How can beauty products, intended for such a noble purpose, cause so many health concerns? True, permanent hair color, makeup, and nail polish give us an emotional boost and make us feel better about ourselves. Let us make sure, though, that we are not paying for positive emotions with our physical health. Hence, knowing the ingredients of these products is vital in making a safer choice. Today, you will learn about nail polish ingredients, namely those of the OPI nail polish Infinite Shine collection. Read on to find out what position it takes in my Nail Polish Rating List and how safe it is.
I use credible sources to form my opinion about product ingredients.
After I had a baby in 2012, I did not go back to my job as a financial analyst at the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco. Instead, I used my analytical skills and nine years of college education to make sense of home and body products. Since then, I have become a sought-after speaker and a consultant for consumers, manufacturers, and online retailers. To see what documentary film I was interviewed for, visit my About page.
As my client, you can get help with understanding how the usage of certain products may increase your potential risks. Together, we will examine your health condition, genetics, overall exposures, the methods and frequency of product applications, and stress level. I believe that stress is the biggest toxin of all.
Furthermore, to form my opinion about ingredients, including nail polish ingredients, I look into a number of credible sources. They are reports produced by the European Chemicals Agency database, the European Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety, and the US Cosmetic Ingredient Review Panel. Plus, I pay a hefty fee to read animal, clinical, and epidemiological studies in full in the US National Library of Medicine. I also check the opinions of the Environmental Working Group (EWG), and our viewpoints are not always the same. If you use the EWG database, be sure to check out my How to Use the Skin Deep Database the Right Way post.
Now, let us go over the ingredients of the OPI nail polish Infinite Shine collection.
Removing several chemicals from the list of nail polish ingredients does not make it safe.
To begin, in 2006, OPI reformulated its nail polish to remove dibutyl phthalate (DBP). An endocrine disruptor, DBP has a rating of 10 (the most toxic) in the EWG Skin Deep database. OPI also states that its nail polishes do not contain formaldehyde or toluene. But does the absence of these chemicals automatically mean the nail polishes are safe?
You may have heard of so-called non-toxic nail polishes free of the “toxic trio” or the “Big Five.” To clarify, the ingredients that comprise the “toxic trio” are dibutyl phthalate (DBP), formaldehyde, and toluene. And the “Big Five” consists of these three, plus formaldehyde resin and camphor. But, though camphor and formaldehyde in nail polish are not good, I believe they are not the worst offenders.
When I hear the phrase “free of” something, I look into what manufacturers use instead. What matters here is whether they disclose the substitutes and whether they are safer and have enough health safety data. Stay with me to find out what ingredient OPI nail polish uses now, after removing DBP.
Phthalates in nail polish work as plasticizers.
DBP belongs to a family of chemicals called phthalates, which are added to some plastics to make them flexible. So, how do you know what substitutes to look for? Well, it is helpful to understand how nail polishes are made in the first place. For example, what is the function of phthalates in nail polishes, and will nail polishes work without them?
To answer the question, as nail polish ingredients, phthalates function as plasticizers, which are chemicals. They are added to plastics to make them softer and pliable so that they do not crack and break easily. In nail polishes, they prevent chips and cracks. Obviously, removing all of them will negatively affect the quality of the product.
So, is it possible that when one phthalate is removed, the one that takes its place is less notorious only because it has less data, or has received less bad press? Also, does the removal of one phthalate make the nail polish non-toxic?
Ingredients in the OPI nail polish Infinite Shine Collection
According to the email I received from OPI in October 2020, the Infinite Shine nail polish ingredients are as follows:
Let me group them by the main functions: solvents, film-formers, plasticizers, UV absorbers/stabilizers, and colorants.
Solvents in nail polish make a nail polish smooth.
For starters, solvents are the carriers of the other ingredients and help the nail polish flow smoothly. There are four solvents in the OPI nail polish: ethyl acetate, butyl acetate, isopropyl alcohol, and diacetone alcohol.
According to the European Chemicals Agency database (ECHA), ethyl acetate, butyl acetate, and isopropyl alcohol may cause drowsiness or dizziness. Although these risks are more applicable to occupational settings, it is good to minimize inhalation of these solvents by applying the nail polish in a very well-ventilated room. The EWG rates them as low hazard ingredients as well.
Exercise caution with diacetone alcohol as one of the nail polish ingredients.
As for diacetone alcohol in the OPI nail polish, the EWG gives it a rating of 1 out of 10. However, the US OSHA lists various respiratory issues and even damage to liver and kidneys. Plus, it limits airborne exposure to 50 ppm over an 8-hour work shift (source). And the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Panel has not reviewed diacetone alcohol for safety yet, due to insufficient data. (This means that there is not much in the medical literature about its short-term and long-term health effects).
