Q: My wife has the nails painted on our four-year-old daughter and once applied, our daughter will bite her nails and ingest the paint on the nails. I do not believe this is safe and would like your opinion as soon as possible as my wife values your opinion. Thank you.
A: Far be it for men to stick together, but I must agree with you. Having said this and before I get into the ingredients of the product (which varies from manufacturer to manufacturer and is modified frequently), I must interject that often times there is an underlying cause for such a situation. While your daughter is very young, some children may be under stress from attending day care and being subject to peers they do not know or may be uncomfortable with, they may perceive a degree of hostility on the home front, may be bullied by older siblings, may be afraid of the dark at bedtime, and so forth. The possibilities are endless. You and your wife might take a step backward to review what is potentially going on in your daughter’s little life and determine if some degree of anxiety is occurring in this very common nail-biting situation. Then have a talk with her and answer any questions she might have. If appropriate, seek outside help in solving the issue(s). I shouldn’t read into a situation but your daughter might have chewed her nails prior to your wife’s decision to paint them. Perhaps she was even taking a psychological approach to coax your daughter into discontinuing nail biting.
Now, on to the ingredients which are nothing less than overwhelming. Nail polish is a lacquer that has been modified countless times over the years as new enhancements are discovered that delay cracking or peeling. The polish itself consists of an organic film-forming polymer with additives. It is dissolved in a volatile organic solvent such as nitrocellulose that has been dissolved in butyl acetate or ethyl acetate. Plasticizers that contain dibutylphthalate and camphor are included, as are pigments or dyes such as stannic oxide, titanium dioxide, iron oxide, ultramarine, manganese violet, chromium oxide greens, and others. If you wife is applying a polish that looks shiny, the product may also include aluminum powder, bismuth oxychloride or mica. Thickening agents such as stearalkonium hectorite must be added to preserve the sparkles and adhesive polymers such as tosylamide-formaldehyde resins
allow the polish to stick to the surface of the nails.
Teens and older females may also opt for a base coat to strengthen the nails, the polish itself, and a top coat that forms a hardening barrier designed to prevent or at least delay chipping and peeling. Finally, some individuals opt for a gel polish that is formulated from a type of methacrylate polymer and – get this – doesn’t dry until it is cured under an ultraviolet lamp. So, instead of polish lasting a few days, the gel polish is reported to last almost two weeks. Keep in mind a typical non-acetone polish remover will be ineffective for removal and the gel must be literally pushed off the nails with an orange wood stick once the nails have been soaked in acetone for a period of between 8 and 15 minutes. Fun, huh?
So, what can I say? You both should sit down with your daughter and indicate she will no longer have her nails painted if she continues the habit. Personally, I would rather opt for a carrot or celery stick dipped into a good dressing for a snack than I would ingesting the ingredients that are almost unpronounceable. Good luck.