For many women, getting their nails done is an easy way to feel pampered, pretty or professional. But if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, you might wonder if it’s safe for you to go to a nail salon and sit among the fumes or have chemicals applied to your nails. Which begs the question: What’s in nail treatments, after all?

Let’s take a look:

  • Nail Polish. Dibutyl phthalate (DBP), camphor, toluene and formaldehyde are components of nail polish that make it stronger, more flexible, smoother and quicker to dry. Although excessive exposure to these chemicals can be harmful to pregnant and nonpregnant people alike, the amount of the chemicals that might be absorbed through the skin or nails from a manicure or pedicure is small.
  • Acrylics. Methacrylate is used with other chemicals to form acrylic nails. Not much of the methacrylate is left after this chemical reaction takes place, and little, if any, might be absorbed through the skin or nails.
  • Polish Remover. Acetone and acetonitrile are solvents used to remove nail polish and acrylic nails. Again, any amounts of these solvents that might be absorbed through the skin or nails is minimal.
  • Oil. Paraffin is a mineral oil sometimes used to soften the hands or feet as part of a salon treatment. As an oil, it mainly stays on the skin and isn’t absorbed into the bloodstream.

Any small amounts of any of these ingredients that might be absorbed into the body are not expected to increase the chance of problems for your pregnancy or for breastfeeding. As long as a salon has good air flow, it is unlikely that significant amounts will get into the body by breathing the fumes. But if you have headaches, dizziness or nausea while in the salon, take a break and get some fresh air outside.

So, what’s the bottom line? Pamper away. Routine nail treatments pose no known increased risk for your pregnancy or breastfed baby.

If you have questions about exposures during pregnancy or breastfeeding, contact MotherToBaby toll-free at 800-532-6302, by text at 855-999-3525 or via email or live chat at

Lorrie Harris-Sagaribay, MPH, coordinates Mother-To-Baby North Carolina, housed at the Mission Fullerton Genetics Center. Mother-To-Baby is a free service of the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS). 

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