Chrissy Teigen is at the centre of a heated debate after posting a video of her three-year-old daughter, Luna, with freshly painted toenails.
“Doing her nails is my knitting. Kid toes kill me!” wrote the mom of two on Twitter.
Dozens of parents responded excitedly with similar photos of their children’s tiny, painted toes. However, a few critics expressed concern about putting nail polish on a young child.
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In a now-deleted tweet, one user wrote: “Applying poisonous chemicals directly onto a child’s body cannot be good. Whatever poisons are in polish are absorbed through the nail and directly into their body.”
Teigen responded: “Well I actually had her drink it, so joke’s on you.”
Is it true that “poisons” in nail polish can be absorbed through the nail and into the body? Not quite, says Dr. Dina Kulik.
According to Kulik, founder and director of Kidcrew Pediatrics in Toronto, there are three toxic chemicals commonly used in traditional nail polish: toluene, formaldehyde and dibutyl phthalate.
The amount of these chemicals that is absorbed through the nails is “very, very low,” she said.
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However, doctors don’t know the long-term impact of using these chemicals on the nails on a regular basis — and that risk extends to both children and adults.
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Another risk of using nail polish around young children is the possibility that they ingest the chemicals, which can cause severe damage to the nervous system.
“Things like seizures, a decreased level of consciousness… headaches, vomiting as well as respiratory issues, like coughing or difficulty breathing,” said Kulik.
In this circumstance, Kulik says you should contact your province’s centre for poison control as soon as possible.
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“It’s never safe to wait and just watch and see what happens,” she said. “A chemical can be poisonous without showing symptoms.”
Kulik recommends the same course of action if your child ingests any toxic chemical — not just nail polish.
This includes household items such as nail polish remover, cleaning products and pain medication like acetaminophen.
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As an alternative, Kulik recommends chemical-free nail polish for both children and adults.
“There are many different products on the market that are free from the various chemicals that would pose concern,” she said.
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As long as you’re using chemical-free nail polish, parenting expert Kathy Lynn would actually encourage painting your child’s nails — that is, if that’s what they want to do.
“It’s make-believe, it’s fun, it’s fantasy,” she told Global News. “It’s like sparkles on a shirt.”
If the child is having fun, Lynn says nail polish and other beauty products are a great means of self-expression.
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However, use of these products on a regular basis can become cause for concern if a child appears to be using them out of insecurity.
Alternatively, if your child tries to start acting “older” or “more maturely,” you may need to have a discussion with your child about why they want to use those products.
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For Lynn, it’s important to emphasize that you think your child is beautiful — with or without such items.
“It’s about saying: ‘Today, you’re trying makeup on, just like mom, but you know you’re really always a cool kid, right?'” said Lynn.
“I think the important thing is to allow our kids to be kids but also understanding that a little bit of coloured nail polish on their toes is not the end of the world.”