In my house, we like to do a little research into anything that we are going to put onto or into our children’s’ bodies to be sure that it is safe for them. With a little girl on the way, my wife and I started revisiting all of the things we did with our twin girls nine long years ago to see what we would do differently. Recently, we wondered when we could paint our baby’s nails and whether or not there are non-toxic polishes available.
With safe polish, you can start painting your baby’s nails whenever she stops putting them in her mouth. This is normally at around age 8 months for toenails and between 18-24 months for fingernails. Parents should choose a non-toxic, chemical-free nail polish just for babies and children to be as safe as possible.
When our girls were born we had no idea there was such a thing as baby safe nail polish. Luckily, we didn’t paint their nails very often (and still don’t) but they love getting ‘mommy time’ with my wife and painting each other’s nails on occasion. Let’s see why normal nail polish isn’t safe for babies, which ones you should choose to use, and even some tips for painting baby fingers and toes!
How old do babies have to be to paint their nails
The biggest potential issue when it comes to putting nail polish on your baby is that they will be exposed to dangerous chemicals in polish made for adults. Since babies are always sticking their fingers and toes in their mouth it isn’t hard to imagine how they could become exposed!
Generally, you can start painting your baby’s nails whenever they stop putting their fingers or toes in their mouths. This will be different for every child and your baby will likely suck on their fingers more often and for much longer than they will their toes.
Fortunately, there are also many nail polish options on the market that are made especially for children and babies that avoid dangerous chemical ingredients. While not perfect, it does make the question of when you could start painting your baby’s nails a little easier to navigate because there is much less risk involved.
When can I paint my baby’s fingernails?
Babies start putting fingers in their mouths at a very young age. According to Dr. Sears, babies ‘discover’ their hands around age three months and quickly learn to suck on their fingers to soothe themselves. Sucking is a natural behavior for babies because it mimics the act of breastfeeding.
Babies usually start sucking on their hands and fingers by around the age of 3 months and normally stop by around age 18-24 months. So the best time to start painting your baby’s nails is likely after age two so you can minimize their exposure to the polish.
Since this is one of the first things that babies learn to put in their mouths, you will probably want to avoid painting your baby’s fingernails until after they have grown out of this behavior just to be safe.
When can I paint my baby’s toenails?
Your baby will need a little more coordination to get their toes up to their mouth so this doesn’t usually start happening until around the age of six months. At the same time, not all babies are interested in their toes and you might find that your little girl doesn’t do it very often or at all.
If your baby doesn’t seem interested in putting her toes in her mouth by month 8 then she probably isn’t going to develop the habit and you can start painting her toenails at this time.
With that being said, always be on the lookout for behavioral changes. If your baby sees something bright and shiny on her fingers and toes she may be more inclined to put them in her mouth!
Finding safe nail polish for babies
Now that we’ve talked about the best time to start painting baby nails we need to look at the safest options for doing so. I’ll go into way more detail below about why regular ‘adult’ nail polish isn’t safe for your baby but first, we’ll look at the ones made just for babies and children!
Luckily, there are quite a few companies out there that understand parents want to splash a little color on their baby’s nails so there are tons of non-toxic, chemical-free, and even EDIBLE nail polishes available for children. Here are two of the best baby nail polishes I’ve found:
1. Prim and Pure
The first item on the list is my favorite because it’s not only safe – it’s EDIBLE!
Yes, this nail polish is made out of fruits and veggies and it is guaranteed to be 100% non-toxic and safe to ingest for your little one. This means that you could put this polish on your baby even if you weren’t sure that she would keep her fingers and toes out of her mouth. Prim and Pure will also dry in under a minute and it comes off easily with just a soak in warm water (aka bathtime!).
There are a bunch of cute colors to choose from and there is even a gift set available with all of the colors for a very reasonable price that you can check out here (check out the latest reviews from parents on Amazon). Many reviewers say that this polish dries extremely quickly, is odorless, and has great colors that stay on longer than they thought! It’s also made in the USA.
Here is a full list of ingredients for the Prim and Pure edible nail polish:
Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer, Water, Citrus Medica Limonum (Lemon) Juice, Beta Vulgaris (Beet) Root Powder, Daucus Carota Sativa (Carrot) Root Powder, Sucrose, Spinacia Oleracea (Spinach) Leaf Powder, Ribes Nigrum (Black Currant) Fruit Powder, Maldighia Glabra (Acerola Cherry) Fruit Powder, Silica Dimethyl Silylate, (May Contain +/-: Mica, Titanium Dioxide, Iron Oxide, Manganese Violet, Ultramarine Blue, Chromium Oxide Green)
2. Piggy Paint
While this particular nail polish might not be edible it is advertised as being 100% non-toxic and safe for babies and children.
Piggy Paint is a popular nail polish brand for children that has a ton of colors, combinations, and accessories for their products. They call their polish ‘natural as mud’ because the natural ingredients make it biodegradable and safe for the environment.
Buying one bottle of this polish is pretty pricey but there are a lot of different combinations that you can try that will make the individual bottles much cheaper. If you check out this set you will be able to get them for about $5 per bottle here (check the latest reviews on Amazon). Many reviewers noted that they loved the colors and the polish dried quickly. Strangely enough, about half thought the polish didn’t last long enough and the other half thought it lasted a very long time.
