Site Title Goes Here

Shortcut Navigation:

Get the Latest Updates

Sign Up: Please leave this field empty


press contact

Denise Halloran
Director of Marketing and Communications
Email Denise


Breast Cancer Fund on Facebook
Printer Friendly

Nail Polishes to Become a Little Safer

OPI, Orly and Sally Hansen Brands Remove Ingredient Linked to Birth Defects; Sally Hansen also to Remove Toluene and Formaldehyde

Contacts: Marisa Walker or Kevin Donegan, Breast Cancer Fund (415) 346-8223; Felicia Eaves, Women?s Voices for the Earth, (202) 332-2003

SAN FRANCISCO—Facing mounting criticism from consumers as well as health and environmental groups, three major nail polish manufacturers acknowledged this week that they have begun removing some chemicals linked to cancer and birth defects from their products.

The three companies are OPI Products, Inc., Orly International, Inc., and Del Laboratories, Inc., which makes the Sally Hansen brand.

Leading drugstore brand Sally Hansen said it is reformulating all its products to remove dibutyl phthalate (DBP), formaldehyde and toluene. Spokesperson Ann Nugent told the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics that the reformulation “is a big concern for us” and that the company sees it as a “stepped-up effort.” Nugent wasn’t yet able to say when all reformulated products will be on store shelves.

All three chemicals are on California’s Prop. 65 list of chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. Studies have linked DBP to underdeveloped genitals and other reproductive system problems in newborn boys. DBP is banned from cosmetics products in the European Union but the FDA has taken no such action in the United States.

In addition, the U.S. National Toxicology Program says formaldehyde is “reasonably anticipated” to be a human carcinogen. The EPA, meanwhile, restricts toluene in drinking water because it can cause nervous system disorders and damage the liver and kidneys. The FDA does not require that cosmetics products be tested for safety before they are sold.

While the Sally Hansen brand is removing DBP, toluene and formaldehyde, OPI said it too would remove DBP from products and Orly said it stopped using DBP last year. Both OPI and Orly said they would continue to use toluene. OPI still uses formaldehyde in some nail products.

Other major cosmetics multinationals, including Avon, Estee Lauder, Revlon and L’Oreal, which makes the Maybelline brand, confirmed to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics last year that they would remove DBP. This latest shift by nail polish manufacturers means that drugstore and mass market leader Sally Hansen as well as salon leader OPI join those multinationals.

“We’re so pleased that these three companies have each decided to stop using certain chemicals that can harm our health and our children’s health,” said Jeanne Rizzo, R.N., executive director of the San Francisco-based Breast Cancer Fund, a founding member of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. “Reformulating to remove dangerous chemicals is so much better than arguing about how much of those bad chemicals is okay to use in nail polishes.”

OPI, the leading professional brand of nail polish found in most nail salons, has been a target of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics since a March meeting between company executives and Campaign representatives. In that meeting OPI refused to remove formaldehyde, toluene and DBP from products.

Since then, OPI has been the object of more than 75 protests organized by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics in dozens of cities, including Boston, Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco and Washington. Those were quickly followed by a “Miss Treatment USA” advertising campaign that spoofed the brand’s quirky shade names.

In July, a dozen women dressed as “Miss Treatment USA” beauty queens drew television news coverage by staging a theatrical protest in Santa Monica, Calif. News coverage about OPI’s use of toxic ingredients and its practice of marketing safer products in Europe than in the United States has reached consumers nationwide.

“Removing DBP is an excellent first step, but consumers deserve products free of all dangerous chemicals,” said Charlotte Brody, R.N., executive director of Commonweal. “We will continue to press OPI until formaldehyde and toluene are removed from their nail polishes and nail treatments.”

Orly spokesperson Jennifer Marlowe said that the company began removing DBP from all products “at least a year ago” but that “some products still contain small amounts of toluene and formaldehyde resin, not formaldehyde.” (Formaldehyde resins are polymers with far fewer known concerns than formaldehyde.)

Health advocates predict the removal of harmful ingredients will prevent some adverse health affects. “Every baby born in the next 20 years has a little bit better chance of being born healthy because DBP has been eliminated,” Brody said.

Brands that still use DBP in nail polish, according to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database of cosmetics and body care products, include Essie and Lippmann.

More than 400 other cosmetics and personal care product manufacturers have signed the Compact for Safe Cosmetics, a pledge to replace hazardous chemicals ingredients with safer alternatives.

# # #

Founding members of the Campaign include Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow, Breast Cancer Fund, Commonweal, Friends of the Earth, Women's Voices for the Earth, Environmental Working Group, National Black Environmental Justice Network and the National Environmental Trust. For more information, visit