Can Nail Polish Harm a Baby?

By Kimberly Turtenwald
Painted nails may look cute on a baby but can cause harm.
Painted nails may look cute on a baby but can cause harm.

While you are pregnant, you may be warned against using some products that are considered harmless to an adult or older child, such as nail polish. Nail polish contains several different chemicals that can potentially cause harm to anyone, even adults, although the small amounts make it difficult to cause easily identified damage. However, when you are dealing with a fetus or a baby, the body does not require as much of a harmful element to cause damage.

Pregnancy

While you are still pregnant, the use of nail polish may be restricted due to the potential harmful effects to a fetus. Nail polish contains several chemicals that will not soak into your system through your skin or nails, but can enter your system through your respiratory system. Even if you do not purposely inhale the fumes from your nail polish, small amounts of these chemicals can enter your system, passing on to the baby you are carrying. These fumes can cause brain damage, male infertility and even fatalities.

Mouthing

After your baby is born, it may seem cute to paint your baby girl's fingernails or toe nails. However, babies often put their hands and even their feet into their mouths. The chemicals present in nail polish can be harmful if ingested. Even if the nail polish is no longer wet, chips may come off when your baby sucks on her hand or foot. Formaldehyde is a common ingredient in nail polish. If this chemical is ingested, it can result in poisoning or death.

Irritation

Baby skin is often sensitive and can be irritated easily, especially when the baby is a newborn and is still becoming accustomed to the elements. The chemical ingredient methyl methacrylate has been known to cause skin inflammation and irritation, which is more likely to happen with sensitive skin. The yellow dye used in some nail polishes can also irritate the eyes. Babies often rub their eyes when they are tired. If a baby's nails are polished, she may spread the polish into her eyes, causing irritation.

Inhalants

Similar to the effects of inhaling nail polish fumes while you are pregnant, a baby can also inhale nail polish fumes while her nails are being painted. Because these chemicals are directly inhaled into the baby's system rather than passing through the mother's system first during pregnancy, the potential negative effects of the chemicals are magnified. A baby's body is much smaller and requires smaller amounts of the chemicals to cause damage. Inhaling these chemicals can cause irreversible damage to the baby's nervous system, including her brain.

About the Author

Kimberly Turtenwald began writing professionally in 2000. She has written content for various websites, including Lights 2 You, Online Consultation, Corpus Personal Injury and more. Turtenwald studied editing and publishing at Wisconsin Lutheran College.