If you’re conscious about the ingredients you use on your body, you might be wondering how nail polish fits into the picture. In today’s blog, we’re diving into the world of less toxic nail polishes and nail care products. With growing awareness of the potential drawbacks of traditional formulations, many beauty enthusiasts (like myself!) are opting for alternatives that offer the same vibrant hues, but without all the junk. Let’s explore how you can make more informed choices and find healthier options for all of your nail care needs!
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Table of contents:
- Does Non-Toxic Nail Polish Exist?
- How to Pick Safer Nail Polish & Ingredients to Avoid
- Clean & Low Tox Nail Products (Polish, Gel, Remover, Cuticle Oil, Accessories)
Does Non-Toxic Nail Polish Exist? 💅
First things first, do you notice how this post is titled “LOW tox” nail polish and not “NON-toxic?” That’s intentional! I want to make it clear that there is no such thing as organic or truly non-toxic nail polish. Why? Because you essentially need something that acts like paint and you can’t achieve that with non-synthetic ingredients alone.
But don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you to give up nail polish altogether! Because there are better options out there and ways you can make it a safer experience. Plus, I am a big proponent of balance and wiggle room when it comes to holistic living; you don’t have to give up everything you love for the sake of being crunchy.
Just keep in mind that even the “cleaner” nail polishes are not 100% perfectly pure. And it might be a good idea to consider how frequently you use it, especially on younger kids!
How to Pick Safer Nail Polish & Ingredients to Avoid ❌
The first thing you might notice as you delve into low tox nail polish is the #-Free labeling system. Basically, you’ll see brands use “15-Free, 10-Free, 8-Free, etc.” to describe how many potentially harmful ingredients are NOT in their nail polish.
This can be a helpful starting point, but take note that a higher number doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a better or cleaner option, since there is no regulation behind it all. For example, two separate brands could both be 10-Free, but what those exact ten ingredients are might be completely different. I’ve also seen 20-Free brands that have worse ingredients than 10-Free brands.
Here’s some perspective as to why a cleaner nail polish brand, Sienna Byron Bay, stepped away from the labeling system:
“When non-toxic nail polish arrived to support our health, planet, and our manis, the X-Free branding of nail polish was developed to show people the number of chemicals a polish is free from. But over time, this has turned into something of a marketing arms race. With no cosmetic governing body, the X-Free labeling got out of hand very quickly.”
Instead, I always recommend double-checking the ingredient list on a nail polish label. Here are some common culprits and the main offenders to look out for in nail products:
- Acetone: A dissolver (usually found in removers) associated with organ toxicity
- Benzophenone-1: Used to scatter UV rays and prevent discoloration, but may be contaminated with carcinogenic benzene and is a hormone disruptor (this is a common one that many “X-Free” brands still include)
- Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA): A preservative tied to endocrine disruption, organ damage, and cancer
- Camphor: Used as a fragrance and plasticizer but is associated with allergic reactions, irritation, and neurotoxic symptoms
- Ethyl Tosylamide: A film former and plasticizer
- Formaldehyde and Tosylamide Formaldehyde Resin (TSFR): Preservatives that are known human carcinogens and may be contaminated with nitrosamines
- Nonylphenol Ethoxylate: Used as a surfactant
- Parabens: Endocrine-disrupting preservatives
- Phthalates (such as DBP, dibutyl phthalate): Plasticizers that are tied to hormone disruption, developmental toxicity, and cancer
- Toluene: A solvent linked to respiratory issues, liver damage, neurotoxicity, and often contaminated with benzene
- Triphenyl Phosphate (TPHP): An endocrine-disrupting plasticizer and neurotoxin
- Xylene: A thinning solvent linked to respiratory irritation, nausea, headaches, and kidney/liver damage with long-term exposure
(sources and studies linked below)
And if you’re wondering whether the ingredients applied to your nails actually penetrate your body, the answer is yes! Researchers at Duke University tested the urine of women who had recently painted their nails and found evidence of TPHP in every participant—their levels increased sharply after application! 😲
If you’re interested in switching to cleaner personal care products and want to learn more, download your copy of the Clean Beauty 101 ebook! It’s the perfect resource to help make the transition seamless and stress-free.
Clean & Low Tox Nail Products (Polish, Gel, Remover, Cuticle Oil, Accessories!)
Becca’s Favorite Low Tox Nail Polish Brand: Huella
Pronounced “hyoo-la.” Huella is my fave brand—they’re the best! They are considered 10-Free but are cleaner than many of the X-Free brands out there. The products are also vegan, cruelty-free, and made in the USA. Additionally, I find them to be quite long-lasting and chip-resistant!
I love how much variety they offer too; you can choose from dozens of colors and finishes (shimmer, glitter, flat, etc.) and they have top coat, base coat, and prep formulas. My go-to shade is “All The Sage” which is a pretty pastel color. PRO TIP: Pop off the removable cap from the polish bottle and use it to rest your fingers on as you apply!
