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After dealing with one top coat failure after another, I decided to investigate and compare top coats online before purchasing another one. I stayed up late one night scouring nail and beauty blogs, reviews websites, and forums for the best and long-lasting top coat out there. One name was ubiquitous: Seche Vite. Reviews from all over the internet lauded the top coat as THE best. Everything I read about it blew any other top coat I had ever heard of out of the water. Excited doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt to finally come across a seemingly perfect top coat. I was ready to run out and buy some at 1 in the morning, I was so thrilled.
Wearing a satisfactory job-is-finally-done smile as I was about to close out the last website I was on, I read a final comment that smacked that smug smile right off my face. It basically stated that Seche Vite can cause birth defects and shouldn’t be used.
Uh, say what?!
After sitting back and muttering “ain’t that a bitch”, I wanted to find out exactly how and why this top coat was dangerous. Apparently on the back of each box of Seche Vite there is a disclaimer that states: “WARNING! This product contains a chemical known to the State of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm.” I went to the store to check it out for myself the next day, and it did in fact state that on the back of the box.
Ok… Now what? What exactly is in this top coat that causes so-called birth defects?
Thinking I would find a quick answer in a few minutes that night, I actually spent a few days digging around to find an answer. I found that the deeper I looked, the more questions I had. I’ve narrowed down the most pertinent questions I had concerning toluene, and the best answers that I found. There are links at the bottom of this post if you would like further reading concerning this matter. It’s extensive!
If you have ever read the fine print on your nail polish bottles, you’ll usually see some variation of the words “formaldehyde, DBP and toluene free.” These ingredients are known to cause or could cause potential health problems. Toluene is the only ingredient out of those three to be an ingredient in Seche Vite.
So what exactly is toluene? Why exactly should we be wary of it? Why is California only mentioned in the warning?!
What is toluene?
Toluene is a solvent found in common products such as paint, paint thinner, nail polish, nail glue, and adhesives among other things. It is used in nail polish to help it apply smoothly to the nail.
How exactly does nail polish expose us to it?
From the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website:
“Toluene enters the environment when you use materials that contain it, such as
paints, paint thinners, adhesives, fingernail polish, and gasoline. As you work
with these materials, the toluene evaporates and becomes mixed with the air you
Why should we be wary of toluene?
Also from the CDC website:
“A serious health concern is that toluene may have an effect on your brain.
Toluene can cause headaches and sleepiness, and can impair your ability to think
clearly. Whether or not toluene does this to you depends on the amount you take
in, how long you are exposed, and your genetic susceptibility and age. Low to
moderate, day-afterday exposure in your workplace can cause tiredness,
confusion, weakness, drunken-type actions, memory loss, nausea, and loss of
appetite. These symptoms usually disappear when exposure is stopped. You may
experience some hearing and color vision loss after long-term daily exposure to
toluene in the workplace.”
As far as the warning concerning birth defects the CDC states:
“Some studies in people have shown reproductive effects, such as an increased
risk of spontan¬eous abortions, from exposure to toluene in the workplace.
However, other factors, such as exposure to other chemicals, smoking and alcohol
use, may have affected the results of the studies, so it is not possible to say
whether toluene has reproductive effects in people.”
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states in its manual Protecting The Health of Nail Salon Workers , about toluene:
“Overexposure may cause irritation to eyes and nose, weakness, exhaustion, confusion,
inappropriate feelings of happiness, dizziness, headache, dilated pupils, runny
eyes, anxiety, muscle fatigue, inability to sleep, feeling of
numbness/tingling, skin rash, and in more serious cases of overexposure or
intentional abuse, liver and kidney damage.”
Why is there a specific warning from the State of California on the box of Seche Vite?
According to the Cosmeticsinfo.org website:
“The California Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (Proposition 65) requires the Governor of California to maintain a list of chemicals “known to the state” to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. Toluene is among the ingredients identified by the state of California under Proposition 65 for identification in labeling. ”
Should I refrain from buying nail products that contain toluene?
The article mentioned above from the Cosmeticsinfo.org website continues to state that:
“The state has established a No Significant Risk Level (NSRL) for Toluene when used in nail products. These NSRLs are sometimes referred to as Proposition 65 “Safe Harbors”. A study and assessment of the risk posed by the use of Toluene in nail products has been conducted under the auspices of state attorney general’s office and they have determined that its use in nail care products is below the NSRL for consumers. “
The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) website reiterates that:
“Toluene was reviewed by the CIR Expert Panel in 1987, when the Panel determined
that it was safe for cosmetic use in nail products when limited to
concentrations no greater than 50 percent. The Panel re-evaluated the safety of
toluene in 2005 and confirmed its original conclusion.”
So there we have it. Information from varying, reputable sources concerning toluene. My conclusions on the matter is that copious amounts of toluene or repeated exposure over a long period of time is harmful to our health (isn’t that true with any substance though), but that the small amounts found in nail polish is relatively safe.
I believe that most nail polish companies are trying to take a proactive step by eliminating any potentially harmful ingredients from their products, and I can’t fault them for that.
I’m still undecided about whether or not I will purchase Seche Vite, but I’m not against it as I was. Hopefully this information will help you make an informed decision whether you decide to purchase Seche Vite (or any other nail product with toluene), or not.
Sources and links: