Toxin Spotlight: Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP)

What It Is

Phthalates (pronounced thal-ates) are a group of chemicals that render plastics in products more flexible and soft for everyday personal use. DBP is more specifically used to prevent nail polishes from becoming brittle.

Where It’s Found

DBP is almost exclusively found in nail polish and other nail products, but phthalates in general are often incorporated into fragrance ingredients, which will only be vaguely labelled as “fragrance” in the ingredients list. While “fragrance” is unfortunately almost impossible to avoid in mainstream personal care products, DBP is decreasing in popular use among nail polish producers. But make sure you always check the label, just in case.

Why It’s Bad

There is strong evidence in scientific testing that has linked DBP and other phthalates to endocrine disruption, meaning it interferes with the function of hormones that drive growth and sexual development, as well as metabolism. This has lead to cases of breast cancer, reduced sperm counts, mutations in the reproductive organs, and the possibility of harm for unborn children. Health Canada has also linked phthalates to liver and kidney failure in children. Toluene, an ingredient also commonly found in nail polish, has resulted in similar issues in scientific testing.

Alternative Products

Essie and OPI–two of the most popular and accessible nail polish brands in North America–are both considered “3 Free,” meaning they don’t contain DBP, toluene, or formaldehyde (stay tuned for more posts on these ingredients). That being said, both of them have been found to contain formaldehyde resin, so make sure to read the label of each individual polish before you buy it. Some only slightly more expensive but much more reliable brands include:

– Gabriel (

– Butter London (

– Sienna Byron Bay (

– 100% Pure (


– Gloss Naturals (




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