44 answers

Nail Polish on a 3-Year Old

I would like to hear the thoughts and opinions of other mothers about a 3-year old having her toenails painted. Personally, I feel that the chemicals of the polish are very harmful, and that applying polish and make-up and any of those sort of things on a preschooler is sending the wrong message.

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

I don't believe it is harmful. I painted my daughters toenails when she was little but not her fingernails until she was a bit older because she was a thumbsucker. I don't believe it did her any damage. It is just a fun thing for little girls and their moms to do.

1 mom found this helpful

every girl loves dressup and polish. there is nothing wronge with the polish, if you are concerned about the fumes then just do it outside and let it wear off don't use the nail polish remover. I have 2 girls and they have loved it since they were able to walk, I paint mine so why not them.

I don't find anything wrong with it my daughter will be 2 in 8 days and I have been doing hers because she see me do my own. They don't have much of a nail and dosn't stay on long anyways

More Answers

If you feel THAT strongly about toenail polish, then by all means, do not paint your daughters toenails! However, if you are upset about other people allowing their children to have their toenails painted, I think you need to find a hobby.

If nail polish was dangerous and posed a significant health threat when used correctly, do you not think there would be some sort of public outcry? I have never, in all my years of teaching and secondary education, heard anyone worry about toenail polish. Unless your child is eating the polish off their toes and fingers, its as harmless as getting marker pen or pain on ones skin (in fact, things that are placed on the skin are absorbed quickly and readily into the body, whereas things cannot be absorbed by placement on a toenail). Did you know that the levels of toxicity and pollution in the air in your home are 3 times higher than the level of pollution one encounters outside? The plastic cups and plates that your child eats off of are far more saturated with chemicals that can be easily absorbed into your little one's body? If you're going to worry about toenail polish, you might as well put your daughter into a sterile bubble and never let her have contact with anything or anyone.

I have a 2 1/2 year old who loves having her toenails and fingernails painted - it is a special treat to her, and happens when we visit grandma or Auntie (my 20 year old sister) on occasion. Not only does it just make her week, but I am able to use it as a "treat" in order to make toenail and fingernail clipping a non issue (she absolutely hates to sit still for the fingernail and toenail cutting). She is obviously not allowed to play with the nail polish, or drink it, or pour it all over herself - but I find your worry about nail polish to be a little paranoid. Do you put lotion on her skin, use soap and shampoo on her body in the bath? Put sunblock on her? Allow her to play with other children, or go to the park? Those products are FILLED with chemicals, yet we still use them on a daily basis - and the sandbox in the neighborhood park is a cesspool of bacteria, viruses, and other creepy crawlies that can make children very sick.

Im a special education teacher and deal with many very medically fragile children. Stop worrying about the nail polish - don't put it on your child if you feel that strongly about it, but don't judge others that allow their children to partake in it.

3 moms found this helpful

hi! only my opinion, but if you're painting your toenails, then why can't she?
also, we put them in dresses and put their hair up in the name of "pretty", right?
and, you can set an age limit ("no painting until you're X age") but the drawback may be what kids will do to rebel against restrictions -
anyhow, we've painted our little one's toenails a few times, she thinks it's pretty, but we're confident that her self-esteem isn't driven by it :)
i hear you on the toxic issue - our environment these days is VERY less-than desirable, right?
anyhow, good luck and i'm sure whatever you decide will be the right thing for your family!
smiles :)

1 mom found this helpful

I don't believe it is harmful. I painted my daughters toenails when she was little but not her fingernails until she was a bit older because she was a thumbsucker. I don't believe it did her any damage. It is just a fun thing for little girls and their moms to do.

1 mom found this helpful

I think it's fine. I have two girls (2 and 6) and they both love nail polish. I allow them to choose from a few different shades, all pink. They are subtle and pretty. Although my 6 year old likes sparkly blue, too which I sometimes allow. If you're worried about the chemicals there are several non-toxic options like this one http://polishedmama.com/products.htm
It's fun, harmless and the more you don't want them to do it, the more they will want it. I say choose your battles and this one isn't worth it. Have a nail painting party!

