There have been no reported incidents of any adverse effects on the outcome of a healthy pregnancy due to manicures or pedicures. But according to a recent report from the FDA, research indicates that chemicals in nail polish, nail polish removers, and the like, namely methyl methacrylate and acetonitrile (a chemical that breaks down into cyanide when swallowed), are, in fact, dangerous and can cause numerous health problems including skin irritation, contact dermatitis, rashes, poisoning, and even death.
These facts alone cause concern and fear of manicures. Although the practice of using these cosmetic products could lead to a unique exposure to one or more of the constituent agents, the occasional use of nail polishes and minimal contact with their components during pregnancy seem unlikely to constitute a substantial risk to fertility or fetal well-being.
Many of the agents used are organic solvents, such as toluene, isopropyl alcohol, or ethylene glycol monomethyl ether, resins, such as formaldehyde resin, and phthalate esters, which serve as plasticizers, as well as polish-removing solvents, such as acetone. We found only one cosmetologist study on this issue (John EM, Savitz DA, Shy CM. Spontaneous abortion among cosmetologists. Epidemiology 1994;5:147-55). A questionnaire study of licensed cosmetologists suggested a 60% increased risk of spontaneous abortion in those women exposed to nail-sculpturing activity of other employees in the salon. Although nail care was not the focus of the study, this finding is consistent with associations found between hair chemicals and miscarriage risk in the same study.
If you decide to use nail polish in pregnancy, we suggest you follow these guidelines:
- Apply the polish in a well-ventilated room. Maybe stay next to an open window or door. The less you smell it, the less exposure you likely have.
- Try to apply only one coat, not several different ones.
- When you dry the polish, don't blow on it and inhale the fumes. Keep your hands far away and stay in a well-ventilated area.
- The same precautions as in polishing apply when removing the polish.
- After removing the polish, wash your hands well with soap to remove any residual polish and polish remover.