This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure for more info.
Non-toxic nail polish wasn’t something I gave much thought to until recently. 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. When I was younger, it didn’t even cross my mind that nail polish contained chemicals, even though I have always been health-aware.
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 and now I realise why! (Mainly, it’s acrylic and acetone that are known to be toxic if inhaled regularly.)
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 5-free nail polish?
So here’s my go-to guide on buying safe, non-toxic nail polish.
Which ingredients should we avoid?
The three main offenders often referred to as the ‘Big Three’, are Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP), Formaldehyde and Toluene.
- Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP) – This is used in polishes to minimise chipping. It has been linked to organ and reproductive problems.
- Formaldehyde – A known carcinogen, this colourless and highly flammable gas is used to harden the polish as it dries.
- Toluene – This chemical can cause dizziness and problems of the nervous system. It’s used in nail varnish to evenly distribute the colour.
What is 5 Free Nail Polish?
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 nail polish, there are 8-free which 8-Free, toluene, dibutyl phthalate (DBP), formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, camphor, triphenyl phosphate (TPHP), ethyl tosylamide, and xylene.
And most recently, 12-free polishes which are also free from benzophenone -1 and -3, a toxic chemical that prevents colour fading.
5 of the safest, non-toxic nail polishes I’ve found
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, but they also 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
A firm favourite with models, make-up artists and manicurists, French nail brand, Kure Bazaar have a range of over 70 super-chic shades. All 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. As well as the formulas being free from benzophenone -1 and -3.
My colour pick: Coquette
Stockist: Content Wellbeing
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. Lead is known to be bad for our health and can even cause lead-poisoning.
Yapa also contains 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
Founded in 1986 by Zoya and Michael Reyzis, Zoya is now a ‘BIG10 Free’ brand. On top of that, 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
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
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 and the durability which is second to none. On-trend shades right through to everyday neutrals mean that there’s something for everyone. 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. Importantly, 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 tried any 5 free nail polish brands?
If you have you may enjoy this post on cult beauty favourite Egyptian Magic.
|Natalie Shirlaw is passionate about healthy living and writes posts about wellbeing. If you enjoyed this article, be sure to pin it or share it!|