My daughter and I love pretty nail polish colors. But, sadly, the seemingly harmless act of getting a mani/pedi can be rife with nasty toxic chemicals that bioaccumulate in our bodies.
Most nail polish, removers, adhesives, gel manicures, acrylics, and some nail “art” contain a long list of extremely powerful chemicals that can pose a serious threat to a person’s health through both contact with skin and inhalation. Just being in the same room where certain nail products are being used can put you, your child, and especially unborn children at risk.
The big 3 harmful chemicals we find in nail polish are:
Formaldehyde – A known carcinogen that has been proven to cause leukemia and other blood cancers, as well as severe damage to tissue in the human body, DNA, gene mutation, and chromosomal breakage.
Toluene — Also used as an additive to gasoline and in the production of benzene (one of the most deadly chemicals on the planet), Toluene has been shown to cause neurological and cognitive damage, reproductive dysfunction and damage, kidney and liver damage, and “harm to unborn child during pregnancy.
Dibutyl phthalate DBP — Phthalates, especially DBP and DEHP & DDP have been heavily studied and are proven developmental and reproductive toxicants. DBP exposure has been shown to be an endocrine disruptor and can cause fertility and reproductive abnormalities, especially in males (marked sperm reduction in the last 40 years, increase in testicular abnormalities and deformities.) Studies show contact with the chemical can result in an increased risk for breast cancer, prostate and testicular cancer, liver toxicity, and fetal skeletal abnormalities. What’s more, studies have confirmed the presence of DBP and other phthalates in breast milk, amniotic fluid, urine, and serum.
In a world where we are inundated with toxic exposures from many different sources, changing our Mani/Pedi habits can be an easy, doable change. Here are a three easy tips for sussing out toxic nail offenders.
Do A Background Check: Know your nail products. Find a brand you can trust. Understand that just because the product states that it’s free of Formaldehyde,Toluene, and Dibutyl Phthalate doesn’t mean it’s true. Check for yourself here. I was relieved to find my trusted Zoya brand to be one of the only left standing as truly “3 Free” after a random testing from a San Francisco store.
Be Salon Savvy: Know your salon safety rules, especially where your little one’s are getting their polish on. Make sure the areas are well ventilated with no artificial nail applications in the same room; take your own “3 Free” nail polishes, base, and top coats; skip the UV top coat and drying station, as dermatologists have been reporting dramatic increases in skin cancer attributed to the UV-light exposure from the lamps.
Steer Clear These Toxic Badboys
Acrylic and Gel nail applications, which are made of toxic synthetic polymers and contain Methyacrylic Acid (in nail primer) and Ethyl Methacrylate (EMA), an artificial nail liquid. Exposures to these substances while pregnant may harm your unborn child. Plus, the need to soak in acetone to remove is a double toxic whammy.
Acetone and other nail polish solvents and thinners.
Butyl Acetate and Ethyl Acetate.
Camphor, which is a plasticizer also commonly used as a fragrance and is highly irritating to the lungs and skin. Camphor is very toxic and at high dosages, can be lethal. (Note: There are several “all-natural” products such as lip balms, lotions etc that contain camphor, such as “Burt Bees.” I do not recommend them.)
Formaldehyde resins: Really? We need to distinguish from Formaldehyde and Formaldehyde resins? Formaldehyde causes cancer, in any combination, mixture or form. (Note: Melamine plastic tableware, commonly used in kids plates and cups, is made of a melamine-formaldehyde resin and can be released into food at high temperatures and when in contact with acidic substances. That’s a little more than we bargained for with the little one’s cup of Orange Juice.)
Never fear, there’s still nail fun to be had. Following are my SIX favorite Clean Fresh nail polish brands
Kure Bazaar -- The Mon Bleu shade is a total crowd pleaser.
Chanel– On-trend hues and luxe formulations without all the yucky stuff (just like we like it).
No Miss– Super Fun colors that are super long lasting. (Sidebar: They have a polish remover but it doesnʼt remove much.)
Butter London- BEST Laquers & Top Coat that are long lasting! MY VERY FAVE!!!
With more of us joining together demanding non-toxic products for our pretty little fingers, precious princesses, (not to mention the environment) more and more safe polishes and nail products are being created to meet demand. Letʼs keep ʻem on their toes Mamaʼs! Healthy is Beautiful!
