Green Girl Nails Nail Polish

Everyone likes to have pretty nails. All of my childhood, however, I dreaded painting them. Yeah, they would turn out well, but the process was such a drag. Especially when it was cold, or windy, or mosquito-y, or rainy. Because my mom was so sensitive to chemicals, nail polish was an absolute NO in my house. And so I would paint them outside.

But the excitement of painting your nails takes a drastic turn for the worse when itís so cold outside that your hands go numb in the process (conducive of many errors), or when itís so humid out that the bugs either (a) land in your nail polish or (b) decide to bite you when your hands are otherwise occupied with the painting.

Needless to say, I painted my nails very rarely. College is a bit of a different story. I donít have to go outside (huge plus), but the smell is absolutely terrible. In a dorm room where the window is blocked by the desk, it makes it very difficult to circulate the air at any time, let alone when the room is filled with nail polish fumes.

So my friends and I decide to paint them in the hallway instead. Much better plan. However, the smell is still absolutely atrocious! Between the nail polish and the remover, I get a headache almost instantly. A couple of weeks ago my three friends and I were painting our nails for a longer time than usual and we were going insane from the fumes.

I pulled out my bottle of nail polish to read the ingredients, typed them into the Environmental Working Group Web site, and was shocked to see all of the chemicals I was being exposed to. First of all, itís never a good sign when you have never heard of any of the ingredients on the back of the bottle. Second of all, itís worse when you look them up and find that four or five of them can cause pretty much every disease imaginable.

The chemicals in question? Ethyl and butyl acetate, dibutyl phthalate, isopropyl alcohol, and benzophenone-1, in addition to about ten other harmful (but less harmful) chemicals. Their poison? Cancer, immune system toxicity, developmental and reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity, respiratory toxicity, bioaccumulation, and endocrine disruption.

These chemicals rank, on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the worst, as low as 4 and as high as 10 in terms of health hazard (with dibutyl phthalate being the worst). No wonder we were getting such bad headaches!

Well, hereís a bit of good news: Theyíre making a lot of natural alternatives to this chemical-y polish nowadays. Unfortunately, I have never found the all-natural nail polish to be very good, and so I donít use it very often. However, water-based nail polish is a much more natural way to go than drug store polish.

Though not completely natural, water-based nail polish is 60-70 percent water, and the rest of it is chemicals like acrylic polymers that are there to harden the polish on your nail. Not great, I know, but definitely better. And use a natural nail polish remover! Those do work and are MUCH healthier than the acetone-filled remover of drug stores.

So I canít say that Iíve found a wonderful completely natural nail polish, but I can say that I am looking, and that I have found much healthier, water-based, phthalate-free polishes than the drugstore brands. Nail polish is just one of those things that is so dependent on chemicals that it is taking a long time for the industry to find safe alternatives that are effective. But hopefully an even better option will come along soon.

Note to self: Keep searching for the natural nail polish of my dreams.

The Natural Manicure.
Water-based Nail Polish
Here are just two suggestions, there are increasingly more safe polishes.
Ulew Products
Suncoat Products

Lily Berthold-Bond grew up in a chemical-free zone and has struggled her whole life to understand and accept this non-commercial lifestyle. Now a freshman at Tufts University, she has embraced her green life and hopes to share its possibilities with the rest of her generation.


Angie Lohan
Angie Lohan5 years ago

I use Deep Cover Nail non toxic nail polish.

Ann Eastman
Ann Eastman6 years ago

Oops: should have read "check them out" and "polishes".

Ann Eastman
Ann Eastman6 years ago

Thanks, I had never heard of water-based poli8shes before and will check thyem out.

Beng Kiat Low
low beng kiat6 years ago


William P.
Past Member 7 years ago

I went to paint my nails green the other day, but sadly, the polish was all dried up. I bought it circa 1997, so no surprise.
aa batterien

Bonita Roland
Bonita Roland8 years ago

I also share the same concerns about nails but I tried a line of nail care from Provida, made in Germany. Go to and type in nails. You can get a sample of the strengthener, top coat and remover at a very reasonable price. It's the closest I've found to natural.

Irene M.
Past Member 8 years ago

There are some nail buffers out there, where you can buff your own nails (this takes lots of practice to get it down pat), resulting in nails that look like they've been painted with clear nail polish. I tend to do this a lot since I don't like it when my nail polish starts chipping off.

Heather E.
Heather C8 years ago

Thank you, but I think those are examples of water-based polishes. I was wondering about the ineffective all-natural polishes you're daughter was complaining about.

Annie Bond
Past Member 8 years ago

The two brands I mention are the ones listed as resources at the end of the article, Ulew Products, and Suncoat Products (link through from the article.)

Heather E.
Heather C8 years ago

I keep hearing about all-natural nail polishes (vs water-based) and how they don't work very well, but I'd still like to try them as I prefer for polishes not to last very long. However, I haven't ever found any - not even online. You mentioned them, so I thought I'd ask you. What brands are there?