By Heleayner Davies
You’ve swapped your makeup for more natural and eco-friendly options and made the switch to cleaner, greener skincare products. But, what about your nail polish? Well, it turns out that ingredients lurking within your favourite pastel, nude and neon hues can enter your bloodstream and potentially damage your health.
Let’s be honest, when you open a bottle of nail-polish you’re instantly hit with an unmistakably strong odour. So, it’s no wonder that they contain toxic and harmful ingredients. Among them, these can include solvents, polymers and other foul-smelling elements that achieve the glossy and long-lasting finish that we desire.
It goes without saying, consumers must educate themselves about what ingredients lie beneath their cosmetics. Unless they’re labelled otherwise, generic nail polishes contain one or two toxic ingredients including the infamous ‘toxic trio.’
The ingredients to avoid
A common nail polish ingredient is triphenyl phosphate (TPHP), which serves as a plasticiser and renders the nail polish so that is less prone to chipping and flaking. A study conducted by Duke University and The Environmental Working Group, revealed that TPHP is a potential endocrine disruptor and long-term exposure has been found to cause reproductive and development problems.
7 Ingredients To Avoid In Your Skincare
Other common nail-polish ingredients to avoid include:
- Dibutyl phthalate (DBP): The first component of ‘the toxic trio’ DBP is used in plastic production and has been proven to disrupt hormones and cause reproductive abnormalities. Long-term exposure can cause liver and kidney damage, so the EU has now banned the use of DBP in cosmetics (hallelujah).
- Toluene: Another member of ‘the toxic trio.’ Toluene is a solvent that is added to nail polish to keep pigments from separating, creating a smooth, satiny finish. It is a common skin-irritant and can affect the central nervous system, causing weakness and mental confusion. High levels can lead to developmental and reproductive issues. You’ll most likely come across toluene at the gas station as it is used as an additive in gasoline.
- Formaldehyde: The final element of ‘the toxic trio.’ Formaldehyde is used in nail polish as a nail-hardener and in high concentrations it has been shown to cause throat and lung irritations, skin rashes and even cancer. Formaldehyde is used in taxidermy to preserve dead animals and corpses (gross).
- Formaldehyde resin: A by-product of formaldehyde that adds depth and gloss to the nail polish and helps it adhere to the nails. Although not classified as a carcinogen, it is known as a skin-irritant and can trigger dermatitis.
- Parabens: Prevent bacteria, mould and fungi from growing in your cosmetics. They mimic the hormone estrogen and have been associated with breast and skin cancer.
- Silicone (Dimerthicone): Used to speed-up the drying process. It is a common allergen and non-biodegradable. Definitely not one for us eco-warriors.
- Xylene: Used to thin the nail polish and ensure that it doesn’t get lumpy. Xylene also gives nail polish its infamous odour and is a common allergen that can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea and eye and skin-irritation.
- Ethyltosylamide: Increases durability and longevity of nail polish and is used as a plasticiser. It has been banned in Europe from many personal care products (but not all) as it is a sulphur-based antibiotic that can cause mild, or in some cases severe allergic reactions.
- Camphor: Naturally found in the wood of the camphor tree and is used in nail polish for its gloss-giving abilities. According to experts though, this chemical can sometimes trigger severe allergic reactions when applied. If inhaled, it may cause dizziness, headaches and nausea. It can also cause liver disfunction.
- Organic halides (AOX): A group of chemical compounds including bromine, iodine fluorine and chlorine used for their thinning properties. They can cause a number of serious disorders and potentially nerve damage.
The good news? There are now so many natural nail polish options that don’t contain a single one of these! From peachy nudes to cherry reds, take a look at our favourite editor-approved natural nail polish picks for a toxic-free and long-lasting mani.
A carefully curated line of high-quality polishes that are inspired by artists’ palettes and the natural elements. All polishes are completely non-toxic, cruelty-free and this soft, faded petal shade is inspired by Cherry Blossom.
Who said non-toxic had to be boring? Peacci delivers a wide range of 100% vegan, cruelty-free and creative hues that deliver long-lasting results without compromising on the health of the nails. Pink, juicy and as daring as they come, ‘Water Lilly’ is the perfect neon hot-pink polish for Summer.
Passionate about delivering a healthier manicure, Nailberry are proud to formulate 12-free, certified vegan, cruelty-free and halal nail polishes. Their multi-award winning L’Oxygéné collection uses patented technology to deliver breathable, oxygenated and water permeable polishes for exceptional results every time. ‘Happiness’ is the perfect everyday peachy-pink nude that adorns the nails with a delicate and graceful hue. Literal happiness in a bottle.
The first nail polish brand to be certified non-toxic and ‘BIG10 Free,’ Zoya create long-lasting and health-friendly formulations that are cruelty-free, breathable and pregnancy safe. ‘Aggie,’ has got us dreaming of Summer sands. A metallic gold duo-chrome varnish with plastic free holographic micro glitter and mesmerising warm copper tones. This is definitely one for the ‘gram.
Kure Bazaar offers an innovative range of long-lasting polishes that are 10-free, 90% natural and completely non-toxic. Instead, they are based on wood pulp, wheat, cotton, potatoes and corn to preserve the vitality of the nails – who knew?! ‘Love,’ is the perfect true red shade that is quick-drying, ultra-glossy and bound to turn heads.
Italian brand Licia:Florio creates high-quality nail polishes that are free of toxins, vegan, cruelty-free and made in Italy. Lavender is a playful, pastel whimsical shade that is perfect all year round.
10-free, long-lasting, vegan and cruelty-free, Sundays’ nail polishes tick all of the boxes. This turquoise shade is sophisticated, yet bold and playful with an aquamarine undertone. Perfect for brightening up a dull day.
When it comes to removing your mani, it’s important to know that most generic nail polish removers contain super strong solvents that can damage the skin and nails overtime. This vegan, extra-gentle nail polish remover by SANTE is a mild, acetone-free remover that conditions and strengthens the nails and cuticles, whilst organic orange oil uplifts the senses with a fresh aroma.
I don’t know about you, but writing this article has made me want to invest in a completely new nail polish wardrobe. We hope you enjoy using these natural and non-toxic nail polish pick. If you have any go-to natural nail polishes that we haven’t included, let us know in the comments below! We would love to hear from you!