1 mom found this helpful

Hi there:
Interesting point, I haven't ever heard about worries over toenail/fingernail polish. I paint my daughters (4 years) toes and its really a lot of fun. Even better is to take her for a pedicure with me. They reduce the procedure down to the basics - but it sure makes her feel special and allows her a chance to connect with me on something and actually gives her a lot of confidence. Chemically speaking, I really don't see any harm.

1 mom found this helpful

You dont say why you are asking. If you don't like the idea of painting your 3yo's toenails, then by all means dont! And explain to her why.

However (and I only have a boy here) I see nothing wrong with doing it occasionally, for special occasions, when she is ... (7 or whatever age), etc. I would far rather have little girls' toenails painted than fingernails.

If you are just looking at your daughter's age-mates and fretting about them wearing toenail polish, you most likely do not have the whole picture. It could be that these little girls have big sisters/aunts that like to doll them up, it could be a reward for something they do at home (such as staying dry a whole week, or not biting their nails), maybe you didnt know that the nailpolish is nontoxic kids polish, and maybe, it just simply isnt a big deal or concern to the parent.

What I personally dont like is little girls wearing spaghetti tops, bare back dresses, etc. Dont parents know that indoor places are A/C'ed and there is no need to start them wearing skimpy clothes at 3 or even 5 (plenty of time to battle that when they're in high school & going out on dates!).

And dont get me started on heavy dark eye make up for 14yo's (or women of any age actually) (and no I dont think nail polish is quite the same thing as makeup).

And how about those deep dark tans!? Or running around at home naked or in just undies?

See, everyone has their own rock to stand on. Just so long as we dont throw them at each other!! ;-)

Live and let live. You may share your reasons for not doing so for your own daughter, maybe any concerns or opinions but remember that they are your own. What a boring world if everyone were all the same.

(And I agree with you more than I disagree. Just sharing the "other" viewpoints out there)

1 mom found this helpful

My daughter just turned four years old and we have, on occasion, painted her fingernails and toenails. My daughter sees me with my nails painted and I don't see it as "sending the wrong message" at all, but rather an opportunity to have fun and do something together. She doesn't watch TV, or commercials, so I really don't think this is setting her up for a life of dieting and botox to try to fit in. It's just something fun for a mom and daughter to do together.

When my daughter was a baby, I founded a nonprofit addressing environmental toxins and their affects on children's development, so I can assure you I'm totally aware of the harmful chemicals in personal care products, particularly nail polish and remover. For this reason, my daughter ONLY uses phthalate-free nail polish, with good ratings in the EWG Skin Deep database. We allow the polish to just "grow out" rather than use harsh remover.

There's a great brand called Honeybee Gardens that actually peels off, so it doesn't last a long time, but doesn't have nasty chemicals in it and avoids the use of remover.

I use peacekeeper cosmetics mostly, but you can try the www.cosmeticsdatabase.org to look for something you want to use.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi there,

I don't care much for nail/toenail polish because to me it's too much work to maintain. But for kids, nail polish seems to be just something fun to experiment with. My three-year-old daughter likes having polish on her toes once in a while, and is delighted for a brief time, then forgets about it. My sons, who are much older, also wanted to try nail/toenail polish at one time or another, and I obliged them. There are much more important issues to "put my foot down" about, in my opinion, so I just let them have fun with this.

My daughter is almost 3 also and her toes are hot pink right now, as I type. She loves her snaggled little toes to be pink like mommies. Plus, the pink matches Patrick from Sponge Bob Square Pants. I don't know much about the harmful chemicals, I've always painted mine. We've always done light pink, then light purple, and she choose the hot pink this time. It's a bonding moment for us, and also a treat for using the potty. Good luck!