Better Off Nail Lacquer Remover: Huella’s remover is soy-based and contains NO acetone or alcohol! You can either dip your finger in or use the little pad to buff away color and remove polish. It does take a bit longer compared to conventional removers (and is on the oily side), but it works well! Plus it has ingredients that enrich and promote strong, moisturized nails. And I appreciate that it has a light lavender scent (unlike most removers which smell like straight-up chemicals 🤢).
Huella also has all of the accessories you might need:
- Glass nail file to shape, smooth, and refine
- Reusable toe separators for a stable base and to prevent smudging
- Cuticle oil twist pen made with plant-based ingredients to soften, hydrate, protect, and strengthen
You can use code ORGANICALLYBECCA for a discount 🏷️
At-Home Manicure: Bare Hands Dry Gloss Manicure Kit
If you don’t want to spend money on professional salon manicures, this kit is so handy (pun intended) for DIYing at home. It’s packed in a chic vegan leather case and includes:
- A polisher (made of glass and minerals) to buff away the top layer of keratin and reveal shiny nails
- Natural cuticle oil twist-up pen to hydrate and condition
- Cloth to wipe away dust as you work
- Angled wooden sticks to push back cuticles
Honestly, I’m always SO shocked at how shiny my nails are after using it! Like seriously, they look 10x healthier, and it gives a nice glow that lasts about a week (depending on the thickness of your nails).
You can use code ORGANICALLYBECCA for a discount 🏷️
Also available here on Amazon.
Best Gel Polish: Dazzle Dry
If you’re looking for a gel polish swap, here ya go! Gel polish typically lasts longer than regular polish and is less prone to chipping, but it does often require some sort of UV light to dry it. However, Dazzle Dry is unique because it doesn’t need any UV light to set, it won’t turn your nails yellow (doesn’t contain nitrocellulose), and can be taken off with your normal remover!
The brand is vegan, cruelty-free, and 5-Free (but there are more than five ingredients that they avoid). For best results, it’s recommended that you follow the 4-step system (prep, base coat, lacquer, and top coat). I like the “Adore Me” shade which is a light, muted bubblegum pink with purple undertones!
Other Safer Nail Polish Brands on the Market:
- 100% Pure Zer0 20-Free (does contain benzophenone-1 though)
- Aila 8-Free (does contain benzophenone-1, discount code ORGANICALLYBECCA at Aillea)
- Bio Seaweed 5-Free (another gel alternative; there is no seaweed in it, that’s just the name!)
- Ella + Mila 17-Free
- Kure Bazaar 12-Free
- Olive & June 15-Free (you can find these at Target! they have press-on nails too)
- Sienna Byron Bay (they don’t use the number system but are strict about ingredients)
- WithSimplicity 15-Free (does contain benzophenone-1, discount code BECCA10)
BONUS: Natural Products for Beautiful Hands & Feet
Wanna give yourself a mani or pedicure? Hands and feet need some TLC? Try these!
- Badger Cuticle Care Cream: Made with organic butters, oils, and extracts (discount code BECCA10)
- EcoTools Bamboo Foot Pumice Brush: A dual-sided brush to buff and exfoliate away dead skin cells
- First Honey Foot Rescue Cream: Infused with manuka honey and offers relief for dry, cracked feet (discount code BECCA)
- Kitsch Moisturizing Socks & Gloves: Wear these with a lotion for an intensive treatment to lock in moisture (discount code ORGANICALLYBECCA)
- Kosmatology Mint Your Feet: A minty foot scrub and balm to revive tired, dull feet (discount code ORGANICALLYBECCA)
- Paume Hand & Nail Brush: Use this to remove stubborn dirt and impurities from fingernails, cuticles, and nail beds
- Tenoverten: All the tools: buffers, filers, clippers, and pushers!
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In summary, while achieving entirely non-toxic nail polish isn’t realistic, healthier replacements do exist! Look beyond #-Free labels and scrutinize ingredient lists for perps such as toluene and xylene. Thankfully brands like Huella offer durable, cleaner alternatives that allow us to have more mindful manicures. Let me know in the comments if you have any thoughts or questions. Thanks so much for reading and I hope you found some new faves yourself 💚
Sources & Studies:
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry: Toluene
- Benzophenone Fact Sheet
- Butylated Compounds (BHA)
- Campaign for Safe Cosmetics: Nail Polish Removers
- Camphor Hepatotoxicity
- CDC Phthalates Fact Sheet
- EPA Nonylphenol (NP) and Nonylphenol Ethoxylates (NPEs)
- Formaldehyde May Be Found In Cosmetic Products Even When Unlabeled
- Potential Toxicity of Toluene and Xylene Evoked by Mitochondrial Uncoupling
- Triphenyl Phosphate-Induced Developmental Toxicity