The Toxic Truth About Manicures.

Like most young girls I indulged in a rainbow of nail polishes during high school. But, it wasn’t long before I entered the world of natural health.  And that’s when I started to learn the scary impact of chemicals from all the salon hair products and Body Shop goodies I spent my hard-earned cash on. This is the first article of my Hair Skin & nails series. But I’m starting with “nails” for a reason (keep reading). Nail services are a multi-billion dollar industry and it has exponentially expanded since my high school days. Salons are everywhere and the industry has made glamour nail treatments too irresistible with gels, acrylics, glitter dips, nail designs, nail parties, and the ever so pampering hot stone, hot wax, and massages! (I personally like the last three).  There’s something about a nail salon visit though, that fosters new friendship, bonding mother-daughter time, networking, and like hair salons, a place to spill and commiserate with your stylist. I do see the social benefit to the experience, however, I felt compelled to start with “nails” in my Hair, Skin & Nails series because it’s at the forefront of my mind – thanks to a recent experiment. The night before an overseas trip I decided to use myself as a guinea pig to see why so many people spend their valuable time every month and their hard-earned money to glam up their nails at the expense of their health.  The outcome was somewhat alarming. So I tried an SNS Dipping Powder followed by a regular nail polish treatment.
Regular polish is used to cover the glue residue from SNS nail enhancement.
  I’m going to reveal the truth about manicures, particularly the Dipping Method by SNS. I’m going to take you through my journey from healthy nails to damaged nails. And I’m going to show you how I repaired my nails using natural methods, PLUS how to get strong, healthy nails using my protocols. I occasionally like a little colour on my nails too so I’m in the process of evaluating several different products and formulas to see which ones have the highest safety factor while giving you a polished, sophisticated look.
First, Some Things You Should Know.
  • Polish and acrylics and gels do not let your nails breathe! Nails are made of keratin, a type of protein that forms the cells in your hair as well. The visible part of your nails is dead which is why you have no feeling when they are clipped. Proper nutrition and nail care allow for healthy growth from under the skin. The new nail cells push the old dead ones through your skin. So since your nails are extensions of live cells, yes, it is still important to allow your nails to breathe between mani pedi’s. (more on this in the next article)
  • Your nails give doctors information on your health! When they are constantly coated, both you and your doctor can miss out on valuable clues and early warning signs for something potentially concerning, such as blood circulation and liver conditions. Natural health practitioners and functional medicine doctors will look for pitting, discoloration, quality/strength, and color of your nail beds and tips. When I examine nails I use functional medicine and Ayurveda to identify any signs of a dosha disorder or issues with immune/digestion, circulatory, bone, heart, lungs. This is why it’s so important my patients remove their polish when they come in for an evaluation.
  • Toxic chemicals in nail treatments are linked to the following:             Infertility – Dibutyl phthalates (DBP) are a common ingredient in nail polish used to keep your polish from chipping.  According to a study from the CDC, this was found in high concentrations of adults, mainly women of reproductive age (20-40).  Most women I see in salons are in their fertile years. What disturbed me most was seeing young teenage girls slapping down their credit cards for acrylic fills and gels. (This made me cringe and horribly sad over their future health issues and those of their progeny.)         Manicures and Margaritas Melanomas – An actual story recently shared on the local Fox News website.  Miss Illinois’ experience with melanoma of her thumb at the age of 18. Click HERE for the story.  Besides the toxic chemicals in the polish and gel, the lightboxes (UV lamps) are used to set gel manicures to emit UVA light which causes skin aging, causes DNA damage, and increases your risk of skin cancer. This applies to UV tanning beds (See study on tanning bed risk HERE)                      Brain Toxicity Degeneration– Chemicals like toluene (a common ingredient to allow for smooth application of your nail polish) crosses the blood-brain barrier which interacts with neurotransmitters such as GABA and Dopamine (see my article on the Brain function by clicking HERE). This leads to degeneration causing blindness, seizures, and reduced cognition.  Did you know toluene is banned in the European Union? Weight Gain – A recent study by Duke University and Environmental Working Group found a key ingredient, Triphenyl Phosphate (TPHP) in nail polish is an endocrine disruptor- therefore causing weight gain. So, now not only are you messing with your hormone balance, you are spending that much valuable hour sitting in a chair when you could be exercising! TPHP also has been linked to neurotoxicity, allergies, and other health issues. To look up other ingredients on the EWG Cosmetics Database. Click HERE and I recommend subscribing to their newsletter.
