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Be Aware of Chemicals in Personal Products

Is Your Nail Polish Safe? If In Doubt, Read Labels More Closely

First of all, the items listed on a given personal care product are usually numerous and much too difficult to read.

For instance, the ingredient list is on the minute nail polish bottle is typically printed in a font so minute that a magnifying glass is needed. And that is, if a list of ingredients can even be found (you may have already tossed the packaging for that bottle, or for your new lip gloss, or the latest, greatest anti-aging cream.)

But read the fine print, and if you read warnings on websites concerning dangerous chemicals in cosmetics, it’s enough to make a body squeamish. Even paranoid. According to the Breast Cancer Fund website, there are many chemicals that should be on your watch list. And to be avoided. Simple items such as lipsticks and balms may not be safe. But the list doesn’t only contain information of concern to those who use cosmetic products.

Try sunscreen, for example.

The UVA protective sunscreen you slather on religiously before a morning run may contain a chemical that mimics estrogen.

That dispenser of hand soap on your desktop may contain triclosan/triclocarban—chemicals found on an ominous “to be avoided” list.

The hair color in your bathroom may contain chemicals that are hormone disruptors. The hair gels and shaving creams in your bathroom cabinet contain nonylphenol—also something to be avoided.

Those costly anti-aging creams, if they contain BHA, could be a concern. Ditto for those containing petrolatum.

And your hair spray? Watch for the propellant isobutene on the label.

When it comes to your nail polishes, beware of these three potentially dangerous ingredients: formaldehyde, DBP or toluene. (And, as toxicology student Charisse Holmes advises, give triphenyl phospate and paraben, the cold shoulder. Triphenyl phosphates work well as a fire retardant, but they are also a known toxin.)

Cynthia Adams is a feature writer, columnist, and editor based in Greensboro, N.C.

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