Given the smell the emits from nail polish bottles it probably comes as no surprise that they can often be jam-packed with chemicals that are bad for both the environment and your health. The ingredients list can also be confusing and full of long, scientific names, so knowing what to look out for can get tricky. Today I’m here to help with all that, with a how-to guide on choosing non-toxic nail polish!
In recent years as more has become known about the risk of these chemicals in nail polish many brands have taken steps to remove what’s known as the ‘big three’ chemicals, advertising themselves as ‘3-free’. Not all brands have done this however, so the chemicals in question to look out for are:
Formaldehyde is added to nail polish as a hardener, however it’s a known carcinogen, particularly nasal and lung cancers. It’s definitely not something you want to expose yourself to if you can avoid it.
Dibutyl Phthalate, or DBP
This chemical is added to make the nail polish more flexible and stop it becoming brittle and prone to chipping. It has been linked to reproductive issues in women as well as liver and kidney problems in children if they suck or chew on products which contain DBP (including chewing on painted nails). It has been banned from use in Europe which is enough for me!
Toluene is included in nail polish to help keep it smooth however it is classified as a skin irritant and can cause dermatitis as well as irritation of your eyes, nose, throat and respiratory system. It has also been known to cause headaches, dizziness and nausea. Toluene is another chemical that is banned in the EU.
Some brands have gone another step further and made themselves ‘5-free’, by removing two further chemicals:
Formaldehyde resin isn’t seen as quite so bad as formaldehyde, however it is still seen as a known allergen and irritant, so why not avoid it if you can!
Studies have shown that inhaling camphor can cause skin irritation, headaches, nausea and dizziness, so avoiding it where you can is definitely a great idea. It’s also generally used as a plasticiser and rust repellant which aren’t really issues we have to contend with when it comes to our nails, so it’s something we can go without in our nail polish!
With regards to nail polish removers, the jury seems to be out on whether or not acetone should be avoided or not – I personally find it drying for my skin so I choose to use acetone-free removers. Whatever you use, make sure you paint and remove your nail polish in a well ventilated room to reduce the number of fumes you’ll inhale in the process.
Brands to Consider
As I mentioned earlier, thankfully there are brands out there that have removed at least three, if not all five of these chemicals from their nail polish, and they’re generally not too hard to track down! This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means (I’m no beauty blogger for many reasons!) so if I’ve missed any that you know of please let me know in the comments!
Butter London, CND, Deborah Lippmann, Essie, OPI
Zoya, Scotch Naturals, Chanel, RGB, Kester Black, Adorn Cosmetics