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Contact Dermatitis. 1997 Oct;37(4):155-62.

Allergenic ingredients in nail polishes.

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National Consumer Administration/Product Safety, Helsinki, Finland.


It has been known since the 1940s that nail polishes contain allergenic ingredients. The aim of this study was to clarify whether the nail polishes on the market today contain significant amounts of allergens, and what the solvents are. The following ingredients were determined: toluene, toluene sulfonamide formaldehyde resins, free formaldehyde, acrylates, methacrylates and certain organic solvents. The study comprised 20 brands and 42 samples. All the nail polishes analysed contained allergenic toluene sulfonamide formaldehyde resins (TSFR), in concentrations from 0.08 to 11.0%. The concentration of total formaldehyde varied from 0.02% to 0.5%. The more TSFR a nail polish contained, the higher was its formaldehyde content. Probably not only TSFR-allergic but also formaldehyde-allergic persons may get dermatitis from many of the nail polishes studied. The concentrations of acrylates and methacrylates were so small that they are of practical significance only to those previously sensitized to acrylates. Of the organic solvents, toluene was still widely used, whereas xylene was found in only 1 product. The nail polishes on the market today are not safe for all consumers. However, according to the regulations of the European Union, the packaging labeling of all cosmetic products must be supplied with a list of ingredients from the beginning of 1998. This will help the consumer to avoid allergenic products. A better alternative could, however, be to substitute the most allergenic ingredients with substances possessing minor allergy potency.

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