During pregnancy nails tend to grow faster - yet another change the body undergoes as a result of increased pregnancy hormones. Unfortunately though, this increased nail growth in many women result in thin, weak, easy-to-break, brittle nails – which can be quite the nuisance. Increased nail growth can also sometimes lead to onycholysis, where the nail separates itself from the nail bed. Not so fun.

For many women, I should think their first instinct would be to pay a visit to their local nail salon, but there are some dangers involved with going to such places while pregnant. If is fairly widely known that many nail polishes contain harmful chemicals, and certain types of these stinky chemicals found in nail polishes can harm fetuses. Keep in mind that your baby will be exposed to everything you yourself are exposed to. Furthermore fetuses are far more fragile and are much more susceptible to the adverse effects associated with chemical exposure.

There is something called the “toxic trio,” and consist of three extremely harmful chemicals found in nail polish that pose a serious threat to your health and the health of your baby. They include dibutyl phthalate (DBP), toluene and formaldehyde.

Dibutyl phthalate (DBP) can disrupt hormone levels and the body’s response to their fluctuations, which is difficult enough on a regular day while pregnant. Recent studies have also suggested that DBP can cause developmental issues, neurological problems and birth defects amongst exposed fetuses.

Toluene is a neurotoxin that irritates the upper respiratory system and damages the central nervous systems of anyone of any age. Toluene exposure can easily permeate the placenta and can lead to developmental defects.

Formaldehyde, a well-known carcinogen, can cause respiratory problems and can worsen side effects associated with various breathing problems such as asthma. Formaldehyde can cause irritation of the eyes, nose, throat and lungs. Long-term exposure can sometimes cause cancer.

So what can you do?

Well, first of all, be sure to avoid all solvent-based nail products. That includes MOST polishes, acrylic nails and many nail polish removers. Any products that contain acetone or formaldehyde should be completely avoided, so make sure you’re reading your labels.

Beware of fumes. If you want to pay a visit to the salon, or want to give yourself a manicure at home, make sure that the location you choose is VERY well ventilated. If you want to completely avoid the risks associated with salons, nail products and chemical exposure, then here are some safe tips you can try in order to maintain, strengthen and treat your nails by yourself:

1) Always file your nails in one direction only to avoid breaking them, and file them so that they are rounded, not pointy.

2) Opt out of cutting your cuticles and simply push them down into the nail bed, which will keep them stronger for longer.

3) Generously moisturize your nails and cuticles in the evening.

4) Try sporting shorter nails for a while. They are far more functional, and much harder to snag on something and break.

5) Try to keep your nails as clean and dry as possible. Wear rubber gloves when if you are doing the dishes or cleaning something, and try to have shorter baths (if this is an unacceptable request, try to keep your hands out of the bath water as much as possible). Wet nails makes for softer nails. And softer nails break.

6) Make sure you’re getting enough biotin, which is a B-complex vitamin. Studies have shown that biotin increases the firmness, hardness and thickness of nails. You can find biotin in such foods as nuts, avocado, peas, mushrooms, milk, whole grains, eggs, soybeans and bananas.

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