Dear MW,
The toe polish thing is a personal decision.
But I have a daughter, and they have all kinds of kid polishes that are non toxic. I have always had very long natural nails and kept them painted. My daughter wanted to be like mommy. I got her the kid stuff. It worked great for evening bed time. I'd bathe her and get her jammies on and then she had to lay very still while I painted her toes. It was also kind of fun because she is a little ticklish and it gave us some bonding time together. Then, she would happily lay still admiring her drying toes while I read her a story.
Both of my kids, even my son, loved taking turns painting my toe nails with the kid polish.
Preschoolers certainly don't need to wear make up. But I don't know of any who showed up to kindergarten with black eyeliner and lipstick because they were exposed to a little color on their toes.
The kid polishes that my daughter had just peel off. No need for chemical polish remover. I just never saw any harm in it.

I agree about the chemicals what I do with my little one is we purchase the polish from Whole Foods (I forgot the brand name) as it is safer to use and we paint outside on the front step (also great in case of spills you can sit on a newspaper).

As for the age deal, I've been doing it since my daughter was 2 because she saw me doing it and we do fun colors like purple, green, blue, or yellow basically all colors that make my mother aay it looks like we've smashed our toes which makes us both giggle and also makes it a fun silly thing instead of a fancy "let's be beautiful for other people" kind of thing. Anyway I don't wear make up (don't even own any) but somehow my daughter at 3 1/2 knows about it because just last week she told me I should use red chapstick instead of the plain kind. :( Some things you just can't avoid forever. I told her I didn't need it because I like my lips just the way they are and that was that.

Hi there, this is a personal preference re: nail polish and make-up. Kids want to do what they see their primary caregiver doing. They are little mimics. If you are painting your nails then that's what she will likely want to do to be like you. I have a nephew who always wanted to have his nails painted to be like his big sister.
The do have formaldahyde free nail polish available at the healthfood stores if you decide you want to try it for fun. You could also have a rule about only having it on when at home and taking it off (make-up more than polish) before going out. Kids love dress up of all kinds so you may be able to distract her into dressing up with other things, silk scarves mama's shoes and purses, cowboy hats whatever she wants. Just try to have fun and not worry too much.
Good luck with whatever you decide.

I think the chemicals won't hurt her and if you start banning something as simple as nail polish it will make her want it more. Beware of creating the forbidden fruit. Little girls like to dress up. It's part of being a (heterosexual) girl. Letting her dress up occasionally doesn't mean she'll dress like a slut when she's older.

My 3yo daughter and I like to paint her toe nails. A little bonding fun. What I quickly realized is that I wasn't crazy about taking the paint off with NP remover (seems so harsh), so she has her own pale color now so it can wear off naturally. No fingernails - primarily (honestly) because I'm not up for the maintenance, and not necessary - toe nails are all the fun we need right now.

I would TOTALLY respect any mom's wishes not to paint their daughters toes. During a playdate the other day a 4yo enjoyed a pedicure (I trimmed her nails and put lotion on and massaged her feet - knowing her mom wouldn't mind) but she didn't want the paint - no problem. The girls then painted my toes - what a fun mess. The 3 of us giggled a lot.

Personally, I don't think children that young should wear nail polish. I have a 5 year old and I won't allow it until she's older. Nail polish yellows the nails, and I don't think children should be subject to the chemicals. There are other ways to make your daughter cute by dressing her up, fixing her hair. They are so innocent, that they will grow up in a flash. I watch my niece who is 13 and she is into makeup, fashion, clothes, manicures, boys, talking on the phone, etc. Your 3 year old will be into all of that before you know it!

I've told my (almost 7YO) twin girls that we're holding off on nail polish for now b/c of the chemicals/smells (fortunately a friend of mine had already agreed on this policy with her daughter who's about a year and a half older so they know even "bigger girls" aren't doing nail polish yet). If they want to play dress up with colored nails they use their washable markers and/or nail stickers. I *have* allowed them to get nail polish on if it's part of something like a b-day party activity and they don't complain about not being able to do it at home b/c they understand it's a "different families have different rules" thing.

