ByLisa Beres

Nov 7, 2014
Chemical free nail polish options

Let’s face it – we all want beautiful, well-manicured fingers and toes. But, would you use chemicals found in car paint to achieve a glossy, chip-free shine? Conventional nail lacquers were inspired by automotive paint in the early twentieth century and refined by makeup artist, Michelle Menard, for the company known today as Revlon.

Our poor ancestors may have experienced toxic exposure, but we know better now … or, do we?

Many popular nail polishes on the market today still contain toxins including the toxic trio:

  • Formaldehyde: a carcinogen. Can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat, and lead to skin irritation and dermatitis.
  • Toluene: dry or cracked skin; headaches, dizziness, and numbness; irritated eyes, nose, throat, and lungs; damage to liver and kidneys; and harm to unborn children during pregnancy.
  • Dibutyl phthalate (DBP): linked to infertility, uterine cancer, and testicular cancer. Exposure can affect thyroid function, and in utero exposure is linked to reproductive problems in baby boys and decreased sperm count.

But, the toxic buck doesn’t stop there. Nail polish can also contain camphor; linked to liver damage and formaldehyde resins. Add to this, the acetone and synthetic fragrance found in most nail polish removers and it’s enough to cause headaches, dizziness, irritated eyes, skin, and throat, affect the nervous system, cause liver damage, and sometimes lead to cancer.

Even the U.S. Department of Labor states that products used in nail salons may contain chemicals that can adversely affect health. They advise proper ventilation and minimal exposure to chemicals absorbed into the body through the skin or lungs (Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Health Hazards in Nail Salons).


The brightly colored, disposable foam flip flops (do you see a non-green trend here?) don’t exactly pair well with a gas mask and hazmat suit. So, instead of waiting for an air purification system to be installed or legislation to ban these toxic chemicals from nail products, why not just create your own natural nail salon at home (or bring your own products with you)?

If you can’t locate a green salon in your neighborhood (check this website for California for those in California), look for polishes that are “3-Free” or “5-Free” and water-based. While no nail polish is 100% natural, we all deserve to have healthier options – sans the toxins!

  • 3-Free products do not contain: formaldehyde, toluene, and DBP
  • 5-Free products do not contain: formaldehyde, toluene, DBP, formaldehyde resin, and camphor

Toxic Free Nail Polishes

  • Priti NYC: Priti NYC polishes are “5-Free” and vegan, completely non-toxic, and are free of toluene, dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, and camphor. Available in over 100 different shades including metallics, mattes, brights, darks, nudes, and everything in between. The first line of non-toxic nail polishes for children, PRITI Princess nail polish is perfect for the hands of tiny fashionistas. *Not rated on Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Skin Deep cosmetics database.

  • Londontown Lakur: These polishes are “5-Free.” Additionally, their kur Restorative Nail Cream is paraben-free and the Strengthening Lacquer Remover is acetone-free. All products are vegan, gluten-free, and cruelty-free. *Not rated on EWG Skin Deep cosmetics database.
  • Piggy paint: Besides the cutest name of the bunch, Piggy Paint polishes are water-based, non-toxic, and low odor. There are no toxic chemicals; free of formaldehyde, toluene, phthalates, Bisphenol A, ethyl acetate, and acetone. *Received a 2 for toxicity EWG Skin Deep cosmetics database (*the basecoat received a 0).
  • Zoya: The first to become “5-Free” by removing toxic ingredients such as toluene, camphor, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, and DBP from its formulations. Zoya focuses on the health and well being of salons, spas, and consumers. *Not rated on EWG Skin Deep cosmetics database.
  • Beauty without Cruelty: All items are fragrance-free and 100% vegetarian. Nail colors are free of toluene, formaldehyde, and phthalates (3-Free). *Received a 2 for toxicity in the EWG Skin Deep cosmetics database.
  • Keeki: All Keeki Pure and Simple products are 100% gluten-free, tested and approved 100% acetone-free, and 100% soy-free. They use no parabens, phthalates, toluene, formaldehyde, acetone, synthetic fragrance, or nanoparticles. *Rated a 2 in EWG Skin Deep cosmetics database.

  • Obsessive Compulsive: Vegan and cruelty-free, all polishes are “5-Free (free of formaldehyde, toluene, DBP, formaldehyde resin, and camphor). *Received a 2 for toxicity in the EWG Skin Deep cosmetics database.
  • Poofy Polish: Poofy Organics’ polish is “5-Free.” *Rated a 1 for toxicity in the EWG Skin Deep cosmetics database
  • Acquarella: This nail polish utilizes a water-based solvent and an engineered safe copolymer structure. It’s virtually odorless, dries quickly, and has excellent shine and wear without a base or topcoat. *Rated a 1 for toxicity in the EWG Skin Deep cosmetics database.

Toxic Free Nail Polish Removers

  • *Acquarella Remover: An acetone- and fragrance-free remover. *Received a hazard score of 0 in the EWG Skin Deep cosmetics database.
  • *Poofy Biodegradable Polish Remover: This unscented nail polish remover contains no chemical smell and is biodegradable, toxic-free, earth-friendly, acetone-free, acetate-free, ethyl lactate free, and vegan- and gluten-free. *Received a 0 for toxicity EWG Skin Deep cosmetics database (happy dance).
  • Priti NYC Soy Nail Polish Remover: 100% biodegradable, non-toxic, and non-carcinogenic, the remover is also housed in an apothecary style bottle that is completely recyclable. Infused with soybean esters, it’s naturally derived and contains either lemongrass essential oils or unscented. No acetone, no carcinogens! *Not rated on the EWG Skin Deep cosmetics database.

*Indicates a zero-toxicity rating in the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep cosmetics database.

Can You Poison Yourself By Biting Your Nails? Toxic Chemicals Abound In Most Brands Of Nail Polish

From Visually

Feature image courtesy of Joy Banerjee

By Lisa Beres

Lisa Beres is a healthy home authority, Baubiologist, published author, professional speaker and Telly award-winning media personality who teaches busy people how to eliminate toxins from their home with simple, step-by-step solutions to improve their health. With her husband, Ron, she is the co-founder of The Healthy Home Dream Team and the 30-day online program Change Your Home. Change Your Health. She is the author of the children’s book My Body My House and co-author of Just Green It!: Simple Swaps to Save Your Health and the Planet, Learn to Create a Healthy Home! Green Nest Creating Healthy Homes and The 9 to 5 Greened: 10 Steps to a Healthy Office. Lisa’s TV appearances include "The Rachael Ray Show," "Nightly News with Brian Williams," "TODAY," "The Doctors," "Fox & Friends," "Chelsea Lately" and "The Suzanne Somers Show."