If you have a child who insists on having or attending birthday parties where nail decoration is part of the fun, think about sending her off with her own supply of a non-toxic polish from Hopscotch Kids, suggests Jennifer Taggart, a Los Angeles consumer products attorney, blogger and author of "The Smart Mama's Green Guide."
Taggart, who before her marriage sported acrylic nails, said she's reluctant to allow her daughter to have a salon manicure "because you don't control what they're using, you don't know about the ventilation, and there are people doing acrylics or gels or all the other types of applications."
Taggart remembers refusing to let her daughter participate at a princess party where the children's nails were being polished and spritzed with a quick-drying nail spray. Although she considers the bring-your-own-polish technique a compromise, it has allowed her daughter to avoid feeling left out and allowed Taggart to sleep at night.
Try to find a well-ventilated spot when you visit a nail salon. Consider sitting close to an open window, or step outside for some fresh air, Malkan said.
Do-it-yourselfers should choose well-ventilated areas for at-home manicures and pedicures.
Reduce or eliminate your visits to nail salons as soon as you know you're pregnant. The developing fetus is particularly sensitive to the volatile chemicals in polishes and thinners.
Manicurists should consider working in a well-ventilated salon. Even better, they should have exhaust hoods at their nail stations, Malkan said. They also should consider wearing masks and gloves to protect lungs and skin from chemical irritants.
If you're concerned about ingredients in your favorite brands of nail polish, Malkan suggested going to the Skin Deep online safety database, created by the Environmental Working Group, which ranks products from 0 to 10, and choose products at the lower end of the scale, from 0 to 2.
When in doubt about product formulations, contact the manufacturer by phone or email, Taggart suggested. She said she worries less about the effects of the toxic trio in nail polish alone than the cumulative effects of multiple exposures to the formaldehyde that's also in pressed wood products and secondhand smoke and the phthalates also in face creams, perfumes and scented products. "You have to be aware of label claims and realize that they're not always accurate, whether it's a product saying it's natural or green, or whether saying it's free of a particularly chemical," she said. "Ask the company what standard do you use? How do you test? Who verifies it?"