Happy-Feet-Bliss Moment

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“I pulled out a rounded bottle of polish and painted my thumbnail with Plum Rose in three meticulous strokes. My Nana taught me the art of applying polish without staining my cuticles when I was eight. Never did she whisper in my ear that it was up to me to decide if the product was safe enough. I was frustrated. I blew air on my paint job, twisted on the lid, and rolled the bottle around in my hand. Staring right at me in the tiniest of eye-squinting fonts was the nasty trio I had been warned to stay away from; formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate, and toluene.
One, two, and three. Damn.”
– Excerpt from Little Changes: Tales of a Reluctant Home Eco-Momics Pioneer

I love the Facebook benefit of being able to convey a who-what-where-moment with a simple photo post. A few summers back, friends posted feet-up happiness snapshots. No words were necessary as Facebook onlookers smiled with empathetic joy for a friend who obviously (and flauntingly) enjoyed a rare moment of bliss. Typically the landscape included sand and a horizon line, but some spots-o-happiness included the Alamo or a wine glass precariously balanced on the edge of a kayak in mid lake. The one constant among varied shaped feet was ten little piggies sportin’ lacquer in summery shades.

This caught my eye, as nail polish was the rabbit hole that sucked me into personal care products awareness. Delightfully, I discovered this was one more area I had some choices at my buffed and filed fingertips.

What You Need to Know
Our friends over at Women’s Voices for the Earth educated me about three chemicals of concern used in many, but not all, nail polish products:

Toluene prevents the nail polish from separating in the bottle and allows for a smooth finish. The fumes from nail polish contain a “volatile solvent” which cause eye, throat, and lung irritation and can affect the central nervous system.

Formaldehyde helps the nail polish harden and evaporates into the air. Formaldehyde is known to cause cancer.

Dibutyl phthalate (DBP),a plasticizing chemical, helps the nail polish remain flexible and shiny. Exposure to this chemical can “affect thyroid function and in pregnant women has been linked to reproductive problems in baby boys as well as to decreased sperm count in adult men.”Turns out, there are plenty of alternative products proudly boasting they are “three-free,” meaning free of toluene, formaldehyde, and DBP. The best part? They are just as pretty, just as effective, and just as affordable as the tainted brands.
What You Can Do:
  1. Chant and teach family:  Nail beds are porous and permeable & not a great place to apply carcinogens and the like.
  2. You can move along the spectrum. From meticulous, groomed, and polished acrylics – to painting nails for special occasions – to staying nude on top and painting just the toes. Or, simply save money and time and be done with the whole stinky process.
  3. If I you do treat yourself to a pedicure, one option is to bring your own products from polish to lotion. While you are there, request clean, single use pumice stones, as well as flip-flops and toe separators that haven’t already been used.
  4. You can dabble in water-based polish. While this isn’t an option for my dish washing hands, it is a lovely option for young girls who choose to wear polish.
  5. When evaluating your own nail polish soldiers, don’t forget others may be hiding in your daughter’s or granddaughter’s rooms.
  6. Be meticulous. Even within the same company, not all products are consistent. Check labels. You may simply have older products that haven’t changed over.
Bottom Line: Challenge yourself and find your happy place.
If you choose to paint, use a polish that is proudly three-free.

Is that it?
As a community, we can help others who are encouraging change outside our one-acre. The Safe Nail Salon Project works with nail salons on health and safety. (Can you imagine working among the fumes?) Today, they need help from those of us who enjoy a nice salon pampering occasionally. If you fit the bill, lets show them support and click on this Green and Clean Nail Salon Survey and answer a few questions. (Even though the survey wording mentions Boston, this is not specific to the area. Many people are working similar programs and results will be shared.)

Thank you Pioneer Girl Tiffany Skogstrom, Project Coordinator. The Choose Wiser community thanks you and your co-workers!

Enjoy your Journey,

Kristi Marsh