Hello, friends! I am so, so excited to share a collaboration we’ve had in the works for a while! SO many of you have requested nail polish in our beauty box, but it’s not easy to find polishes that meet our standards for cleaner beauty. Nail polish is often one of the most toxic products we use, and our nail beds DO absorb these toxins just like our skin. Now, I LOVE to wear nail polish, so when I learned this I set out to find the best possible polish (both with cleaner ingredients and a good performance). I discovered AILA not long after I moved to Nashville and started getting my nails done at Poppy & Monroe. They were one of the brands I wanted to include in our box the most!
The stars finally aligned for us and we were able to collaborate with Aila to create a run of custom colors! The first color (pictured above) is called “Supernova”… I picked it because it was the color I was wearing on our trip to China to adopt Nova. It’s a warm shade of lavender that I just love! All of AILA’s polishes have sentimental meanings behind them, so I’m really happy ours gets to join that lineup.
We sat down with Dr. Cary Gannon, the founder of AILA, to ask her a few questions about her brand and what’s really in conventional nail polishes that could be avoided.
You’re a podiatrist, so what made led you to start AILA, a nail polish company?
AILA Cosmetics began during a challenging time in my life. I was recovering from a rare cancer scare, finalizing my divorce, managing my medical practice, carrying a full patient load, juggling motherhood, struggling to care for a child with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), and trying to remedy my own health issues. I wanted to be everything to everybody. Needless to say, the schedule was overwhelming (although no one could tell I was overwhelmed … I was a master chameleon). I was miserable. My life was totally off balance, and my health was suffering. I was completely lost, so I made a change. Actually, I made many changes.
Some might say I had a mid-life crisis, but I prefer the term “awakening.” I started eliminating things (and people) in my life that were not healthy for me. Taking care of my body and eliminating as many unwanted ingredients as possible became a priority. I started nourishing my body with the right foods instead of restricting calories (read the color story ‘Wheatgrass’). I began focusing not only on what I put into my body, but also what I put on my body.
At the time, I was selling a “healthy” product line in my office. A patient asked an in-depth question about the products, which led me to contact the company for clarification. To my surprise, they refused to provide it! This was allegedly a “healthy” brand I was selling to my patients, and that brand wouldn’t even communicate with me? #OMG
This was the breaking point for me. I was done! I was finished doing everything for everyone while ignoring myself. I applied a lesson I learned from my divorce. That lesson? When you find yourself trapped in a cycle, recognize that the only thing you truly control in that cycle is yourself. So … I changed the cycle and AILA Cosmetics was born.
We LOVE that. What are some ingredients AILA is formulated without that makes it safer to use?
Nails are porous and can absorb some chemicals, and traditional nail products are often full of ingredients that are drying and damaging. At AILA, we provide healthy alternatives to traditional nail polishes.
Typical nail polish contains chemicals that are damaging to nails like:
Parabens: Parabens prevent growth of fungus, yeast, molds and bacteria in cosmetics. They appear in deodorants, antiperspirants and any cosmetic with significant water such as shampoos, conditioners, lotions, facial washes/scrubs and body washes. They are estrogen agonists (meaning they mimic estrogen hormone in the body), and can bind to the cellular estrogen receptor. Estrogen is a hormone that gives information to the cells in our bodies. The cells use this information in development and cellular behavior. If the message is disrupted by the paraben mimicker, the cell may develop improperly or behave in a way the cell should not behave. Breast cancer tumors have been found to have high levels of certain forms of paragons—particularly in the underarm area of the breast. There is no proven link between parabens and breast cancer, but it is certainly concerning.
Sulfates: Sulfates are surfactants that, when added to cleansing agents, improve their cleaning ability. The major concern with sulfates is that they cause irritation of the skin, which is why they are being removed from many cosmetics, beauty products and cleansing products.
Formaldehyde: Formaldehyde has been commonly used in nail hardeners and nail polish despite being classified as a known carcinogen by the US National Toxicology Program. It is also used as a tissue fixative and an embalming agent.
Formaldehyde Resin: A synthetic polymer used in circuit boards and molded products such as pool balls and coatings and adhesives.
Camphor: Camphor is another chemical used in the embalming process but also has applications as a plasticizer for nitrocellulose and in fireworks. It is highly flammable and toxic even in small doses.
Toluene: An organic solvent with the ability to dissolve paint, rubber, ink, adhesive, lacquers, among other products. It is frequently employed as an octane booster for internal combustion systems.
Dibutyl phthalate (DBP): DBP is a plasticizer and a common additive to adhesives. It is suspected that DBP may disrupt the endocrine system and has been restricted from use in cosmetics by the European Union.
Triphenol phosphate (TPHP): TPHP is a plasticizer and flame retardant. It was given low priority for testing after approval in 1910 because it caused minimal skin irritation and mild irritation to the eyes. It has been used in nail polish to make the product less flammable and improve adherence of the polish to the nail. TPHP is an endocrine disruptor, which means it can disrupt the messaging to your cells, telling them to change or to behave in ways that the body would not normally signal them to behave. It was found to absorb through the nails in statistically significant amounts (reference study here).
Xylene: Xylene is an aromatic hydrocarbon used for tissue processing and staining in histology labs and a solvent in the printing, rubber, paint and leather industries. Toxicity occurs with overexposure to xylene through inhalation, ingestion and eye or skin contact. It can dissolve the natural protective oils of the skin and the nails.
Bismuth oxychloride: Bismuth oxychloride is a naturally occurring mineral used as a colorant in cosmetics. It provides an iridescent or shiny effect in nail polishes. Toxicity only arises in the form of skin irritation for certain people. Bismuth oxychloride is sometimes derived from animal sources and therefore not used in AILA products.
Ethyl tosylamide: Ethyl tosylamide is a plasticizer and film-former in nail polish. It has been banned by the EU due to its antimicrobial activity but is not considered unsafe for humans.
AILA Cosmetics products are free of these chemicals.
We’re so proud to be partnering with you, Cary! We have one more question, and this one is fun: Everyone loves a good nail polish name. How do you come up with yours?
Naming the polishes is the most fun! I basically just pull names from real life experiences. Polishes are named for memories, mistakes, successes, people I love … the list is endless. ‘My 2 Jeffs’ is named for my ex-husband and my current fiance. They are both named Jeff. ‘Blue Lagoon’ tells the story of how my two daughters learned about having periods. Sigh. My daughter MacKenna named ‘Make Him Wait a Day’ because a boy used to write her notes in class and she would make him wait a day before she responded. The website tells you all about them and gives our customers a personal connection to us which we LOVE.
Dr. Cary is amazing and we’re thrilled to be working with her and her team to bring you this collaboration. We’ll be celebrating with a launch party this Tuesday, April 17 from 5:30-7:30pm at Poppy & Monroe in Nashville. Join us for mini manis (we only have 25-30 spots available and it’s first come, first serve—also, make sure to come with clean nails!), treats, and a complimentary pair of our signature Daisy Sunnies with any AILA purchase.
We hope you can come! xx. Elsie + Emma
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