Toulene---This chemical is the smell that is most often associated with nail polish. It evaporates into the air at room temperature and can linger in the air for hours after nails are done. It is frequently listed as methylbenzene, phenylmethane, or toluol on the bottle.
Breathing these fumes for even a short period of time can cause dry throat, watering eyes, headache, and dizziness. Symptoms usually subside once you get away from the fumes. Toulene is toxic and consistent, prolonged exposure can disrupt liver and kidney function, and lead to birth defects.
Formaldehyde---This chemical compound is made of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. It is a natural part of the environment and it is produced in varying amounts by plants, animals, and humans. A formaldehyde-based resin is found in many polishes and is listed as ide/formaldehyde resin. This ingredient helps give the polish its shiny appearance and helps prolong it life on your nails.
The result of the chemical reaction that produces the resin reduces the amount of formaldehyde considerably so that there is not enough of it to off-gas fumes. The resin can still cause a problem for those who are allergic to it.
Dibutyl Phthalate---This chemical has historically been used to make polish more flexible when being applied. The industry calls it a plasticizing agent which helps us visualize the smooth way that most polishes go on. This element helps keep it supple and makes it less likely to become brittle, crack, and chip.
Studies have shown that this chemical can interfere with human reproduction because of the unhealthy effect it has on the endocrine system. It has been banned from use in many European countries and in California in the United States.
Many European countries have passed regulations banning these chemicals from being used in cosmetics. In the United States regulations have been slow to be enacted, and decisions have been left up to individual states.
Many U. S. cosmetic companies have voluntarily decided to use more people and environmentally-friendly components in their products. Public pressure to stop the use of these potential carcinogens has played a huge part in changing the make-up of polishes.