I used to be able to judge how well I had my life together based on my nails. I was slightly obsessed with having my nails perfectly painted so when they weren’t, it was usually during a period of crazy work hours, stress or exhaustion.
Since I moved interstate and am now (f)unemployed, I’ve found that I don’t paint my nails, despite having a lot more time. This started initially because I was painting the house and unpacking boxes and they would chip, and I would rather have no nail polish than chipped nail polish. I didn’t want to coat my nails with toxic chemicals just to have it chip a few days later and then have to re-coat my nails in the same toxic liquid. And then I just didn’t care about painted nails as much as I used to.
On November 10th my husband and I celebrated our third wedding anniversary so I decided to swap my usual gym attire and runners for heels and dressier clothes for dinner at a nice restaurant, and decided to paint my nails. After not painting my nails during the last few months I really noticed how strong the chemical smell was in my nail polish. It irritated my eyes and the fumes overwhelmed me.
And that was probably the last time I’ll use non non-toxic* nail polish.
For the longest time I’ve wanted to buy non-toxic nail polish but with my previous obsession with manicured nails, I had a lifetime supply of nail polish at home that I didn’t want to just throw out (or give the chemicals to someone else), but then I realised that my obsession with manicured nails was all the more reason to buy non-toxic nail polish. Just because I don’t paint them often now, the amount I used to paint them with the toxic paint is enough to last me a lifetime.
Problems with Polish
Nail polishes contain many chemicals however the toxic trio that gets the most attention are formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate and toluene. A State of California study concluded that exposure the toxic trio is associated with cancer, birth defects, reproductive issues, asthma, impaired development processes and other chronic health conditions.
- Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen which is used to harden the polish on the nail. In addition to causing cancer, immediate symptoms can include watery eyes, burning eyes, nose and/or throat, coughing, wheezing, nausea and skin irritation (source).
- Dibutyl phthalate (DBP), used to stop the polish from becoming brittle, has been linked to the degeneration of cells in the body and reproductive toxicity, particularly for males. Both fertility and development are affected in the parents and following generations (source). The Environmental Working Group classifies this chemical as the highest danger level and warns that it can cause organ problems and endocrine disruption (source).
- Toluene is a solvent and paint thinner linked to cancer, birth defects and reproductive concerns. The Environmental Working Group states that a mother’s exposure to toluene vapours during pregnancy may cause developmental damage in the foetus (source).
Many nail polishes claim to be free of the toxic trio mentioned above and will be named three-free, however there are also some brands which claim to be five-free and seven-free. Just keep in mind that companies that promote three-,five-, or seven-free polishes may have replaced the toxic chemicals with something equally or more toxic as some research has shown. The research conducted by the State of California found that of the brands and products making a toxic-trio free related claim, toluene and DBP were found in greater concentrations than in products making no claim at all.
Newsworthy non-toxic polish
While I haven’t yet tried these brands for durability, colour and ease of application, the research I’ve done indicates that these are some of the best non-toxic nail polishes out. I will be trying them over the coming months and will do separate reviews.
Not only are my recommendations three-, five- and seven-free, they appear to have the least amount of other chemicals compared to other three-, five- and seven-free brands.
I love that when asked whether Scotch are X-free, they said they are “not 3-free nor 5-free or 7-free but ALL FREE. Scotch Naturals is the only nature-based, non-toxic, eco-friendly alternative to conventional synthetic-based nail polish. We have never had any of the nasty ingredients found in synthetic-based polishes”.
Scotch is currently working on a new formula due to be released in early 2016 however it’s still possible that some stockists have older stock.
Honeybee Gardens is dedicated to providing body care and cosmetics, utilising the latest scientific technology and using all natural ingredients. Honeybee Gardens’ nail polish is a water-based and odour-free formulation.
Acquarella was started about ten years ago by a dedicated team of scientists, engineers, beauty and natural products industry professionals who strive to make the best quality water-based nail technology available.
Unfortunately Acquarella do not ship to Australia so if you live here, you will need to either check eBay for stock or use a freight forwarding company.
The above are the healthiest nail polish brands that I could find but if you can’t find a stockiest for one of the three, I would recommend reviewing the list of brands here or search 5- or 7-free on the Internet. Just keep in mind that while the brands may be free of the biggest toxins, they do contain other chemicals. Many of the X-free nail polishes I researched contained ‘butyl acetate’ which has been toxic to the foetus in lab animals at doses that are not toxic to the mother (source), so while the X-free nail polishes are safer, they are not necessarily perfectly safe. My three recommendations do not contain butyl acetate.
- 3-Free vs 5-Free vs Water Based and how 3-free and 5-free contain other chemicals which can be harmful – Read here
- State of California – Department of Toxic Substances Control Study – Read here
Have you used any of these brands? Do you have a favourite non-toxic nail polish brand?