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Nontoxic Nail Polish + Why You Should Be Wearing It

Nontoxic Nail Polish + Why You Should Be Wearing It

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First of all, I’ve had this post in draft mode since early January! I wanted to get it posted asap, but it’s a ton of information and I wanted to do it justice. Second of all, nail polish is something I love, so I’m putting extra time into it. I hope you enjoy it!

I’ve had my nails painted basically since I was allowed to. My mom has these signature red nails that i was always envious of. She could basically open a spa if she had the license, because she can do your hair, makeup, nails and even throw in a massage! Needless to say, she always painted my nails for me whether it was a deep red or a french manicure. Because of that, my hands feel naked if I don’t have them painted! My dad would joke (kind of) that we had hundreds of dollars in our nail polish collections - it was kind of crazy. I mean how many shades of red do you really need ;) I’ll I’ve got to say is that my hardest decision at the nail salon is usually choosing between two colors that are virtually the same! I mean why is that?! I digress…

I know clean beauty products are starting to gain steam, as they should! But what are products you probably don’t consider??  I know laundry detergent is often the last thing on peoples minds (I use seventh generation and Branch Basics), but it’s literally touching your skin all day long, whether it is your clothes or your sheets; but, what about nail polish?! Unlike beauty products that you wash off of your  skin daily, nail polish is often left on for days, if not weeks!

Piko Tunic Dress ( similar here, here and here) | Cardigan | Vince Darlington Flats | Ilia Color Block Lipstick: Rosette

So why should you care about non-toxic nail polish? Besides the fact that most nail polish on the market contains toxic chemicals like formaldehyde, your nails are porous, meaning that the chemicals can be absorbed into your body. Don’t forget about the fumes either! Inhaling these aren’t great either. Additionally, there have been some studies that found even after the polish dries, the chemicals can come off - ie eating things with your hands?? Maybe don’t lick the Cheeto dust off your fingers next time, depending on your polish. Honestly this makes sense considering it can be absorbed throughout the entire wear…

What should you look for? A lot of brands will advertise 3-Free, 5-Free, etc, but it is important to research the polish entirely to make sure they aren’t just swapping out a bad ingredient for a lesser known bad ingredient! Here’s a breakdown of what you’ll see in the market place regarding nontoxic nail polish:


  1. Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP) - used in “chip free” polishes. Linked to reproductive issues.

  2. Toluene - made from petroleum and used to make the polish smooth. Can cause a plethora of issues like anemia, liver/kidney damage and can harm a growing fetus.

  3. Formaldehyde - makes the polish harden and keeps it fresh. You know it as what they embalm dead bodies with. This is a known carcinogen.


  1. Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP)

  2. Toluene

  3. Formaldehyde

  4. Formaldehyde Resin - Is derived from Formaldahyde and is less toxic, but is still a carcinogen. It provides the same hardening/flexible properties as formaldahyde.

  5. Camphor - A neurotoxin that cause seizures if ingested (yes that means biting your nails) and liver damage when absorbed into the skin.


  1. Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP)

  2. Toluene

  3. Formaldehyde

  4. Formaldehyde Resin

  5. Camphor

  6. Triphenyl Phosphate (TPHP) - Another chemical that helps with the flexibility/no-chip nature of polish. It’s a known endocrine disruptor, so it messes with your hormones, reproductive system, and even your metabolism.

  7. Xylene - It harms your body by ingestion and inhalation and often affects your skin and respiratory tract. It also can affect your central nervous system if the levels reach that of poisoning you. (think headaches, dizziness, tremor, coma, etc)

9 FREE**

  1. Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP)

  2. Toluene

  3. Formaldehyde

  4. Formaldehyde Resin

  5. Camphor

  6. Triphenyl Phosphate (TPHP)

  7. Xylene

  8. Ethyl Tosylamide - Another ingredient that acts as a plasticizer and makes your polish not chip. It’s made of Toluenesulfonamide and Formaldehyde Resin, so you can experience similar side effects as you would to those two ingredients. The perfect example of polish just swapping out one bad ingredient for another.

  9. Parabens - Used as a preservative in polishes, these are known endocrine disruptors that can and will mess up your hormones and reproductive system.

**I couldn’t find a straight answer on what 9 free means across the board. For the most part it’s the same except that I found some saying acetone and lead were ingredients left out of 9 Free. The majority that I found just sited Ethyl Tosylamide and Parabens in general though!

10 FREE + Beyond - There are some brands that tout 10+ Free which isn’t wrong necessarily, but do your research. Sometimes they can say that the polish is free of something, when it was never really a polish ingredient in the first place. When they are 10+ Free you can usually count on them to be free from the main issues listed above, in addition phthalates, fragrance, tert-butyl hydroperoxide and animal bi-products.

Here are some nail polishes I’ve researched in order from least toxic to most toxic - I don’t go below 5 Free so even choosing those are better than nothing! When explaining clean beauty to friends a lot of them are like well a 5/10 isn’t bad (pertaining to the EWG rating not “5 Free”) and yeah it’s not bad if it is better than what you were doing, BUT all of the toxins you come into reach with each day add up and if everything is a 5 or lower, that’s not great… without further adieu, here are the polishes:

  • Aila Cosmetics - 15 Free, V, CF, around $14

  • Sophi - 10+ Free CF, V, around $10 (Side note, they also have the brand Piggy Paint, which is great if you have kids!)

