One of the things that I stopped doing after my son, Anthony, was diagnosed with cancer was using nail polish on my nails. Not only did I bite them off that first night that we sat in the ED with him but since then I’ve been concerned about all the chemicals found in nail polish, as well as the risk of bacteria. Hand hygiene goes beyond just making sure to keep your hands clean, it actually extends to the nail polish we use and our nails themselves. Let’s face it, the most common way that we get sick is by the things we touch with our hands which we then transfer to our mouth, or other mucus membranes like our eyes.
Hand hygiene is of greater importance when dealing with someone who is immunocompromised, like cancer. These individuals do not have the level of immune response to fight off the simplest of germs and are therefore at higher risk for infection.
Tips to reduce the risk of bacteria related to nails:
- Remove any chipped nail polish immediately (it can harbor bacteria in the chipped polish).
- Avoid having nail polish worn for more than four days, it has been shown to foster the presence of microorganisms which resist removal by handwashing.
- No artificial nails (they have a higher chance of harboring bacteria)
- Keep natural nail tips less than ¼ inch long (long nails harbor more bacteria under nail).
- When washing hands, making sure to clean the underside of the nails (with a scrub brush would be ideal to remove as much dirt)
- Avoid biting or chewing on nails (our mouth is the dirtiest place on our body, believe it or not, and can leave germs on the nails or transfer germs from our nails to our mouth.
- Make sure any nail grooming tools are clean prior to use or sterilized if sharing with others. (always a good idea to even bring your own tools to a nail salon)
- Avoid cutting cuticles, as they act as barriers to prevent infection.
- Never rip or bite a hangnail. Instead, clip it with a clean, sanitized nail trimmer (risk for paronychia infection)
Tips to reduce risk of exposure to toxins and increased risk for cancer:
- Gel manicures pose an additional health risk associated with the UV radiation from the lamp used (tip: apply sunscreen on hands prior to use)
- Avoid using toxic nail polishes and hand hygiene products (make sure to read labels and purchase products with full ingredient list disclosed)
Early on in my son’s cancer journey I started researching ways to live healthier lives, reduce our exposure to toxins and start trying out non-toxic products. This is when I came to find that there are non-toxic nail polishes out on the market. This meant that I could continue to paint my nails without having to compromise my son’s health, or my own.
I have tried several non-toxic nail polish brands at this point and I will say that the one that overall lasts the longest, has the best application, ease of removal and a wide array of over 120 colors to choose from is Côte.
If you live in the Los Angeles or New York City area they also have two nail salons where you can get a manicure and/or pedicure utilizing all clean and safe beauty products, including a choice of their entire line of non-toxic nail polishes. They even go above and beyond to offer a personalized treatment in their Los Angeles location called “personal shop box” where you get to keep all of the tools that were used on you and only you, your own bottle of Côte’s base & top treatment and couple of a polish colors.
- formaldehyde free (known carcinogen and skin allergen, often used as a preservative)
- dibutyl phthalate (DBP) free (affect the reproductive system and linked to cancer)
- toluene free (linked to impaired human reproduction and development, impaired breathing, being harmful to the nervous system and nausea)
- camphor free (can cause allergic reactions in large doses, cause irritation, dizziness, nausea, and headaches)
- formaldehyde resin free (often used as a hardener and in large doses can be a skin allergen)
- triphenyl phosphate (TPHP) free (causes changes in hormone regulation, metabolism, and reproductive systems)
- xylene free (known allergen and a possible carcinogen)
- ethyl tosylamide/epoxy resin free (has antibiotic properties which raises concern for antibiotic resistance)
- paraben free (estrogen-mimicking effects which may trigger hormonal problems)
- gluten free (allergy concern for those with gluten intolerance)