On the other hand, in addition to respiratory irritation, the ECHA indicates that diacetone alcohol is suspected of damaging fertility or the unborn child. Pretty serious claim, right? Nevertheless, I have not found any confirmation in other sources that it can cause this kind of harm. Aside from reporting these concerns, the ECHA does not mention exposure amounts or the routes of exposure. So, I am not sure whether it can significantly impact fertility or the fetus through an occasional nail polish application. To exercise caution, if you are pregnant or trying to conceive, you might want to stay away from nail salons.
So, the conclusion about the solvents is that they are toxic in bigger quantities. You can reduce the potential health harms by good ventilation and infrequent use of nail polish and visits to salons.
Film-formers in the OPI nail polish make it hard and shiny.
As nail polish ingredients, film-formers help them become hard, resilient, and shiny. The Infinite Shine collection has several film-formers, namely:
- Acetyl tributyl citrate
- Adipic acid/neopentyl glycol/trimellitic anhydride copolymer
- Styrene/acrylates copolymer
- Di-HEMA trimethylhexyl dicarbamate.
To begin, the Skin Deep rates it 1 (with 10 as the most toxic) with a fair amount of data available.
Conversely, multiple Internet forum participants express their concern that nitrocellulose may release formaldehyde. When questions like that arise, I go to the credible sources of information to see what they say. In this case, I read the 2016 Cosmetic Ingredient Review Panel report. Because it is not an independent agency but is funded by the cosmetics industry, its conclusions are often not strict. Nonetheless, the reports are excellent sources of information, for example, about manufacturing processes and contaminants. (By the way, I have recently investigated boric acid and borax safety as there is confusion about them, too.)
So, nitrocellulose is made by reacting a mixture of nitric acid and sulfuric acid with cellulose alcohol that comes from cotton or wood. While the Panel discussed the rare possibility of an allergic reaction, it did not list formaldehyde as a potential contaminant. French dermatologists reported an allergic reaction to nitrocellulose in nail varnish. Because of the possibility of an allergic reaction, I rated it 5 in my Nail Polish Rating List e-book.
Acetyl Tributyl Citrate
This is another one of the film-forming nail polish ingredients in the OPI nail polish. The EWG Skin Deep database rates it 1, and ECHA does not list any hazards. In 2002, the CIR Expert Panel found it to be non-genotoxic, non-sensitizing, and non-irritating.
Adipic Acid/Neopentyl Glycol/Trimellitic Anhydride Copolymer
The manufacturing process of this ingredient is not fully reported. In 2020, the CIR Expert Panel concluded that it was safe to use in nail polishes. Yet, there was not enough safety data to determine its safety in all other cosmetic products. In the meantime, the EWG rates it 1 with limited data available.
First, the EWG rates it 2 due to some contamination concerns of methacrylic acid, acrylic acid, and 2-ethylhexyl acrylate.
Second, the 2002 CIR report describes this film-forming ingredient as a polymer of styrene and a monomer. It consists of acrylic acid, methacrylic acid, or one of their simple esters. Both the 2002 and the 2014 CIR reports have limited information about it but describe it as non-sensitizing and non-irritating.
Di-HEMA Trimethylhexyl Dicarbamate
This is the last of the five film-forming ingredients in the OPI nail polish. The EWG rates it between 2 and 5, depending on use.
Further, the CIR Panel concluded in 2005 that it must have no contact with the skin, only the nail. Aligned with that, the SCCS report states that it “pose[s] a risk of sensitization from misuse of the products or from inappropriately carried out application or from unintentional contamination of the skin adjacent to the nails under normal and reasonably foreseeable conditions of use.” For that reason, I gave it a rating of 8 in my Nail Polish Rating List e-book.
Overall, the film-forming nail polish ingredients pose medium risk, in my opinion. Also, it is important not to apply this formaldehyde-free nail polish on the skin by accident.
Plasticizers prevent chips and cracks.
As I mentioned, OPI nail polish used to use dibutyl phthalate as a plasticizer in the past. Now they use trimethylpentanediyl dibenzoate.
The bad news is that the CIR Expert Panel has not assessed trimethylpentanediyl dibenzoate for safety. But the good news is that the ECHA does not list any hazards. Additionally, the Skin Deep database rates it 1 with limited data.
UV absorbers/stabilizers protect the color.
To start with, the UV absorber in the OPI nail polish is benzophenone-1, and it blocks color fading. The Skin Deep database rates it 4 with limited data available and endocrine disruption as a moderate concern.
For your information, benzophenones range from benzophenone-1 to benzophenone-12. For example, benzophenone-3 is also known as oxybenzone which is commonly used in sunscreens. Therefore, to differentiate between all of them, it is helpful to look at their CAS numbers. The CAS number for benzophenone-1 is 131-56-6.
Thus, in 2012, a certain benzophenone was added as a carcinogen to the California EPA’s Proposition 65 list. To clarify, this is a list of chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. However, the CAS number of that benzophenone was 119-61-9. Apparently, it was not benzophenone-1.