Every day, all across America, a mom gets up and douses herself in over 100 chemicals as she gets ready for each day. Beginning with aspartame in toothpaste, ozone depleting chemicals, hydrocarbons and isobutane in hairspray, aluminum in antiperspirant, sulfates and triclosan in soaps, lead in lipstick, coal in mascara, petroleum based lotions full of poisonous fragrance topped off with a splash or spray of perfume containing more fragrance, with a side of petrochemicals, in addition to diethyl-phthalate or DEP,* dressed in clothing washed with detergents containing cancer causing 1,4 dioxane, only to have an appointment later that day at the hair salon for a “Brazilian Blowout” exposing all in the room to formaldehyde, then a manicure polished up with more formaldehyde, Toluene and reproductive harming dibutyl phthalate (DBP), finishing off the appointment with eyeLash extenders applied with glue (super glue to be exact) containing more of... (you guessed it!).... FORMALDEHYDE.
What’s the big deal? All of it. But let’s look at Formaldehyde first, a known carcinogen (cancer causing chemical) and VOC (volatile organic compound) according to the US Department of Health and Human Services. Formaldehyde has been shown to cause structural and numerical changes in chromosomes, with particular risk to embalmers and other occupations that expose workers such as beauty salon stylists. (I “grew up” in a beauty shop, so this part is even more personal to me.) These occupations carry an increased risk of blood cancers known as Leukemia, including Myeloid Leukemia according to a National Institutes Health Study published in 2009. Other increased risks are cancers of the nose, nasal cavity, and nasopharrynx and many reproductive problems including miscarriages. In 2011, the FDA sent a violation letter* to the maker of “Brazilian Blowout’s Acai Professional Smoothing Solution” after it found methylene glycol, a liquid form of formaldehyde, in its straightening serum. The box claimed “formaldehyde free” but methylene glycol when heated, turns into formaldehyde and releases into the air. Adding to their deception, the word “Acai” in its name, infers health as the Acai berry is considered a “superfood” high in antioxidants. Here is a list from EWG of Hair Straightener makers and Salons that COVER UP the dangers.
All of that toxic exposure is bad enough, right? But, what if that same mom is pregnant? The fetus or unborn child, is exposed to everything the mother is exposed to. In fact, many of these chemicals, including DEP* (fragrance) has been found in cord blood. Our body absorbs these chemicals by inhalation (ie: air fresheners- a TOTAL oxymoron), ingesting them (alcohol in mouthwash), or by one of the most effective means, trans dermal transmission (face makeup, lotion, perfume). In fact, most things that touch our skin enter our blood stream in seconds with the possibility of affecting every cell in our bodies. That fact alone makes it essential to know exactly what ingredients and chemicals are contained in a product. It is as equally important to our health, as food and medicine is! You simply can not separate it and have whole health.
This is a point that must be a call to action for change in our system. Today, the 32 billion dollar cosmetic industry has little regulation and nothing requiring evidence of safety, or disclosure of harmful chemicals, often hiding behind classifying ingredients as fragrance, trade secrets and fair competition. What’s fair about poisoning society?
It is vitally important to keep your, and your children's exposure to these and other chemicals as low as possible. Start by educating yourself and supporting organizations like EWG.org , by reading the labels on your bathroom products, discarding (properly) the ones containing these (cited above) and other toxic chemicals, by claiming your air and by using the “power of your pocketbook” to increase demand for clean, non-toxic cosmetics and beauty products in the market place.
At the end of that day, you will find that true Beauty comes naturally from a truly Healthy place.
When it comes to food, my motto is, “You are what your food eats.” A healthy diet isn’t about deprivation, rather it hinges on eating the right things. After all, food is our best medicine, and food that’s been grown free of toxins and chemicals is essential. With that in mind, I wanted to share a list of my top 15 favorite foods for helping you and your family achieve optimal health.
1. Avocados - A perfect source of essential fatty acids and unsaturated fats, a great source of folate, with more potassium than bananas, avocados are a nutrient dense food, high in phytochemicals, carotenoid, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Vitamin B-6, fiber, and glutathione. Studies show salads and salsa eaten with avocados increase carotenoid absorption. Served with eggs, salsa, and black beans in the morning, tossed in a fresh green salad for lunch, or chopped into quinoa for dinner with a squeeze of lemon, it’s a fruit that compliments just about anything.
2. Kale - A rock star in food circles and rightfully so. Kale is high in antioxidants and vitamins including Vitamins K (1,020%!), Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin B-6, thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin. It’s also a great source of minerals including: calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc. As if that wasnʼt enough, kale also contains the phytochemicals lutein and zeaxanthin (fights macular degeneration) and polyphenols (awesome free radical killers). Oh and it’s good for your bones, reduces cancer risk, and helps about every single bodily function. How can you top that? It’s best prepared raw by massaging the leaves to tenderize or slightly cooked.
3. Raw Organic Cacao Nibs - Scoring a 621 on the ORAC scale of antioxidant power (blueberries have a score of 65), cacao is a key to health. As the magical bean that begets chocolate, cacao nibs (at least 70% cacao) can be added to protein shakes, baked goods, topped on organic plain non-fat yogurt, or mixed with nuts and seeds for a mid-day snack. Note: This nutritional value information does not apply to chocolate candy or candy bars. (Darn.)