I have several granddaughters and they all enjoy wearing nail polish on their toes. I have never seen any harm done and they love feeling pretty. I don't think it sends any sort of message other than she's a little girl who wants to look pretty. Its really fun, quality time painting each other's toes!

every girl loves dressup and polish. there is nothing wronge with the polish, if you are concerned about the fumes then just do it outside and let it wear off don't use the nail polish remover. I have 2 girls and they have loved it since they were able to walk, I paint mine so why not them.

I allow my daughter to have ONLY very light pink on her fingers and toes. We started with toes because she was less likely to put them in her mouth.

I use natural nail polish that I buy at wholefoods. They also sell nail polish remover, both are "harmful" chemical free and they still have cute colors. I find that it wears longer than regular brands and you can feel good knowing that your little one is safe:)

I don't find anything wrong with it my daughter will be 2 in 8 days and I have been doing hers because she see me do my own. They don't have much of a nail and dosn't stay on long anyways

check out honeybee gardens - they make non-toxic polish: www.honeybeegardens.com

i am not a make-up or polish gal, but everything out there has a natural and non-toxic alternative!

I remember growing up we had special nail polish for kids. Don't they have that anymore? It comes off a lot easier and is non-toxic.

I think I was 8 before I was allowed to put on even the fake nail polish, but those were my dad's rules. He always told me women look more beautiful when they look natural.

Besides, when I was allowed to put on my mom's nail polish it was like a right of passage for me (probably around 12 years old and very basic neutral colors- no bright colors). Mascara and lip gloss at 13. But again, those were my parents' rules. Every household is different. You set the rules in yours according to your own standards. Don't worry about others.

Also, I didn't really feel deprived because my parents always made a big deal about how pretty I looked when I wasn't trying to look older. They really emphasized the fact that I only have one childhood and that I will have the rest of my life to look like an adult. :-) I like that advice!

I agree. I feel the same way but even stronger about ear piercing on children. Purity IS beautiful. Purity is God's beautiful perfection! Many of the beauty things women do are to "attract" and be attract-ive to the opposite sex. No child under 18 needs to be attracting that kind of attention.
Instill purity when they are young, talk about it as they grow, and when they are older they will not turn from it.

All the little preschool girls I know love having their toenails painted! I've never had a problem with it, I actually am looking forward to the day I have a girl and can paint her toenails.
But that doesn't mean that you should do it. Your job as mom is to teach your daughter what you believe is right. Don't let peer pressure make you do something you feel is wrong.

Be blessed

I feel 3 years old is too young. Kids already grow up so fast so why have them grow up faster than they need to. My daughter will be 8 next month and in the last year is in when I started letting her get her toe nails painted which is still not often. The nails are a definite no. Kids need to have things to look forward to do when they get older. So many kids are doing things at such a young age and that leaves nothing for them to look forward to when they get older.

Personally I would feel uncomfortable with nail polish and makeup on a 3-year-old. You are not alone. And yes, nail polish is toxic--but the remover is even more toxic! There are nontoxic alternatives if you end up needing to seek them out.

I think it is a fun thing to do. My 3-year old loves to go and get pedicures with me..or loves when I dote on her by polishing her nails.

My girls are 3 and 6, and they LOVE having their nails painted! There's a rule at their school that only middle-school girls are allowed to have fingernail polish, so during the school year we have to limit ourselves to toenail polish. To me, it just seems like an accessory, like wearing earrings in their ears or bows in their hair. My older daughter has some clear lip gloss that I bought her at Sephora that she loves to put on. I don't see any harm in it. Kids like to emulate their parents. My girls see me with painted nails, makeup, etc, so I allow them the age-appropriate version of what I do. I think it's cute! Every family is different - just do what you are comfortable with!

