What to Look for when buying Non-Toxic Nail Polish

Even though I lead an organic and cruelty-free lifestyle I still use nail polish every now and then.  I love giving myself a pedicure and manicure, it’s one of my favourite self-care routines, and it seems wrong not to finish off my nails with nail polish!  I only own brands that use the least amount of chemicals possible, because the chemicals from nail polish can leech into your body!  See the story here.  So firstly I will tell you what chemicals to look for in your nail polishes and my favourite non-toxic nail polish brands!

non-toxic nail polish

Toxic Chemicals in your Nail Polishes

You may have heard about 3-free, 5-free, 7-free or 10-free when talking about nail polishes.  These are actually an indicator as to how many chemicals have been removed from the nail polish formulation.  Let’s start with the top three nasties (or toxic trio) that you absolutely MUST avoid in your nail polish.


Yes!  Embalming fluid! It is a preservative used to stop skincare and nail polish from spoiling.  It’s also used to harden and strengthen nail polishes.  But formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen and can cause allergic skin reactions.


It is a petrochemical derived from petroleum or coal-tar sources used as a solvent in nail polish, nail treatments, hair colour and bleaching treatments.  Can cause developmental damage in fetuses. Is known to disrupt the immune system and can interfere with hormone function.

DBP (dibutyl phthalate)

A group of chemicals used to increase the flexibility and softness of plastics.  Found in deodorants, perfumes/colognes, hair sprays and moisturisers.  It is used in nail polishes to minimise chipping.  It has links to liver/kidney/lung damage and cancer, increased risk of breast cancer and links to reproductive birth defects in males and females.

non-toxic nail polishes


The next to are the chemicals removed from 5-free labelled nail polishes.

Formaldehyde resin

Formaldehyde Resin, a formaldehyde by-product, is a very serious chemical substance commonly used in making paints and plastic resins but also found in nail polishes.  Much less has been done with this substance in the way of scientific study than it has with the other toxins mentioned thus far, but early studies show it to cause allergic reactions, skin irritations, and discoloration and loss of nerve sensation.


Camphor is the ingredient used to give conventional nail polishes their glossy, shiny appearance.  It is less toxic than the first four ingredients listed above and is sometimes used in cold remedies such as vapour rubs and nasal sprays.  However, the safety of camphor has recently been called into question. It has been shown to trigger severe skin irritation and allergic reactions when applied topically, and inhaling its fumes can cause nausea, dizziness, and headaches.

non-toxic nail polish


7-free nail polishes also remove these chemicals

Triphenyl Phosphate (TPHP)

This is a chemical used in plastics to improve flexibility and as a flame retardant.  TPHP is a known endocrine disruptor, meaning it messes with our bodies hormones and has been linked to infertility, abnormal fetal development, hormonal imbalances and several types of cancer among others.


Found in lacquers and nail polish, listed as xylitol or dimethylbenzene and used as a solvent.  Xylene is irritating to the skin, eyes, and respiratory tract. It can cause systemic toxicity by ingestion or inhalation. The most common route of exposure is via inhalation. Symptoms of xylene poisoning include CNS effects (a headache, dizziness, ataxia, drowsiness, excitement, tremor, and coma), ventricular arrhythmias, acute pulmonary oedema, respiratory depression, nausea, vomiting, and reversible hepatic impairment.

non-toxic nail polish

There are now a few brands that will go as far as 8, 9 or 10-free, which removes the following.

Ethyl Tosylamide

Ethyl Tosylamide is used in low concentrations, primarily as a plasticiser. It imparts flexibility and durability to synthetic polymers such as those used in nail polish. Ethyl Tosylamide also increases the durability and improves the wear of nail polish products and certain nail treatments and dries to help form a film coating that holds colour to the nail plate. Ethyl Tosylamide also indirectly helps improve adhesion to the nail plate.  This ingredient has already been barred from personal care products in Europe because of its antibiotic properties and concern over antibiotic resistance.


Most commonly used preservatives that prevent the growth of bacteria, mould and yeast.  Also used as a fragrance ingredients that manufacturers do not need to list on the label.  Parabens can interfere with male and female hormone function and there is a suggested link with breast cancer.


This term was created to protect manufacturers “trade secret formula” fragrances.  It can take three thousand or more chemicals to create a fragrance and companies do not have to disclose this on the label, they just group it under the Fragrance or Parfum term.  Some nasties that can also be grouped in this category is Phthalates, Parabens and Toluene.

non-toxic nail polish


Non-Toxic Nail Polish Brands

Now for the good stuff, my favourite non-toxic nail polish brands!  I will give you the list and whether they are 7 or 10-free.  I will not be listing 3-free or 5-free as those nail polishes still contain too many chemicals for my liking and I will not use them.

  • Sienna Byron Bay 7-free Australian Nail Polish brand that also have a non-toxic nail polish remover.
  • Life Basics by Nourished Life 7-free Australian nail polish.
  • Butter London well known 8-free brand from USA.
  • Hanami 7-free Australian nail polish brand.
  • 100% Pure 10-free Nail Polish brand from USA.
  • Kester Black 10-free Australian owned and my pick of the bunch!


Pin me!

non-toxic nail polish


Do you already use any of the brands listed above?  Or do you know of a 7 or 10-free nail polish brand that I haven’t listed?  Leave a comment below!

















Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, and that means I earn some commission if you purchase through my links. I only recommend products that I like and feel that you would find useful.



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15 thoughts on “What to Look for when buying Non-Toxic Nail Polish

  1. Hmm…I use Julep and thought I was using a healthier version of polish. I will have to look further into the ingredients to see where it ranks!

    1. Julep is a 5-free nail polish. So it is still a lot better than other options! If you like it, then keep using it for sure!

  2. I’m sending this post to my mom because she doesn’t believe me about the chemicals in nail polish and how they hurt your body! Thank you for including the links to safe nail polishes, that makes it so much easier to get the good stuff!

    1. I never not believed it, I just never used to care. But now I know what these chemicals can do to your body and it is definitely something to always consider. Thanks for your comment!

  3. I had no idea Butter London was an 8-free brand – that’s exciting! I love their polishes.
    Okay, so this post is super informative, Leah! I really appreciate you taking the time to break each ingredient down and explain what it means, although it was slightly horrifying, haha.

    Now I’ll be on the hunt for non-toxic nail polishes and doing some more research on this topic. Those chemicals can have serious consequences, yikes. :/

    I’ll be following along with your blog now for more info on natural beauty. It’s something I really want to introduce into my own skincare routine. 🙂

    My Favorite Canva Tips for Better Blog Graphic Design

    1. I didn’t know that about Butter London either! So I was very excited to find out that I didn’t need to get rid of ALL my nail polishes! Yay, thanks for following along! Make natural the new normal!

  4. Wow this was so informative!! Thank you for sharing. I never knew what the 5-free thing meant or any of this!

    Feeling ready to try new nail polishes now!!
    xox, Nickie

    1. lol, neither did I Nickie. I remember the first time I heard the term was when the Youtuber Kathleen Lights released her nail polish line. I had no what she was talking about, 5-free, 7-free, 9-free. I am glad I looked into it!

  5. I’m a bit of a polish addict and nail polishes that have some great staying power are hard to come by. Have you ever tried Shu Shu kid’s non toxic nail polish and makeup products for kids? Quite good stuff quality wise!

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