Left to right: School of Hard Rocks by Essie, I Mainely Eat Lobster by O.P.I and Seche Vite's Fast Dry Top Coat
This evening I was painting my nails using a Seche Vite fast dry topcoat and noticed a rather frightening warning on the outside of the bottle. It stated that the product contained a chemical known to 'cause birth defects' and 'other reproductive harm.' Why hadn't I noticed this warning before? The topcoat itself is an incredible product that dries your nail varnish in little to no time. It seemed almost too good to be true when I first began using it just a month ago. What if it was just that?
The chemical found in Seche Vite and in many other nail varnishes is called Toluene. It can also be referred so as Phenylmethane, Methylbenzene and Toluol in ingredient lists. It is used in some nail polishes to make the product apply smoothly and may also be found in items including petrol, paint thinners and varnishes. According to TLC Style , exposure to the chemical has been known to cause eye irritation, nausea, headaches and dizziness. Studies have also concluded that high levels of exposure to Toluene can cause liver and kidney damage, birth defects, developmental abnormalities and even miscarriages.
The good news is that Toluene (in addition to the equally nasty nail varnish ingredients, Formaldehyde and Dibutyl Phthalate or DBP) was banned by the European Union in 2004 . They judged that the chemical posed a serious threat to human health and was not safe for use. As a result many companies have changed the formulations of their nail polishes to fit EU regulations and Toluene is no longer found in cosmetics sold in European markets. Additionally, some well known nail varnish companies including O.P.I, Sally Hansen and Essie have removed Toluene from their products worldwide . Hooray!
Despite this success, Toluene has not been eradicated from all markets worldwide. In the United States cosmetics companies can still sell products which contain potentially dangerous chemicals . Some states including California have instituted laws that require brands to publicly declare their use of Toluene but this will not completely prevent exposure to the chemicals as in the European Union. I ordered my Seche Vite topcoat from the United States and as a consequence received a potentially dangerous product. I wonder how many other people are blindly using products which contain these troublesome chemicals without knowing the risks? It is unacceptable that the cosmetics industry and global governments allow people to endanger their health in such a way.
Until Seche (the makers of Seche Vite) reformulate their cosmetics and discontinue their use of Toluene, I will not be using any of their products. It's up to each individual to judge whether or not they wish to continue using these cosmetics. However, it's crucial that consumers are made aware of the risks involved so that they are able to make informed decisions. I personally believe that there is too great a risk involved with using nail polishes which contain Toluene. Let the hunt for the best Toluene-free topcoat begin.
References and further reading about Toluene:
1. Jasmin Malik Chua and Planet Green, TLC Style: "Know Your Cosmetic Ingredients: Toluene."
2. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics: Nail Products and Salons.
3. Cosmetics Info: Toluene Information.
4. All Lacquered Up: The Big 3 (Toxic Chemicals, that is.) and Check Your Ingredients.
5. European Commission for Health & Consumer Protection Directorate-General, 'S.C.C.P opinion on Toluene.'