How to Get a Pregnancy-Safe Manicure

7 things you need to know to keep you and baby safe.

Is nail polish safe to use during pregnancy? Most doctors will tell you it’s fine, but many women still worry about the chemicals that get absorbed into their bloodstream when they swipe on polishes. Luckily, the nail polish industry has made amazing strides in the past few years, developing safer options for pregnant and non-pregnant people alike.

The standard for most nail polish brands, like Essie and OPI, is the 3-free formula, which refers to the “toxic trio,” otherwise known as the carcinogen formaldehyde and ingredients that are linked to developmental defects: dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and toluene. Over the last few years, brands have also introduced a 5-free label, which, on top of the toxic trio, removes formaldehyde resin and camphor from their formula. Some companies even took it a step further, developing 7- 8- or 9-free polishes, eliminating even more toxins and making these polishes more pregnancy-friendly.

But manicures and pedicures aren’t just about nail polish. So are they safe during pregnancy? Yes, but there are a few things to consider. Here are 7 tips that will make your next trip to the nail salon safer during pregnancy and beyond.

  1. Choose a well-ventilated nail salon. Look for one with open windows or ventilation systems. It’s better for you and for the people working at the salon, too!
  1. Request a square-shaped nail. This shape is less likely to cause ingrown nails, which can then cause infections.
  1. No cuticle cutting! Did you know that cuticle cutting is actually illegal in most states? It clips healthy living tissue, exposing you to infection and fungus — both extra-unfortunate while pregnant. Just say no! Ask for your cuticles to be pushed back instead.
  1. Be careful with foot massages. Pressure points on your feet can stimulate particular organs in your body. So reflexology is sometimes used to jump start labor. When you are pregnant, make sure a foot massage is very gentle or performed by a reflexologist so you don’t accidentally trigger labor! (Easy tip: steer clear of the area between the ankle bone and heel!)
  1. Avoid nail dryers. Those UV lights are bad, and the fans just dry polish from the outside. Instead budget in an extra 10-15 minutes of drying time after your treatment, and sit back, relax, and let the polish dry on its own.
  1. Don’t get a pedicure if you have any open cuts, wounds, warts, or fungal infections. Technically, a good salon should refuse to serve anyone who has any kind of wound or infection, but that isn’t always the case. Any kind of open cut or scrape makes you extra susceptible to contracting an infection that might require medication you would want to avoid while pregnant.
  1. Pick safer polishes. There’s no such thing as an all-organic nail polish because the very nature of polish requires chemicals. But you can limit your exposure to the worst chemicals by choosing a 5- 7- or 9-free polish! Bring your own polish if you go to a place that doesn’t offer healthier choices! Tenoverten, Zoya and RMS Beauty all offer safer nail polishes!

If you can’t make it to the salon, treat yourself to a foot soak at home. Simply add pink Himalayan salt + lavender oil to a small basin of warm water. Before bed, apply generous amount of foot cream and wear cotton socks to bed. Can’t reach your feet? Get your partner, sister or bff to clip your toenails, but be sure to wash your feet first! A good way to massage your feet without asking anyone to help is to place a tennis ball on the floor, gently roll it back and forth with your sole, adjusting the pressure to your liking.

Once you got that gorgeous, safer mani-pedi, make it last as long as possible by apply cuticle oil nightly over the entire nail bed — Weleda makes a nail pen that is mess-free. You can also apply a thin layer of top coat, like Tenoverten‘s The Shield, every other day), and keep your nails, hands, and feet moisturized so the polish doesn’t get brittle and crack. For a splurge, try Bottega Organica’s Hand Regenerate, and for a budget-friendly option, Zoe Organic’s Everything Balm is $12 at Target. 

Photography by Lindsey Belle, taken for Well Rounded at one of our fave safe nail salons tenoverten.

Emily Barth Isler

Emily Barth Isler

Emily Barth Isler is a Brooklyn writer, mom, and wife. She's the author of 3 books for kids and young adults and co-creator of the natural beauty blog, Product Junkies Rehab. She loves coffee and podcasts, and is so good at watching TV it should be considered a skill.

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