  • Sundays - 10 free, V, CF, around $18

  • Kure Bazaar - 10 free, V, CF, around $18

  • Kester Black - 10 free, V, CF, around $20

  • 100% Pure - 10 Free, V, CF, around $12

  • Spela - 9 free, CF, V, around $18

  • Lakur Londontown - 9 free, CF, V, around $16

  • TenOverTen - 8 Free, CF, V, around $12 (ps they have the cutest illustrations about nontoxic nail polish in everyday speak)

  • Butter London - 8 Free, CF, V, around 18

  • Ella + Mila - 7 free, CF, V, around $10

  • Cote -  7 free, CF, V, around $18

  • LVX - 7 free, CF, V, around $16

  • NCLA - 7 free, CF, V, around $16

  • Dazzle Dry - 7 free, CF, V, around $18

  • Handmade Beauty - 7 free, CF, V, around $16

  • RMS Beauty - 6 Free, CF, V, around $15

  • Zoya -  5 Free (I wanted to include this one because it is one of the most popular ones, especially in salons. I don’t blame them, as there are a lot of color options; however, they say they are Vegan, but aren’t certified V. They also say they are Cruelty-Free, but only where it’s not required by law, which we know means they aren’t 100% CF… mainly by selling in China or places that reqire animal testing by law.), around $10

  • CND - 5 Free (NOT cruelty free. I just wanted to include it here because it is featured at a lot of shopa.), around $10.50

  • Julep - 5 free, CF, V (nail polish is 100% vegan, other products aren’t), around $14

I don’t really have a * favorite * to recommend to you… for the most part, nail polish is nail polish to me! I tried Julep when they first came out and really liked it, but I think personally I’m going to try to stay at least 7 free? Haven’t quite figured out my stance yet! I also have Lakur nail polishes and really like them as well. I want to try Sundays, just because I love their branding. Same goes for Spela. I’ve also heard really great things about TenOverTen. If you’re looking for something to find locally, TenOverTen, Ella + Mila and Sophi are all at Target!

As far as base cote and top coat goes, most of the brands listed above have those! Currently I’m using Lakur’s base and top coat. Works like a charm! I will say I used Seche Vite for almost 2 decades and not sure anything will come close to that, but hey… in the name of health!!

But what about those of us who like gel polish or dipping powder? Side note: one of my top 10 blog posts for 2018 was What's the Difference in Manicures: Dipping Powder Nails vs Gel Nails! I know, I know. I myself typically just get normal polish on my toes, but dipping powder on my fingers.


  • Revel: 10+ Free CF, V, around $25 for one 2 oz jar (this is the only dipping powder I have found that is transparent about what is in their product. What I can’t really find info on are the ingredients in their activators, etc; however, they list a bunch of info on nail safety and state that they make all their dip powders in house, etc)

  • Kiara Sky: Unclear on “free” but I think it ranks well? All the ingredients rate 3 or lower on EWG, CF, V , around $11 for one 1 oz jar

    — I did find KS ingredients finally and here they are: Polyethylmethacrylate, Acrylates Copolymer, Benzoyl Peroxide and PEG-12 Dimethicone. May also contain pigments or glitters


  • NCLA - 7 free, CF, V, around $21 (yes I mentioned them in the normal polish section - they have gel too!)

  • BioSeaweed Gel - 5 free, CF, V, around $18

Andddd how do you get rid of the polish? Here are some nontoxic nail polish removers:

Some things to think about… our lovely FDA does not regulate the use of “X free” language, nor do the regulate the formula. It’s kind of hard to find nail polish ingredients, especially in the new options like gel and dip. Acrylics in general are not a good idea. Dipping powder can be ok depending on the powder (which is generally safe and odor free), but where they might get you is the polish products used with it. My point? Do your own research and find out what is best for you! I’ll continue using normal polish on my toes. If I’m doing gel, you can bet I’m going to use on of the nontoxic ones I list here AND put sunscreen on my hands before heading to the salon or at least before placing my hands in the UV ray box. As a blogger, I take a lot of pictures/my nails need to be photo ready, so dipping powder is usually what I go with for the sheer reason of bang for my buck. I usually make it last 3 weeks and could even go longer if I needed to, pending no breaks and not an absurd nail length. At the end of the day, if you can just make more informed decisions about something as simple as nails, you are taking a step in the right direction.

Something to not forget about are salons…sure you might bring in your own nontoxic polish, but consider where you are going. As much as I love the scent of a traditional nail salon, I know it’s not good for me. Here are some places that have healthier options for ya!!


  • Cote (LA, NYC)

  • Milk and Honey (Austin, Houston, Fort Worth)

  • Mini Luxe (Dallas, Boston, LA, Cranston)

  • Paloma (Houston)

  • Pink Pedi (Dallas)

  • Sunday Studios (NYC)

  • TenOverTen (Austin, LA, NYC)

  • Verbena Parlor (Dallas)

  • Vivian’s Boutique Spa (Dallas)

Okay you guys. That was a lot. What did you think? Did you learn something? This has taken me MONTHS to do, but I think it’s really important. Do you have a nontoxic favorite that I missed? I love learning, so tell me!! I write posts like this because it is something I’m interested in and couldn’t find much concise info on it. I figured there were more of you out there who wondered too, so I hope it helped!! Here’s to pretty, nontoxic nails, y’all! XOXO

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