I decided to do this nail polish review because I haven’t been very careful about checking the ingredients in my nail polishes in the past–I’ve given more priority to the length of wear and color choices. The “natural” ones I’d tried didn’t have nice colors or wear well.
Since there are lots of new brands now, I figured there had to be some out there that would fit my requirements:
- no toxic ingredients
- no strong smell
- long wear
- great color
As someone who’s highly sensitive to chemicals, I probably shouldn’t be wearing nail polish. But I like to wear at least a clear polish on my fingernails to help prevent them from breaking, and I think toenails in sandals in summer look kind of gross without some color.
I usually buy one bottle of a color I really like at the beginning of summer and I wear it until fall. This year it was an optic white for my toenails, which I loved but I got the impression some people didn’t. I prefer pale pinks on my fingernails and bright pinks on my toenails.
The problem with most nail polishes is the chemicals in them are inhaled and also absorbed into the body; the same with nail polish removers.
The Main Nail Polish Ingredients to Avoid
These three toxic ingredients are the most commonly found in nail polishes:
Are there Safer Nail Polishes?
There really isn’t such a thing as a truly “safe” nail polish. According to this article, even some of the safer ones when tested still had toxic ingredients.
Some polishes are marketed as “7-free” so will not contain dibutyl phthalate, toluene, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, camphor, parabens or xylene.
Water-based polishes are probably the safest as they are formulated differently and don’t have an odor, but they tend not to last as long before chipping.
My Nail Polish Test Results and Recommendations
I started out by checking Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database for ideas. They give ratings of 1-10 based on the safety of the ingredients. Unfortunately, they don’t list all the shades for every brand. My research didn’t turn up the exact ingredients for many of them. Some of the bottles list the ingredients, but several don’t. The polishes I review here have an EWG rating of 1-2, which is low hazard.
These are in the order pictured above, not by preference:
According the the official website, the polishes are designed to be vegan, 7-free, and not tested on animals. This polish lasted a couple of days, but the color was a little dark and dull for me.
Formaldehyde, toluene, and phthalate free. Good as a base or top coat. I didn’t like the soft, sticky texture it has when when dry, though.
Water based, odor free, and long wearing. The peachy color didn’t look good with my skin tone and it was the most expensive of the polishes I tried. I may try another color, though. Acquarella also makes a less toxic nail polish remover too.
This polish is advertised as “7 free” and vegan. I liked the color, which is a hot pink. It looked good on my nails but started to chip on the second day.
Formaldehyde, toluene, and phthalate free. This color was too orange for me. It went a couple of days before chipping. This brand is reasonably priced, so I might try a different color.
Water based and odorless. This light pink color was closest to the shade of pink I like to use on my fingernails. The downside was it started to chip on the second day and it was hard to remove.
Water based and odor free. I liked the color, but it was the least long wearing of the polishes I tried on my fingernails (it did better on my toenails). The big problem I had was removing it. The Amazon description mentions the polish gets harder to remove over time and acetone-based removers won’t work because it’s not a solvent-based system. It recommended removing it with rubbing alcohol, vodka/grain alcohol or Honeybee Gardens odorless remover. I left it on my toenails for about a week and had a really hard time removing it. I’ve tried Honeybee Garden polishes in different colors in the past and didn’t have this experience. I use their remover all the time and it removes most polishes but not this one.
My budget didn’t allow for trying all EWG’s top brands, as a couple I tested were close to $20 each. I may try some in the future such as Suncoat, Butter Long Patent Shine 1-X Nail Lacquer (7-free), Zyyoa Nail Polish (5-free), Priti NY Nail Polish (5 free), and Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics.
If you’re interested in trying any of these polishes, you may not find them at your local drugstore or health food store and will have to buy them online (I found these on Amazon and eBay). The problem with buying polishes online is the color may not be true, like I discovered with a couple of my test polishes.
Writing this post helped me become more aware of the chemicals in nail polishes, so I will definitely think twice about the brands I purchase in the future. I will continue using some of the polishes I tried and will keep experimenting until I find the right one. I’m willing to sacrifice duration of wear if the polish doesn’t have an odor as I really can’t stand the smell of most polishes. Only the water-based polishes I tried didn’t have a strong smell.
The Environmental Working Group also has a phone app called Healthy Living, which is handy if you want to check cosmetic ingredients when you’re out shopping. There’s also an app called Think Dirty, but I didn’t have much luck finding the brands I was looking for.
Most nail polish removers also contain toxic ingredients. See this article for a safe DIY remover you can make yourself with essential oils.
Do you have any other non-toxic nail polish brands you like? If so, please share in the comments.