It’s one of those massive ironies: we aspire to ‘natural beauty’ but the means we use to get it are often anything but natural. In fact, quite a lot of them are downright toxic to our health. They’re not good for our health or for the environment, and it’s not even as if it’s a real essential. We all want to look good, so the smart rout e is to do it the eco-friendly way. A green manicure is just one eco-friendly adjustment you can make to your conventional beauty routine.

A green manicure is designed to give us lovely soft glowing skin and beautiful nails. Here’s the rub. Take a minute to think about nail polish. It’s actually a tweaked version of the paint we put on cars. Its main ingredients are nitrocellulose and an acetate solvent. To remove it we use acetone or allied products. We all know what that smells like, but that’s the least of the problems. Other ingredients include toluene, formaldehyde and phthalates.

That’s an impressive list of chemicals that are known to be hazardous to human health, before you even get to the other chemicals, including additives that stop the color fading in ultraviolet light, the coloring agents themselves and thickeners that stop the glitter in glittery nail polishes from just sinking down to the bottom of the bottle.

The health problems that some of these substances can cause is well known. Several of them, like toluene and formaldehyde, are known carcinogens. Others give off noxious vapours because they are volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and can cause respiratory problems, including asthma, in susceptible people.

Phthalates of various types have been identified as a health problem of a different kind. They act as endocrine disruptors which interfere with hormones. Dibutyl phthalates have been linked to testicular cancer and birth defects. Some substances are actually absorbed into the body through the fingernails while the polish is drying. Though some manufacturers have made an effort to remove toxic substances, not all are as ethical or as willing to compromise their profits by using more expensive substitutes.

There’s nothing environmentally friendly about these products either, since they don’t biodegrade easily. Other manicure treatments are equally unfriendly in environmental terms. Paraffin wax and mineral oil treatments soften the skin, but they are made from non-renewable resources. False nails made from acrylic or fiberglass is never going to qualify as organic either.

Give yourself a green manicure, with natural ingredients. Vegetable oils like olive oil will make your hands soft and smooth. Essential oils are a substitute for chemical fragrances. And there are plenty of high quality nail polish ranges that cut out the toxic chemicals. Instead of clear polish, buy a good buffer and you can have 100% natural shiny nails. If green manicure cost a tad more, remember that you, and the planet, are worth it.

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