I have a 2 1/2y/o daughter whom loves when mommy makes her toes pretty. I use very light colors sometimes even clear polish on her. I don't think there is anything wrong with painting toe nails. It's fun and a treat! Once I paint her toes I let them grow out and she usually won't ask for it again till months later. She also has her own glosses that she plays with. I buy her kid ones here and there. I think it's cute that she wants to be like mommy. I see it this way she is a little girlie girl why should I take that away from her. She is not going over board wanting dark color or being obssesed over it either. When I was a kid my mom was the same way with me. I used to have friends that had all kinds of minor things banned and they would just do it behind their parents backs. One of my friends that used to always have everything banned ended up pregnant in high school! I'm not saying that it was beacuse of the nail polish but kids tend to not be close to their parents if all they ever hear is no. So with all that said I wish you good luck with whatever decision you make. You are the parent and you need to feel comfortable with whatever decision it is that you make.

I think you should go with your gut on this one and you'll make the right decision for your family and your daughter. It is great that there are safer options out there, but the bottom line for me is that there are certain things that come with age, rites of passage, etc. I'm hesitant to rush them. I didn't get to have my nails painted until I was much older (high school) and it certainly didn't make me feel deprived. I got to play with lipstick as a kid, but didn't get to wear it in public until high school. Why not leave some things as special and part of becoming a teenager?

Stores like Whole Foods (and I am sure you can find online) have non toxic nail polish & remover. I buy a light shade and let my girls have their nails polished on special occasions. They love it.

Whole Foods has nail polish without some of the harmful chemicals. Your her Mom, you make those decisions. Putting nail polish on with your Mom is a bonding experience that at some point she will do.

I tend to agree with the don't paint the nails of a three year old, and wouldn't do it myself. But, the other grandmother of my two granddaughters does paint their finger and toe nails whenever they go to spend a day at her house.. which isn't usually more often than about once every two to three months. I notice that's a nice special bonding thing she has with them, and I don't think it's harming them. I don't know what kind of polish she uses, but it's been several months since they last got it, and they are still showing off what's left of it, which is surprisingly quite a bit.

If your question has to do with whether you as her mom should polish her nails, I'd say go with what you're comfortable doing. If it's because someone else wants to do it, I'd say make the judgement by who the person is, why they want to do it, and maybe ask them to be sure it's a kid-safe non-toxic polish that is used.

If you think painting your daughters' nails sends the wrong message you want her to be getting, then as her mommy you should be confident in your decision to not paint her nails.

That said, my daughter will be 5 on November 1st and I started painting her toenails about a year ago. We do it once in a while, and it's only her toes. It has turned into a special mommy and daughter bonding time that is filled with giggles and something that Daddy and Bubba (big brother) don't get to do. She has my undivided attention and loves to look at her toes when they are painted.

I love to give myself pedicures at home(when I have the time and energy!) and she sees me doing that and wants to play with Mommy. Not because her friends are doing it, or because she's watching t.v. and sees big girls doing it, but because Mommy does it and she wants to be like Mommy. Mimicry is a natural devlopmental stage for children. You can always make it a fun time just for you and your daughter at home, but not out in public. It's your home, your rules, and your daugther. At 2, she's probably not looking at other 2 year olds and wanting to be just like them. At this stage, she probably just thinks it looks pretty on toes!

Check Whole Foods for non-toxic polish. I never thought to look at Trader Joe's, but now that I am thinking of it, I will try there in the future!

My daughters are 18 and 23. I painted their toenails when they were infants, but not fingernails. I did not paint their toenails when they were at the age to put toes in mouth. It looks adorable! My second daughter was bald for almost 3 yrs so it femmed her up some (people thought she was a boy sometimes). I think as long as pink is used you don't have to worry about the awful PROSTITOT look.

I polish the toes of my 18-month old all of the time. The doctor told me the polish is fine if it stays on the nails, but let the polish wear off do not use remover.


worse than sending the wrong message , in fact, nail polish is quite toxic as much of it has Formaldehyde in it....(you know the stuff they use to embalm dead people) so you may want to reconsider your thoughts on it for that reason alone.. there is a reason they tell women (esp pregnant women) NOT to use it.... I would tell your daughter straight up.. it's toxic...in the same way you probably tell her to not touch other things..

