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Manicures and Pedicures While Pregnant or Breast Feeding

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I’m getting a pedicure today. It’s my summer-time indulgence, and something I haven’t done often for the past 4 years. When I was pregnant, I avoided the nail salon. Experts have raised concerns that some of the chemicals in nail polish can be harmful to a growing baby. (Here’s a link to Babblepedia that then links to various articles that are both pro and con nail polish and pregnancy).
But once I popped out both of my kids, I made an appointment for a manicure. I needed to feel a little more “polished” so to speak. Anything to counter the psychological effects of sleep-deprivation. In fact, I once even breastfed The Bear while getting a pedicure.
Quite honestly, I never thought about any health concerns related to breastfeeding and nail polish. But this article in The Daily Green is making me re-think things.
…nail polish isn’t the sort of thing you want to be slathering on your digits when you’re pregnant. It likely contains phthalates to make it flexible and chip resistant. Certain phthalates are banned in Europe, and some big American companies are starting to pull them out of their nail polishes as well, because research has shown they can cause cancer and/or reproductive abnormalities in lab animals. A small study suggested baby boys exposed to high levels of the chemical in utero were more likely to exhibit penile anomalies. The FDA still deems the chemical safe, and critics say these studies are too small. Other chemicals of concern in nail polish are formaldehyde, which can be absorbed through nails and skin, and is thought to be a carcinogen by the EPA and the National Toxicology Program, as well as toluene, which is a skin and respiratory tract irritant. In extreme amounts, it can cause liver damage.
…There’s something about looking at a colored cluster of chemicals stuck to your nails day after day after day. Obviously whatever is in it is getting into my system. And it kills me I don’t have a clue what that might be as I’ve never seen a polish with the ingredients listed on the bottle. Which is a horrible disservice to the consumer. I gather these ingredients are guarded as trade secrets just as they are with cleaning products. How horrible. And wrong. So I’d prefer to remain bare for the most part, but am happy to have colorful options for special occasions.
Here are a few more articles that suggest you may want to limit your exposure to nail polish. Check out La Leche League and The National Resources Defense Council. Here’s information from the FDA about nail polish.
Fortunately for me, I can punt this question personally since I’ve already weaned The Bear. But I’m curious, is this something other people are concerned about? Are any of you forgoing certain beauty treatments because you’re either pregnant or nursing?

8 Responses to “Manicures and Pedicures While Pregnant or Breast Feeding”

I’m done having babies and breastfeeding. But I permanently gave up using nail polish and polish removers years ago when my husband, an experienced cabinetmaker, said that they contain many of the same cancer-causing chemicals and solvents that are in the finishes that he puts on the cabinets and furniture that he makes. He works around those chemicals all day, and he’s very conscientious about wearing a respirator and gloves when he uses them. The moment he gets any of them on his skin, he cleans his skin with lots of water and soap. I don’t want those chemicals seeping through my nails and into my body. I have to think too that inhaling stuff that smells that strongly isn’t good for the body either. I gave up using hair coloring too because of all of the chemicals in it that can seep through the scalp.

My son is 5 months, and I’m still nursing him. I haven’t had a manicure/pedicure in more than a year, but I did paint my toenails when I was about 3 months pregnant. I knew that bleaching your hair was bad and figured that nail polishes smell almost as bad, so I’ve just stopped using them. I do have to admit that I wasn’t giving up much though, because I probably got a mani/pedi once a year before I was pregnant. Thanks for sharing the actual health implications, now I have an excuse to have sloppy nails.

Oh, boy. Getting a mani/pedicure every few weeks for the last two months of my pregnancy was SERIOUS therapy for me. As conscious as I was about what I ate, it never occurred to me to consider those chemicals. And I just indulged the other day in my first post-baby pedi. I have a hard time believing that the chemicals are entering my system in any significant levels, but will definitely have to do more research. Yikes.

I have discovered the power of a good buff and don’t use polish anymore – those chemicals always turn my nails yellow and I don’t like to think what they release into my body. If your manicurist can do a really good buff of your nails, they end up super shiny and smooth and it lasts for ages, feels just as nice to me as getting a clear polish.. just healthier! so maybe a good option for pregnant / breastfeeding mums…

I was considering painting my toenails, since it’s summer and I always wear sandals. I’m a nursing mother and haven’t used nail polish since I was pregnant. I wanted to do some research first to make sure it was safe and now I’m glad I did. Now I probably won’t ever polish again. That’s scary to think how many chemicals could enter the body. So, is highlighting bad too? I just had my hair highlighted, I might do it twice a year, and I do it to cover up the ever increasing gray hair. Thank you for the information and now my son can be thankful that his mommy was wise enough to ask before acting. Thank you very much!

I’m 19. Never been pregnant and I don’t plan on it for a very long time. Yet, I am concerned about this. In my opinion, if it could hurt your baby while your pregnant, it is hurting YOU already. Also, toxic chemicals accumulate in your system. So just because you quit while you’re pregnant doesn’t really mean anything. I want good looking nails, but I can’t bring myself to go to a salon.

Hey, mani’s and pedi’s don’t have to be banned as long as you do some consumer research. There are a few companies out there making nail polish without these harmful ingredients (at least as many as they currently know about!) Supporting cleaner products will make more of them available in the future, you know so our own kids can get mani/pedi’s!

I am a breastfeeding mom of a 15 month old and I have not used nail polish since I was pregnant (when pregnant I “indulged” in the non-toxic type which now I am still not convinced is really not toxic.) I recently read that inhaling nail polish while painting nails is the equivalent to smoking a cigarette.

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