4. Mushrooms - Used for thousands of years in medicines, mushrooms are a powerhouse immunity builder, cancer cell killer, and healer of cardiovascular and liver problems. Mushrooms are high in Vitamin B and naturally possess anti- inflammatory and anti-viral properties. Cooking enhances their potency in most varieties, so sauté with fresh minced garlic and dig in!
5. Salmon - Salmon is natureʼs ultimate source of omega 3 fatty acids, DHA, and astaxanthin. But only Wild Alaskan/Pacific Coho, Russian River, or Sockeye, please. NEVER FARMED. And be sure to purchase from a responsible source and do your part to conserve.
6. Flaxseeds - With a shift in focus within the health community on more Omega-3 fatty acids and less Omega-6s, freshly consuming ground flax seeds is an easy way to balance the ratio. (The research is especially promising for Omega 3ʼs ability to block hormone-related cancers.) Flaxseeds are proven to reduce LDL cholesterol and lower average blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. The best source is organic, freshly ground. Use within 20 minutes of grinding. Ground flaxseeds and flaxseed oil with DHA are also a wonderful alternative to fish oil.
7. Seeds & Nuts - From almonds and walnuts t0 pumpkin and sesame, seeds are bursting with nutrients as they are ready to sprout new life. Rich in omega 3 fatty acids, zinc, amino acids, iron, phosphorus, vitamins, and protein, they are seriously good for you. Almonds and walnuts offer awesome health benefits with omega 3s, and the filling unsaturated fat makes them a great snack food that provides protein and antioxidant power.
8. Quinoa – A perfect seed (not grain) , quinoa is easy to cook, high in fiber, and a good source of non-animal protein (11 grams per half cup!) It’s super versatile and perfect for on the go, add kale and your set.
9. Broccoli – This green veggie is one of the best cancer blockers around, as it modifies natural estrogens into less damaging forms and increases enzymes that fight free radicals and carcinogens. It’s high in Vitamins C, K, Folate, and Choline; minerals like potassium, calcium, and magnesium; and powerful phytochemicals that stimulate the bodies immune system. I have heard first hand, Doc's at MD Anderson Hospital in Houston tell their patients suffering from cancer to eat organic brocolli as much a spossible! It's powerful enough to battle cancer cells! Everyone should eat at least 3-4 servings per week, and never over cook (mushy broccoli is not just less health, it’s a bummer).
10. Green Tea & Matcha- Studies have shown the antioxidant power in one cup of green tea, especially polyphenol-rich Matcha, to be superior in improving immunity, aiding digestion, and fighting the signs of aging. There’s also evidence that the high antioxidant levels of green tea are associated with reduced cancer risk. (I drink a cup every night!) Caution regarding your source. Choose only organic , Japanese green teas that have been tested for radiation and heavy metals such as lead and aluminum.
11. Garlic & Onions – High in Sulfur compounds and antioxidants, these bad breath boys will blow out your arteries (in a good way), assisting in the reduction of blood pressure and LDL cholesterol. Consuming them can also help treat hair loss (allicin) and help fight cancer. Garlic is a natural anti-bacterial and antibiotic that is 100 times more effective than two commonly prescribed antibiotic drugs. Stinky garlic is also an anti-inflammatory.
12. Turmeric – An excellent anti-inflammatory, liver cleansing, anti-cancer food, turmeric has received lots of well deserved recognition of late. I eat turmeric daily, fresh in my morning protein shake. Ginger is fellow root star with common properties and digestive enzymes to boost its power pack.
13. Wheatgrass – Weighing in with twenty times more density than other veggies, and containing 103 vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, wheat grass is seriously nutrient rich. It’s especially high in Vitamins A, B Complex, C, E, and K; beta-carotene; and chlorophyll which helps to detoxify the body and build immunity. Wheatgrass is best taken as a freshly juiced shot (I add mine to my daily protein shake), but be sure to ease into it, as drinking too much too soon can hit you with a hard and fast release of toxins.
14. Lentils – A great substitute for animal protein with 9 grams of protein per half cup, plus heart healthy folate, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, lentils are a seriously healthy, easy to cook go-to food. Toss in soups and salads or eat alone as a side dish. They cook, start to finish, in about 20 minutes! This is one of my pantry staples… you canʼt go wrong.
15. Purified Water – Yes, I know it seems obvious, but you can not cook, live, or be truly well without clean, purified water. Use it in your teas, coffees, soups, to wash your vegetables and fruits, boil your pasta, steam your veggies, and soak your beans. It is the single most important ingredient in healthy food.
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