Is It Safe To Paint Your Nails While Pregnant?

According to experts at What to Expect, research has revealed that as many as two-thirds of people experience a heightened sense of smell during pregnancy. Due to this hypersensitivity, some may find that certain scents induce feelings of queasiness, such as fish or particularly pungent perfumes. Nail polishes are among such items with a distinctly strong smell due to their chemical makeup. Is there any risk associated with exposure to these chemicals during pregnancy?

Standard liquid nail polish is made up of a polymer — or "repeating chains of molecules" (via Live Science) — that is dissolved in a solvent which then evaporates when applied to the nail to create the glossy film on the nail's surface (via Elsevier SciTech Connect). In order to create a long-lasting effect, both gel and traditional nail polishes contain plasticizers to prevent breakage. The use of certain plasticizers, such as dibutyl phthalate (DBP), has been banned in some countries due to possible links to hormone system disruption, although some of the replacement chemicals now used still pose the same concern.

Knowing this, is it best to refrain from painting one's nails altogether while pregnant?

Be on the lookout for these chemicals in your nail polish

Because chemical exposure is so minimal while painting one's nails, medical experts do not believe there is a significant risk in painting your nails sporadically during pregnancy (via FirstCry Parenting). However, doctors encourage users to purchase polishes that are devoid of certain chemicals, such as formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate (DBP). This is because these chemicals can have negative health effects on a pregnant person and their baby. For example, toluene, a chemical ingredient used to give nail polish its smooth texture, can irritate the throat and lungs during pregnancy, as well as negatively impact the developing baby's nervous system if inhaled in large amounts.

In addition to switching to water-based nail polish products without the above chemicals, those who work in nail polish salons should take extra precautions to keep the area ventilated with fresh air (via What to Expect). If traditional nail polish containing toxic chemicals is being used, the ongoing exposure to formaldehyde may make salon workers susceptible to miscarriage. Positioning oneself by an open door or window can reduce inhalation.

All in all, the occasional manicure is not cause for concern while pregnant. For those looking to make the chemical-free switch, experts at Allure say that Essie, Sally Hansen, and OPI are just a few of the many great brands available that are free of dangerous chemicals. Of course, avoiding nail polish altogether is certainly another viable option.