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I don’t know about you, but painted nails always makes me feel better. I’ve gone through a multitude of nail trends, from acrylics and Shellac to wearing a rainbow of colours and nail art designs. When I was younger, it didn’t cross my mind that nail polish contained chemicals, even though I have always been health-aware. The idea that nail polish was potentially toxic, both to me (and to the environment when discarded), was something I really wasn’t aware of. But now it’s common knowledge that conventional nail polishes contain a number of chemicals that no one should be inhaling or applying to their nails, or even worse, on children. I always wondered why the nail technicians wore masks (mainly, it’s acrylic and acetone that are known to be toxic if inhaled regularly,) and now I realise why! The New York Times recently ran a piece about the growing concern over health risks in the nail polish industry. I think there’s still confusion about how to differentiate a non-toxic polish from a toxic one. And what’s the difference between 3-free or 8-free?
So here’s my go-to guide on buying a safe, non-toxic nail polish.
The three main offenders, often referred to as the ‘Big Three’, are Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP), Formaldehyde and Toluene.
Nail polishes that don’t contain these ingredients are known as 3-free – and these were the first non-toxic nail polishes on the market. Since then, there are also 5-free polishes which are free from formaldehyde resin, which although it is not carcinogenic, it is a known allergen; and also that potentially does contain residual traces of formaldehyde) and camphor, which isn’t toxic but can be an irritant. Following on from 5-free, there are 8-free which 8-Free, toluene, dibutyl phthalate (DBP), formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, camphor, triphenyl phosphate (TPHP), ethyl tosylamid, and xylene. And most recently, 12-free polishes which are also free from benzophenone -1 and -3, a toxic chemical that prevents colour fading.
Many brands claim to be safe and natural, but are they? I’ve spent time trawling the shelves to find 5 brands that are not only non-toxic, they work!
Founded in 2005, Butter London was one of the first free-from nail polish brands on the market. Butter’s vegan-friendly, 8-free formula delivers an ultra-shiny finish, along with even coverage in a single coat. It literally glides onto your nails like butter! And, last but not least, the colour lasts for up to 7 days with minimal chipping and fading. All Butter’s nail products are formulated without formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, DBP, toluene, camphor, ethyl tosylamide, Xylene and TPHP. If you’re looking for non-toxic makeup products, check out Butter’s make-up range which contains no parabens, mineral oil, petrolatum, sodium lauryl sulfate, phthalates, BHA and triclosan.
My colour pick: Sheer Jelly
Purchase here £12
A firm favourite with models, make-up artists and manicurists, French nail brand, Kure Bazaar have a range of over 70 super-chic shades in a variety of textures – matt, glitter or shimmer. Their 90 % natural, 10-free formulas are made from wheat, cotton, wood pulp, potatoes and corn and the formulas are also free from benzophenone -1 and -3.
My colour pick: Coquette
Stockist: Content Wellbeing £15.
If you’re looking for a brand that is vegan-friendly, high-quality and non-toxic, Yapa ticks all the boxes. Yapa polishes are also free from lead, which can accumulate in the body if used regularly, leading to health problems and lead-poisoning. They also contain no hydroquinone monomethyl ether (MEHQ/HQ) which can cause skin and eye irritation. I’m particularly drawn to Yapa’s metallic shades which are definitely attention-grabbing! The brush makes application easy and the varnish glides on smoothly. I found that the polish lasted for well over a week before chipping or flaking so it’s definitely top of my list when it comes to staying power.
My colour pick: Cheryl
Stockist: Yapa Beauty $18.
Founded in 1986 by Zoya and Michael Reyzis, Zoya is now a ‘BIG10 Free’ brand and their polishes contain no toluene, camphor, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, parabens, TPHP, xylene, ethyl tosylamide, dibutyl phthalate or lead. The polishes are also cruelty-free, vegan-friendly and ‘breathable’, as they have been formulated to allow molecules of water and oxygen to pass through the polish to the nail bed maintain healthy nails.
My colour pick: Mercedes
Purchase here £9.95
Having scooped numerous awards from Stylist Magazine, Beauty Shortlist and Natural Health, Nailberry has become one of the most successful non-toxic nail polish ranges. 12 Free, vegan-friendly, cruelty-free and Halal certified, the range is the brainchild of manicurist Sonia Hully. She launched Nailberry in 2012 to address the nail-needs of her clients at her Nail Bar in Chelsea, London. Formulated to encourage healthier, happier nails, Nailberry’s L’Oxygéné technology helps to prevent damage and dehydration.
My colour pick: Cocoa Cabana
Purchase here £14.50
I’m really impressed with these 5 nail brands. Some brands that I tried didn’t make the cut as they didn’t perform well in my trial. Of all the brands, my absolute favourite is Yapa. From the fabulous colour choice (on-trend shades right through to everyday neutrals, means that there’s something for everyone) to the durability which is second to none, this range out-performed all the ranges that I road-tested by a long way, especially on staying-power. I also love Butter London, especially the packaging – and their amazing range of reds. The varnish goes on really smoothly and evenly too. Nailberry is super-stylish and I love their shade names. Who could resist Dial M for Maroon, Viva La Vegan, Glamazon or Hippie Chic? And their colours are a must-have for any would-be style queen! Zoya and Kure Bazaar are both perfect if you’re looking for gorgeous, on-trend shades, although their formulations are not as long-lasting as the others that I tried.
Have you been trying to move over to more natural non toxic products? If you have you may enjoy this post!