Guide To Non- Toxic Nail Polish


You live by Michael Pollan’s words: “Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food”. And even though he never said anything about nail polish, you still feel a little hypocritical traipsing about town with a Barbie pink manicure. Let’s settle this once and for all:

Can bright nail polish fit seamlessly into an organic-lovin’, toxin-hating girl’s life?

Well, yes… if you choose the right brands.

Up until recently, nearly all nail polish formulas contained the “big 3” toxic ingredients – and many still do:

  • Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP): The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit organization that rates the safety of many personal care products and ingredients, rates DBP a lousy 10/10 for toxicity. It’s been linked to infertility, hormone changes, and anatomical changes in the reproductive system development in baby boys.
  • Toluene: Also receives a terrible 10/10 from the EWG. It is described as a “potent neurotoxicant that acts as an irritant, impairs breathing, and causes nausea.” Exposure to toluene vapors during pregnancy may cause developmental damage in the fetus, and it has been linked to blood cancer.
  • Formaldehyde: Another 10/10 toxicity rating. The International Agency for Research on Carcinogens has classified formaldehyde as “carcinogenic to humans,” and the U.S. National Toxicology Program has classified it as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.” Formaldehyde gas is also linked to nasal cancer.

In 2006, many companies began removing these three chemicals from their formulas. Popular “3 Free” companies include Wet n’ Wild, MAC, Essie and most OPI colors. Some companies have gone ahead and declared themselves “5 Free” by also removing (or never including) the also toxic formaldehyde resin and camphor from their nail polishes.

The brands below are all verified “5 Free” and have received rave reviews across the Internet:

Chanel: This high-fashion company has gone 5 Free. You won’t find any bubblegum or pastel hues in this line, which features classic colors. $27.
Priti:  A wide assortment of colors, with particularly lovely ethereal tones. Featured in numerous designer fashion shows. $13.
Mineral Fusion: Boasts 61 colors and an abundance of glittery polishes. Also sold at Whole Foods. $8.
RGB: Beautiful, rich colors, with a reputation for staying put. $18.
Vapour: Great staying powder, offered in 11 colors. Vapour also has “3 Free” nail color, so make sure you check the labels for “5 Free.” $16.
Zoya: Recently voted “longest wearing” by Women’s Health Magazine. This is my personal favorite, both for the durability, gorgeous color selection (over 300 colors to choose from!), and reasonable price. Also available at Whole Foods. $9.

For Kids and Mommies-To-Be:

The following are non-toxic and water-based. These may not hold up quite as well as the above conventional formulas, but if non-toxic is your first priority (or you’re giving a pedicure to someone who occasionally puts their toes in their mouth), try these out.
Acquarella: Water-based, completely non-toxic, and available in fun, bright colors. $16.
Scotch Naturals and Hopscotch Both brands are “beyond 5 free” as they’ve removed the ethyl acetate, butyl acetate, nitrocellulose, acetone, alcohols and heavy metals. Scotch comes in 43 jaw-dropping colors. $18. Hopscotch features 19 vibrant colors kids will love. $8.
Piggy Paint: Kid-friendly paint that’s also free of BPA, ethyl acetate and acetone. Nearly odorless and comes in an array of bright, cheerful colors. Also carried at Walmart. $8.

Don’t see your favorite brand above? See how it measures up in the Environmental Working Group’s online database here. Whether you have your nails done at a salon or do them yourself, always use nail polish in a well-ventilated area: in a large space, near an open window or door. Opt for organic or “green” nail salons and feel free to supply your own nail polish.

This article was written by a dear friend, assistant and natural beauty lover, Coco Noel.

About the Author:
Coco Noel is studying holistic nutrition in Berkeley, California. Her passion is exploring how nutrition relates to anti-aging, beauty and the brain. She likes hot weather, adventures in cooking, other people’s dogs, and everything pink. Check out her website at and follow her on Facebook at CocoKnowsItAll.

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