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!
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.
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.
The next to are the chemicals removed from 5-free labelled nail polishes.
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.
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.
There are now a few brands that will go as far as 8, 9 or 10-free, which removes the following.
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 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!
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.