Benzophenone-1 as the most concerning ingredient in the OPI nail polish
I consider benzophenone-1 one of the most concerning nail polish ingredients for the following reasons.
First, benzophenone-1 is linked to endocrine disruption. The Endocrine Disruption Exchange Database provides a list of in vitro medical studies we can read on the subject matter.
Further, the 2020 CIR report mentions the studies on the effects of benzophenone-1 on the proliferation and metastasis of MCF-7 human breast cancer cells expressing estrogen receptors. The scientists concluded that benzophenone-1 may accelerate the growth of MCF-7 breast cancer cells.
In another in vitro study, benzophenone-1 statistically significantly increased BG-1 ovarian cancer cell growth. To be fair, there are no animal, clinical or epidemiological studies. In other words, we do not know whether the usage of a nail polish may harm the human hormonal system. However, the presence of benzophenones, including benzophenone-1, in human urine means that general human exposure to these chemicals is meaningful.
Thus, because of the endocrine disruption and cancer concerns, I give a rating of 10 to benzophenone-1. In my opinion, it is one of the worst ingredients in the OPI nail polish.
Colorants as nail polish ingredients create a rich shade palette.
First of all, there are two types of colorants used in nail polishes. The common ones are organic pigments, or dyes, meaning that they contain carbon compounds and are derived from petrochemicals. (The term “organic” refers to organic chemistry here, not to the USDA organic certification.) And the second type of colorants includes inorganic mineral pigments, such as iron oxides. Both types may contain traces of heavy metals, as detailed in Federal regulations.
In addition to heavy metal contaminants, organic pigments may contain traces of contaminants specific to petroleum. For example, they may include carcinogenic and endocrine-disrupting benzo[a]pyrene, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Therefore, I prefer to see mineral inorganic pigments as nail polish ingredients.
Although both types of colorants may have heavy metal contaminants, I consider mineral pigments safer, because they do not have contaminants characteristic of petroleum, like benzo[a]pyrene, PAHs, and brominated resorcinol. However, it is important that the mineral pigments NOT come from China. High background levels of pollution and lenient regulations in China make it hard for me to trust this country as a source for mineral pigments.
The OPI nail polish uses both petroleum-based and mineral pigments.
Out of the four colorants in the ingredient list, two are mineral inorganic pigments, namely, titanium dioxide and iron oxides. In my Nail Polish Rating List e-book, I rated them 1 and 2, respectively. The other two colorants – yellow 5 and red 30 – are organic pigments, and I rate them 5 and 6, respectively.
However, colorant-wise, the list of ingredients for the Infinite Shine collection is not complete. With so many shades, there are definitely more than four colorants in this formaldehyde-free nail polish. I contacted the company and they directed me to the individual product specification tab on their website. As a result, the list of colorants in the Infinite Shine collection expanded from 4 to 20. I assign each of these colorants a rating and base my opinion on the safety data I find. You can gain access to the full list of colorants in the OPI nail polish by purchasing my Nail Polish Rating List e-book. This information will help you avoid the shades with more toxic pigments.
Beware of colorants in cosmetics.
By the way, colorants are not only nail polish ingredients, but are also used in lip gloss, lipstick, and makeup. Specifically, did you know that there may be heavy metals in makeup? For instance, lead testing of 400 lipsticks revealed that Maybelline had 7.19 parts per million and L’Oreal had 7.0 ppm of lead (source). To compare, the legal lead limit in drinking water in the USA is 15 parts per billion. Read my post about lead in lipstick to learn how you can protect yourself from lead in makeup. Also, find out what is in your organic lip gloss and which non-toxic lipstick I use and like. And as a bonus, here is my Crunchi non-toxic makeup review.
Other nail polish ingredients in the Infinite Shine collection are of no concern.
The remaining ingredients are silica, phosphoric acid, and stearalkonium bentonite. I do not see any concerns with them in this formaldehyde-free nail polish.
Conclusion about the OPI nail polish
In conclusion, I want to emphasize that it is great that OPI does not use dibutyl phthalate any longer. However, this does not mean that it is a non-toxic nail polish. Thus, some ingredients of concern are benzophenone-1 and di-HEMA trimethylhexyl dicarbamate.
In my comparative study of multiple nail polishes, OPI Infinite Shine has a position in the second half of my list, arousing medium to high concerns. If you use nail polish on a regular basis, purchase my Nail Polish Rating List. You will find out which nail polish brands are safer than this formaldehyde-free nail polish and which popular brand still uses one of the toxic “Big Five” ingredients. Importantly, when you apply a nail polish, do it in a ventilated area and do not paint over your skin.
Visit my shop for non-toxic products for home and body care. And consider booking a consultation with me to get timely advice on healthy living in your particular situation. Just don’t expect me to do your nails!