If you are reading this you’re probably a health-conscious consumer doing your research. Or maybe you’re swayed by the big marketing campaigns and shiny new colors of the mainstream nail polish brands and wondering why you would ever switch to something safer. Either way, in a moment, I’ll share what we found when we did a search for my fashion-loving daughter.
Sadly most of those bright little nail polish bottles lined up on your bathroom counter have a quiet little problem: they’re filled to the brim with chemicals according to the EPA’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC).
Some nail polish brands have nearly 30 chemicals, all combined, and are not regulated by the FDA. And because they can be sold doesn’t mean they are safe. The chemicals are believed to leach through the cuticles or possibly another ingredient in the nail polish makes the nail itself more permeable. Certainly fumes are inhaled.
What Is Triphenyl Phosphate (TPHP)?
TPHP hardens plastic, so it makes the nail polish harden and resist chipping. It’s also used as a fire retardant in furniture. It is a known endocrine disruptor, disturbing the normal function of your or a developing baby’s hormones. Wondering if your favorite nail polish contains TPHP? Half of all of the 1,500 polishes in the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database contain the chemical, including:
- Wet N Wild
- Nuance by Salma Hayek
- Beauty Without Cruelty
- Sallie Hansen
- butter LONDON (they say they don’t, but EWG found it in their polish on retail shelves, so exercise caution) A quick check of the ingredients shows problematic ingredients such as aluminum hydroxide, propane, and synthetic red dyes instead of natural mineral colors.
Nail Polish Toxic Trio
More well-known is the “toxic trio” in nail polish. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen used to harden polish, plus the known teratogens (think major birth defects) toluene to evenly coat with color and dibutyl phthalate, a plasticizer that adds flexibility and shine. These 3 chemicals are hard for a nail polish company to resist.
Phthalates (Dibutyl phthalate in polish) have recently been shown to affect a woman’s egg quality and increase risk of miscarriage, decreasing the odds among women undergoing IVF to have normal implantation and live birth. Dibutyl phthalate can cause adverse effects on the male and female reproductive systems, as well as developmental problems in infants and children. Tests reveal that products from brands including Sation, Dare to Wear, Chelsea, New York Summer, Paris Spicy, Sunshine, Cacie and Golden Girl actually contain high levels of the chemical.
Toluene is a neurological and a developmental toxicant that can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, loss of short-term memory, and is proven to be toxic to a developing fetus.
No nail polish is completely natural, but the most important thing if you plan to wear it anyway is to look for brands that are ‘3-free,‘ meaning they don’t use toluene, dibutyl phthalate (DBP) or formaldehyde. Some brands also describe themselves as ‘5-free‘ when they don’t include formaldehyde resin or camphor.
I’m sure many of these brands still use other chemicals. Please double-check the ingredients for others that cause you concern, especially if pregnant or planning to be.
Less Toxic Nail Polish Brands
If you don’t see something listed here, you can go to the awesome EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetic’s Database and check the product out! I can’t list them all, y’all!
1. Zoya. (5-free) Zoya nail polish revolutionized the nail industry when it began making long-lasting, toxin-free polish. Eliminating toluene, camphor, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin and DBP from its polishes, Zoya has quickly become one of the most popular nail polish brands. Check the ingredients as the newer ones do seem to have more chemicals than the ‘Naturals’ line.
2. Pacifica 7-Free Polish is better than ever!
3. Honeybee Gardens. (3 free) The ingredients and colors of Honeybee Gardens nail polish are amazing. This polish uses a special, water-based formula that’s nearly odorless and free of synthetic FD&C colors. With 25 colors, it should be easy to match your personality (but picking only one may not be).
4. PRITI NYC. (3 free) Conceived by Kim D’Amato, who was pregnant and looking for nontoxic polish, PRITI produces more than 130 hues of nail color ($12.50 each) made from organic compounds and without petroleum byproducts or formaldehyde. There are amazing hues such as Fairy’s Petticoat, Crown of Thorns (Turquoise), Cardinal de Richelieu (Red), and Bill Bronze Orchid.
5. LVX. (Latin for ‘light’) is 5-free, vegan, cruelty-free and produced in the U.S. Co-founder Branka Tomic has a love for high fashion that translates into the sleek, high quality hues you’ll find on their website. LVX polishes don’t come cheap, but if you’ve been searching for the perfect combination of luxury and eco-friendly, this is the nail polish to try.
6. Ella + Mila. (5-Free) Not only are they long-lasting, chip-resistant, and quick-drying, all Ella+Mila polishes are also 100% vegan, never tested on animals, and made in the USA.
7. Suncoat. Since 2001, Suncoat has been crafting nail polishes with a water base and no toxins. Rather than replacing known toxins with other chemicals, a common practice among nail polish makers, Suncoat uses water. With mineral pigments and more natural ingredients.
8. Piggy Paint. (5 free) Founder Melanie Hurley was horrified when she saw what the nail polish she was putting on her children’s nails did to a styrofoam plate. She dedicated herself to making a water-based, non-toxic nail polish that has an almost unnoticeable odor. Lots of vibrant colors for kids of any age.
I’m also hearing some good things about “Poofy” but have not looked into their products.
These ingredients can changes so it pays to read the ingredients!
Safer Nail Polish Remover:
Pure Vitality Beauty Natural and Plant based, No acetone rated 4.5 stars
Karma Naturals Nail Polish Remover 100% soy-based acetone-free
Hopefully, the new season’s colors from nail polish brands such as Opi and Orly tempt you no longer. As is so often the case – ‘less is more’!
A truly healthy body is, in the long-run, way more glamorous than a temporary set of pretty nails. It may be blunt, but think of putting a shiny new coat of paint on a beat up car, and you get the picture!
Any others that you know of?
Hazardous Beauty: My 20+ Picks For No/Low Risk Beauty
Note: Look for the words Acrylates Copolymer. I just learned something: AC is actually PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and very toxic. PVC contains dangerous chemical ingredients two of which are dioxin and phthalates. PVC is a known human carcinogen, and in it hide the very things we are warning of.
My advice? Let those little piggies breath! Go natural!