  • The Risk of Infection and Nerve Damage – Cuts, abrasions during clipping, cuticle snipping, etc leave you with open wounds and especially in a non-sterile environment. Once your hand gets dipped into the gel powder, for example, the chemicals get into your abrasion and migrate, causing nerve damage.  You can be nicked without knowing, especially if you are distracted by a conversation at the salon.
Don’t Be Fooled by the “So-Called” Organic Natural SNS Dipping Powder.
SNS nail. I was actually a little embarrassed by how fake they looked while in Indonesia!
  I’m sure you have heard this is a new, natural nail enhancement. I know several women who get this done thinking they are doing their nails some good by shifting away from acrylics.
Residual Glue and Damage from SNS Dipping Powder. Waiting for tech to remove the rest!
My Story…
I was planning to just get a simple manicure (buff and polish) the night before my overseas trip to Indonesia. I walked out with 10 fingernails dipped in the SNS powder that hardened to gel. The Herbal Nail salon did a great job convincing me to try it since it will “keep my nails strong” through the entire 18 days in Indonesia and I wouldn’t have to worry about a chip repair in a foreign country. Besides the fact that I was down to the wire to finish packing for a flight the next day, I decided to experiment and find out why so many women plunk down at least $45 + tip every other week, on gel manicures, particularly this new trendy one.  Five weeks later I went in to have the gel removed (another expense since this is not a typical DYI procedure). The “keep my nails strong” claim was a farce.  Jet lagged, I didn’t realize the tech failed to remove all the glue before applying a spring color (regular polish) for the weekend. Once I took that off I really saw the damage. My once strong, natural nails which looked like a French manicure were now soft and bendable. My white tips were pale and had translucent stripes. And several weeks later they were still tearing.  I returned to the salon to have them remove the rest of the glue (see picture to the right).  The removal process was borderline barbaric for me.  A mechanical sander was used to take the glue off my poor, weakened nails. The nail tech is wearing a mask. I’m looking the other way wishing I grabbed mine from the car. Then she wrapped all nails in acetone soaked tissue covered with foil. I look around and see countless women getting similar treatments and hearing the buzzing of sanders throughout the salon.
What’s wrong with this picture?
For several weeks I had problems with daily tasks such as peeling a mandarin orange and lifting the seal off a can of protein powder.  It has now been two months and they are just starting to recover. I spent one month with no treatment internally (supplements) and topically. Then I started a progressive regimen.  I was baffled by the level of damage women are willing to endure for glamorous nails. Frankly, it’s not worth the risk to my health and I would rather spend those dollars on healthy things like travel and massages. I am urging my patients and now I’m urging you to avoid this and any other gel, acrylic polish if you value your health. SNS is not any safer than shellac or acrylic based on their ingredients. I’m sharing a link to another detailed blog article by the Oz Beauty Expert about SNS below! She explains the ingredients. 
Too weak to lift the seal off a canister!
I will expand on this and share my own home protocol for natural strong and beautiful nails in the following health article. And my results from the natural product review will be announced soon! Many women tell me they depend on manicures and these expensive nail enhancements because their nails are so weak and brittle.  So, rather than spending money and time on toxic nail treatments to cover up the problem, look for the underlying metabolic issues and get these addressed as soon as possible. This is a fundamental approach I take with patients in functional medicine and Ayurveda. This personal experience has really hit home for me and raised a huge concern about the false advertising and brand marketing many people fall for in the name of beauty.  As a woman in her late 40’s I now start to feel and see the challenges we face from environmental toxin exposure and stress. It’s my mission to bring to you a simple solution and a clear understanding of this impact on our health and future. I made a video explaining my experience! If you are concerned about sources of cosmetic toxin exposure send me a message through my contact form on my website If you received this article via subscription simply reply to this email.
PLEASE  forward this article to your loved one or if you wish, post a comment, concern, or question. There are also Share buttons at the very bottom of this article! Thank you! This could help many more people with raising awareness of nail toxicity!
Dr. Melanie This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. The use of recommendations is at the choice and risk of the reader. Resources:  

7 thoughts on “The Toxic Truth About Manicures.

  1. mary says:

    where is this article- “I will expand on this and share my own home protocol for natural strong and beautiful nails in a following health article”??

    • Dr. Melanie says:

      Thank you Mary for the comment. I’m in the process of getting the eBook ready in order to share an excerpt on this blog. I had some delays recently but it is being written! Right now, you can find the video version on my YouTube Channel- search Naked Truth By Dr. Melanie.

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