Here is a full list of ingredients for the Piggy Paint nail polish:
Aqua, acrylates copolymers, Melia Azadirachta (neem oil). May contain: mica, red 34 lake, yellow 10, red 28, ultramarines, titanium dioxide, polyester glitter.
Why doesn’t nail polish stay on my baby’s nails?
Unlike adults, babies are not only putting their fingers and toes in their mouths but they are also usually playing hard with little regard for keeping their nails looking perfect. That means that they are way more likely to break or chip the polish off of their nails during normal activities.
I will say that some of these natural nail polishes don’t seem to last as long as the chemical-filled adult versions. In fact, many of them will likely come off even during a normal bath if they soak long enough. Of course, having to repaint your baby’s nails a little more often is a small price to pay for safety in my opinion!
Tips for how to paint baby nails
Getting things done with a baby involved is always more difficult than you think. They are squirmy, wiggly, and generally, just don’t do what you want them to most of the time. Of course, this also includes when you try to paint their nails!
Here are a couple of tricks that we’ve used or seen other people recommend over the years.
1. Put your baby in a high chair and let them eat while you paint
This is genius.
Once your baby is safely in the highchair her feet will be dangling out front ready for you to paint. Just give her a couple of cookies and she won’t care what you are doing to those toes! Check out the video below to see how one mom uses this tactic.
2. Paint your baby’s nails while she is sleeping
This is probably the simplest method of getting your baby’s nails painted without any fuss or muss.
Try to get your baby to fall asleep in her car seat, bouncy seat, or anywhere else she will be sitting or lying on her back. In the reclined position you will have great access to both fingers and toes and you won’t have to worry about weird angles. Wait for her to fall into a deep sleep stage and then carefully go to town on the fingers and toes!
Why isn’t it safe to paint baby nails with regular nail polish?
It’s no secret that the cosmetics industry has pretty loose regulations and oversight when it comes to the kinds of ingredients included in their products. In the world of nail polish, manufacturers love to add ingredients like plasticizers, solvents, and other harmful chemicals that make their nails look prettier, stay on longer and generally work better.
Unfortunately, many of these chemicals can cause adverse health conditions over time, especially if someone is inhaling the fumes or ingesting the polish.
The cosmetics industry is no fool, however, and they understood as early as the 2000s that the public wanted safer alternatives and started releasing ‘3-free’ versions of their products. These versions were free of the worst three chemicals dibutyl phthalate, toluene, and formaldehyde. Over the years, other brands have even gone so far as to release ‘5-free,’ ’10-free,’ and even ’13-free’ nail polishes in an attempt to soothe customers.
Unfortunately, again, a recent study published in Environmental Science and Technology magazine shows that many popular brands are simply substituting the chemicals we know are bad for ones that we don’t know are bad yet. Some of the brands even tested positive for the chemicals they said were excluded!
This means it’s going to be very tough to find an ‘adult’ nail polish that avoids the most dangerous chemicals that we are trying to avoid. Next, I’ll give you a rundown on the most common chemicals you’ll find in nail polish as well as why their potential risks.
Toxic chemicals commonly found in nail polish
- Dibutyl phthalate (DBP) – This is the original phthalate that most nail polishes claim to avoid. Plasticizers like this have been labeled endocrine disruptors which can have a negative impact on reproductive, neurological, metabolic, and immune system health.
- Triphenyl phosphate (TPHP) – This is one of the plasticizers substituted for DBP in the study above. It is also an endocrine disruptor with similar effects.
- Bis (2-Ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) – Another substitute for DBP.
- Toluene – This chemical is commonly added to nail polish to create a smooth finish. It has been shown to potentially cause respiratory, central nervous system and cardiovascular issues along with skin irritation.
- Formaldehyde – Relatively common in many cosmetics as a preservative, this chemical is labeled as a probable human carcinogen by the National Cancer Institute.
- Camphor – While less dangerous than the other ingredients on this list, camphor has been shown to cause respiratory issues and skin irritation in some applications.
- Xylene – This ingredient is similar to toluene and it is commonly found in nail polish removers as a solvent. It has been linked to issues with the central nervous system.
This is by no means an exhaustive list as there are thousands of chemicals that could potentially end up in your nail polish but these are some of the most well-known offenders. For baby nails, it’s best to make sure that there are ONLY good ingredients rather than trying to ELIMINATE bad ones.
Are 3-free nail polishes safe enough for babies?
Like I mentioned before, it is common to see the ‘3-free’ label on nail polishes to let you know that they don’t include those dangerous chemicals. Unfortunately, there are likely still lots of other ingredients to worry about inside the bottle so purchasing a nail polish with this label is no guarantee that it is the best option.
Can babies go to nail salons?
Most nail salons don’t give much thought to using safe nail polishes for their customers. Since they want their customers’ nails to be the smoothest and shinest they have ever seen they will use whatever they need to use to get the job done. This also includes nail polish remover and other products used throughout the process.
Unfortunately, that means there will likely be lots of fumes filling the air inside the salon as well as many opportunities for chemical exposure. Even OSHA acknowledges that most nail salon workers are exposed to dangerous chemicals and fumes over long periods of time. This is no place for a newborn!
Of course, you might be able to find a salon that specializes in children and toddlers and uses safer polish.