considerable pressure on cosmetic companies to exclude this chemical from their products. For those who want to minimize risk at all times, nail polish or other products with DBP are probably best avoided, not only during pregnancy but at all times. It should be noted however, that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not concluded that nail polish is unsafe during pregnancy, and disagrees with the conclusions of organizations like the March of Dimes.
There are some polish formulas that are free of some of the chemicals suspect in causing birth defects. People should look for these and they may be marketed as being DBP and formaldehyde free. Many women have found these to be great alternative if they want to continue polish their nails during pregnancy.