Nail polish may contain ingredients that are skin and respiratory irritants, known carcinogens, and reproductive toxins, as the Occupational Safety & Health Administration indicates. Exposure to these ingredients may cause coughing, nausea, headaches, and dry or damaged skin. More serious complications include cancer and damage to an unborn child.
Toxic ingredients in nail polish may include dibutyl phthalate, ethyl acetate, formaldehyde, isopropyl acetate and toluene. Pregnant women should avoid nail polish altogether, as ingredients such as toluene may cause developmental damage of the fetus, according to the EWG's Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. Nail polish formulated without toluene, formaldehyde and dibutyl phthalate, which are known as the "toxic trio," are called three-free products. People should use nail polishes with the least number of harmful chemicals, advises the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety & Health Administration.