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Nail Polish Safety | Everything You Need to Know about Harmful Ingredients

Clean beauty is becoming more important among beauty lovers, and it’s easier than ever to find out what’s in our favorite products and make informed decisions. We have access to ingredient lists and tons of other information online, plus brands are being more transparent now that they see how important this is to consumers. We’ve discussed clean beauty on NBGA before, but now we’re doing a deep dive into nail polish safety.

It’s kind of a no-brainer that nail products can contain harsh chemicals, the smell alone will tell you that. This isn’t meant to scare anyone, most nail polishes and removers are generally safe, but if you’re curious about the ingredients and want to try non-toxic products instead, keep reading.

Most nail polish brands contain a number of toxic ingredients because they serve a purpose, like helping the polish dry quickly or to ensure a smooth finish. The problem is that these ingredients can be extremely unsafe, especially when used too often or in an enclosed space. A great source of information on toxic ingredients in cosmetics is The Environmental Working Group. Their site is great if you want to learn about dangerous ingredients, the effect they could have on our bodies, as well as updates on laws and legislation regarding the use of said ingredients.

It’s a little worrisome to find out that some of the most popular nail polish brands contain harmful ingredients like formaldehyde, toluene, dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde resin, and camphor. Formaldehyde, for example, is used in nail polish as a hardening and strengthening agent, but when used in large doses can lead to cancer and other health concerns. Toluene ensures a smooth polish application and is found in many nail polish removers as well, but its fumes are tied to a number of issues like neurological damage and hearing loss. Basically, if you are going to use a polish or remover with these ingredients, only use them occasionally and in a well-ventilated area.

Some brands have decided to cut out a number of toxic ingredients from their products, and label them accordingly. For example, a polish without formaldehyde, toluene, or dibutyl phthalate is known as “3-free”, but if you are truly concerned you could shoot for an 8-free polish, which is free of formaldehyde, toluene, dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde resin, camphor, xylene, ethyl tosylamide, and triphenyl phosphate. It’s a little overwhelming, so we’ve gathered some of the best nail products that contain little to no toxic ingredients for you to check out.

Zoya Nail Polish – $10.00

Zoya is one of the most accessible natural polish brands, and they have 400 colors to choose from! Zoya is 10-free, meaning they’re free of the big 9 plus lead, so if you’re really concerned about toxic ingredients, this is a great choice.

Smith and Cult is a trendy brand with great colors, like this award-winning Micro Rose Glitter. This one is 8-free, as well as vegan and gluten-free, and probably also guilt-free.

Another cool brand to check out is Floss Gloss, especially if you’re a fan of vibrant neons and shimmery shades. Their polishes are cruelty-free, vegan, and 7-free, and look damn good on long acrylic nails.

If 3-free or even 7-free polishes don’t seem safe enough for you, there’s Acquarella, the unconventional water-based polish brand. Their polish is completely non-toxic but wears just like a regular polish. Even their plant-based remover is different from the normal ones, so you’ll have to use these together to adequately remove the polish.

Speaking of remover, most conventional nail polish removers contain acetone and other solvents that can be harmful to inhale. If you want a natural remover for your natural polish, try Ella and Mila’s Soy Polish remover, which nourishes your nails as it safely removes the color. It may take a little longer than regular polish remover, but it’s worth it if you want to avoid toxic ingredients.

The best thing about going natural with your nail products is that you’re not really giving anything up. You’ll still have tons of colors to choose from, including shimmers and glitters, and you won’t need to worry about inhaling toxic ingredients. Sounds like a win/win to me.

by Clare Saxton
cover photo by @grieretelosbo via @ladyfancynails