Safer Beauty

What’s in your nail polish?

Happy Independence Day! I wish I had enough forethought to plan an appropriately themed post, but I’m new at this so you get nail polish. 🙂

Nail polish is one of those things that I just didn’t think about when I started making my switch to cleaner products.  For whatever reason it didn’t occur to me that there are toxic/harmful ingredients in my favorite brands.  As I learned more about clean brands and what to look for, I realized there was a lot of junk that I didn’t want on my hands for days (or weeks when I’m lazy).

So if you’re like me and forgot that nail polish is also a personal care/beauty item, here are the top 3 ingredients to avoid that you may find in your favorite bottle:

* formaldehyde – this one is obvious, yes?  In case you haven’t heard of this chemical, it’s used for embalming bodies.  It’s also highly carcinogenic and is a byproduct of half a dozen other ingredients commonly used in products (which means just because it’s not on the list of ingredients, doesn’t mean it’s not present)

* toluene – A neurotoxin that we should not be inhaling because it can also cause damage to our lungs and immune system over time.

* dibutyl phthalate (DBT) – An endocrine disruptor that has been banned in the European Union (but not the US or Canada? hmmmm)

(You can find additional info about harmful ingredients in my Clean Beauty Basics post. Didn’t read it yet? go ahead, I’ll wait. :))

It’s surprisingly easy these days to find nail polish that limits the amount of harmful ingredients, if you know the lingo.  There are a few different levels of safety in the nail polish realm right now, and each brand may have their own definition, but generally this is what you’ll find:

3-free is usually free of dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde, and toluene

5-free is usually free of the 3 above as well s camphor and formaldehyde resin

7-free is usually free of all of the above as well as ethyl tosylamide, and xylene

I think you get the idea.  The more “free” a polish is, the safer it is!  The next hurdle is price.  A brand that I love is Cote.  They are very conscious of the ingredients they use and are free of TEN common toxic or allergenic ingredients!  Of course they’re also  more expensive at $18 per bottle, but if you can catch a sale it’s totally worth it to invest in clean colors that you know you’ll use and love.  They also have an amazing safer nail polish remover that’s acetone free.


Another great brand is Butter London. They are 8-free and have some great colors at varying prices ($10-$18).  I like that you can  I was able to get a beautiful teal color on sale recently and so far I’m loving it.


Nail polish is one of my impulse buys – I see a color, I like the color, I buy the color – and I don’t have $20 to drop on a whim!  I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Target has a new house brand, Defy & Inspire that is 5-free, and  they’re only $7.49!  I’ve been using them for a few months now and they aren’t any better or worse than other popular brands  I’ve used (I’m really hard on my nails so all polish tends to chip fast), so I’ve been really happy with the switch.


I know there are a lot of other brands that are at least 5-free, but these are the only ones I’ve tried so far.  Do you have a favorite safer nail polish brand? Leave a comment and let me know! I’d love some more recommendations. 🙂

1 thought on “What’s in your nail polish?”

  1. Pingback: Heavy Metals 101

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