Wednesday, August 12, 2009

the pedicure predicament

My long-time readers may remember I post a while back, soy milk and Manolos, where I came out of the (shoe) closet and had a candid discussion about the intersections of classism, veganism, and shopping. Well, I have made it a year without buying any new leather items (thanks to Stella McCartney)--but the discussion is far from over.

Manicures and pedicures. Where do I start?

So not necessary, and so not eco-friendly. Since I have been getting manicures and pedicures consistently since middle school, my cuticles actually need pruning now because they are so accustomed to the process that they experience some sort of super-human hyper-cuticle growth. Not to mention the fact that I pee every 30 minutes has just exacerbated my cuticle condition.

That's right, those virgin nails that seem so clean and shiny alone and unadultered are no longer possible for me. My cuticles go berzerk without regular maintence.

I'm not even going to lie--aside from my OCD need for short short short, even nails without peeling dead skin, the sight of fresh, crisp, shiny, un-chipped nail polish brightens my mood. And why not? I paint my nails with bright, happy colors.

But it's not all so bright and happy. As the foul odor of toxic chemicals fill my nostrils in the salon, I wonder how can I sit here and actually pay for some crap that is or has been tested on animals and is poisonous for myself and environment.

What's in nail polish?

Nitrocellulose, or gun cotton was developed in the 19th century. It is highly combustible and even explosive but it creates films which can hold other substances in suspension.

...Nail polish ingredients often include toluene.

Solvents such as toluene and xylene are petroleum-based products that have been linked to cancer.

...Formaldehyde (also called formalin) may cause allergic reactions in some people and is unsafe for use by asthmatic people. It is a known carcinogen - that is, it definitely does cause cancer. It is still used in some nail products, though it is being replaced in many brands because of health concerns.

...Nail polish ingredients that cause concern include phthalates (pronounced "thal-ates").

Phthalates are used to keep nail polish from chipping. They do this by having a plasticising effect on the other ingredients.

Exposure to phthalates has been blamed for birth defects. Male babies may have had their future reproducive abilities compromised by their mothers' preference for a nail polish.

...One of the main concerns about pthalates is that these chemicals make the skin more penetrable. This leaves the person using them more at risk from other chemicals which can thereby get into the bloodstream.

Okay, I'll stop there...but visit the site for more info.

So now what?

There are some better alternatives. Buy and bring your own nail polish to the salon, read ingredients to make sure that your polish does not contain toluene, phthalates or formaldehyde (especially if you are pregnant), and look for non-toxic brands ("recommended" ones are Zoya, Pollished Mama, and Acqurella--but I have yet to test these. Check back later for my two cents)

Also, try Priti soy-based nail polish remover, which is non-toxic, non-carcinogenic, and is biodegradable. This also has yet to be officially tested by The Colonic.

Check out the link for a do-it-yourself eco-manicure (vegans beware: one step requires honey), or just bring your own products for your next appointment.

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