Is It Ever OK to Wear Nail Polish When You're Pregnant? The Truth About Manicure Toxins!

POPSUGAR Photography | Sheila Gim
POPSUGAR Photography | Sheila Gim

Once you have a bun in your oven, you may have to give up your monthly gel nail art manicures. Fact is, your future baby's health comes before everything else — including the need to be a beauty unicorn (you can go back to full mythical creature status once the bebe is born). Certain nail polishes have toxins, which is why formaldehyde-free versions continue to grow in popularity.

While it's wonderful to put your nail health at the forefront of your beauty routine regularly, it's essential when you're expecting. One woman who is making it easier for pregnant women to get their nails and toes pampered during those special nine months is Amy Ling. She recently opened a gorgeous vegan salon chain in NYC called Sundays. The space is a true wellness center, as it also offers meditation while your nails are drying.

Here, Ling helped set some ground rules for new mamas and nail polish! Learn how to decode bottle labels and if you actually have to give up gels during those nine months.

POPSUGAR: Why is nontoxic polish important for expecting moms?

Amy Ling: There is a large amount of nail polish on the market that contains chemicals such as TPHP (also called triphenyl phosphate) to make nail polish more flexible and durable. TPHP can affect the normal hormone functioning. When it is highly concentrated, it may cause reproductive and developmental irregularities. This is just one of many examples. I think it is definitely worth taking some time to look at ingredient lists before purchasing nail polish.

PS: What ingredients should you make sure your polish does not have?

AL: The nontoxic standard is 3-Free: no formaldehyde, toluene, or dibutyl phthalate (DBP). These three chemicals are called the "toxic trio." They can potentially affect reproduction system, respiratory, and immune system.

Aside from the toxic trio, there are other ingredients, such as formaldehyde resin, camphor, TPHP, xylene, tert-Butyl hydroperoxide, parabens, and ethyl tosylamide, that can affect our health in different degrees. Pregnant women should pay extremely close attention to ethyl tosylamide and TPHP. I talked about TPHP previously. Ethyl tosylamide is banned from use in cosmetics by the European Commission but is still used in the United States. This ingredient is suspected of causing developmental and reproductive toxicity.

PS: What are good ingredients to look for in polish?

AL: Stearalkonium bentonite and silica — bentonite is a mineral which you've seen before in clay face masks, and silica is very fine sand — both of which are thickeners for the polish and keep the pigments from settling.

Butyl acetate, ethyl acetate: these common solvents are found in nature and are the chemical behind many fruit scents, including apples and bananas. They are even safe to use as food flavoring!

Nitrocellulose: made from cotton, these cellulose (the stuff in tree bark) polymers make the base for most polishes.

PS: Is it OK to wear polish when you're pregnant?

AL: Yes, it is safe to wear polish while you're pregnant as long as you pay attention to the ingredients and make sure to wear base coat. Base coat can create a layer between nail polish and your nail plates, preventing the toxic chemicals from being absorbed by your body.

PS: What about after you have the baby?

AL: I definitely think every mom deserves to have beautiful nails; however, as moms interact with infants a lot, they need to make sure their nail polish is nontoxic. Also, since new moms have to wash their hands frequently, it can affect the longevity of the nail polish.

PS: Is it ever OK to wear gel polish while expecting? If so, what kind?

AL: It is OK to wear gel polish while expecting, but similar to regular nail polish, people should pay attention to the ingredients. Besides the toxic trio, there are different types of toxins that have been added to gel polishes. Try to avoid acrylates and methacrylates, which are polymer plastics. They can cause irritation and potentially thinning of the nails. Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), a cancer-causing chemical, can be found in some gel nail polishes too. Also, avoid UV lights and opt for LED lights instead.

PS: Anything else we should know about this topic?

AL: Many toxic chemicals in nail polishes are plasticizers. This means they bind together to the other ingredients and help the polish be smooth, shiny, and flexible — no flakes or cracks. Just like many preservatives are overused, many chemicals are overused in the nail polishes, and it doesn't affect the functions that much when we take a few chemicals out.

Besides nail polishes, expecting moms should also pay attention to lotions and scrubs and other products when they get their manicures done.