My 3-year old loves to have her toes painted! It is a special treat for her when I paint her toes. We clean and trim the nails and even lotion her feet unless she is antsy. I use Disney Princess nail polish, which has a strong smell but wears off pretty easily and is the palest of pastel colors so that it is almost unnoticeable. She usually wears the polish off her toenails within a week and won't think about having them painted again for a good 6-8 weeks or more unless I happen to have mine done.

I imagine there are non-toxic or less toxic polish brands out there and I know that Avon makes some polish stickers, but it would probably be a pain to trim them down to fit her toes.

When my duaghter sees me using makeup (I don't use it daily), I always tell her she is beautiful without it. However, if it is going to turn into a full out battle, I will pretend to put some blush on and let her use a cherry SPF 30 chapstick that we bought her this summer. My daughter does LOVE to use fragrant lotions and sunscreen and will use a whole bottle in a couple of weeks if I don't keep an eye on her. LOL!

I think all of that is just their attempt to "mimic" and be like mommy. Because I am more of a "natural" girl...only using makeup on occasion and not super foo foo myself, she has not been super focused on nail polish and makeup.

Ultimately, you will have to make this decision, but if you gradually allow her to use some products rather than make them completely off limits, she probably will not end up a "Tammy Fay Baker". LOL! Maybe buy her some special lotions, ponytail holders or chapstick of her own...something that you approve of that will allow her to be like mommy if you don't want to go for the nail polish yet. Make a big deal out of it and maybe she will forget about the nail polish. Really downplay your use of products and don't let her watch you doing makeup if you want to keep her from it. Good luck!

My daughter is 5 and loves to paint her fingers and toes, but my rule is she can only do it and wear it at home. If we are going out of the house it has to come off. After I use the remover I wash her hands really good. I see other little girls with it outside the house and she asks why she can't wear hers and i just tell her every mommy has their own rules and mine are no polish outside the house. I guess I am a bit old fashioned in some ways, my father NEVER let e wear it in or out of the house til I was like a senior in high school. ANd as for me, when I take her out in public I want to keep her looking like a "little" girl as long as I can because they grow up so fast. (The same goes for make-up, only used for play, inside the walls of my own home!!)

I think your feelings are completely right on. Girls are pressured to fit a certain mold from much too early an age, and many, themselves, also think it's cool to look grown up as soon as posssible. (I wanted to wear mascara at age ten. My mom made a deal with me, she let me get a perm -which I also wanted-, as long as I gave up my make-up aspirations. Which worked for about two more years.) I think it's something that should be negotiated. If a little girl wants make-up she can probably be talked out of it with something more appropriate.

There are polishes out there that are non-toxic and wash off with soap and water, just for play. So that takes care of the chemical issue. But, if the real issue is not wanting polish because you feel it sends the wrong message to the child, then that is enough of a reason for you not to permit it. But, lots of girls go through a "girly" stage, including my 5-year-old niece who loves the non-toxic polish, even though her mom never wears polish.

toe nail polish is not a big deal, I think. I used to paint the little girls toes I baby sat years ago and they loved it- I think it can be fun, make up is another thing all together. you can find less chemical filled nail polishes at health food stores in the beauty aisle, so it can be healthy and fun

There are kiddie brands out there that don't seem to be as bad, they don't smell like the adult ones do and wear off fairly quickly... (no remover) there's actually a hello kitty one that seems to wash off the next time they wash their hands.
I know it's an issue, but is it worth a war? They just want to be our little princesses... I never do my nails, but my 4 1/2 year old is always asking for it... and we've turned it into a special time when we do it once in a while (maybe once or twice a month). Good luck!

Required Fields

Our records show that we already have a Mamapedia or Mamasource account created for you under the email address you entered.

Please enter your Mamapedia or Mamasource password to continue signing in.

Required Fields

, you’re almost done...

Since this is the first time you are logging in to Mamapedia with Facebook Connect, please provide the following information so you can participate in the Mamapedia community.

As a member, you’ll receive optional email newsletters and community updates sent to you from Mamapedia, and your email address will never be shared with third parties.

By clicking "Continue to Mamapedia", I agree to the Mamapedia Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.