Non Toxic Nail Polish

I posted this article back in January, but I thought that summer was prime time for a repost – since if you all are anything like me, you can’t get enough of open-toed shoes and bare feet.

The more natural I go with skin care, the more natural I go with everything I put on my body. My latest green switch is nail care. I am a big fan of painted nails. In my jewelry career, that was limited to my toes, as it was pointless to paint my fingernails – they were never long and were in constant use.

I was watching a rerun of my favorite guilty pleasure, Gilmore Girls, and Lorelai’s nails were painted this great fire-engine red. This was about a week before Christmas and I thought, “Perfect!” I ran to my bathroom, got my fave O.P.I. red and started to paint. Then, I noticed the smell. My husband has what we like to call “dog nose” (thanks to a funny line in an even funnier book, Diary of a Mad Mom-to-Be by Laura Wolf). This affliction causes him to smell things more deeply and strongly and than the rest of us, especially me. Problem is, I seem to have contracted it as well in the few months since we moved back to the states, and the nail polish was seriously making me feel like I was going to loose my lunch. And the kicker? It wouldn’t dry. Ever. I think it was the rain. Whatever the cause, after four hours trying to dry in the evening and a sleepless night spent with my nails sticking to my flannel sheets, I got up and removed the perfect red that was now all smudged and still not dry. The lacquer/formaldehyde smell stuck with me through the night and my nails felt a little bit like someone was trying to peel them off. I’ve known for years that nail polish and standard polish remover is not terribly healthy for us and even less healthy for the environment, and I’d been thinking for a while that I needed to switch. But would non-toxic colors really last? Would they come in the shades I like? Would plain old alcohol really remove them?

Hence began my search for non-toxic nail polish. I’ve been more aware of healthier lacquer since I attended the Women In Green Forum this past September, but haven’t been painting my nails much (or at all, really) and haven’t had the right impetus to pursue researching it. Until now.

There are lots of brands out there that say they are all-natural or non-toxic, and there is no chemical-free nail polish (that I could find – tell me if I’m wrong!) on the market, but there are three ingredients you are looking to avoid:

1. Dibutyl phthalate (DBP)

2. Formaldehyde (yes, seriously. In your nail polish.)

3. Toluene

These three have been linked to problems ranging from skin irritation in people to birth defects in animals.

Polishes that exclude all three of the above-listed chemicals:

1. Piggy Paint, non-toxic, odorless, kid-friendly, kid-colored, water-based formula.

2. Honeybee Gardens, an alternative to solvent-based nail polish, water-based, odorless, removes with rubbing alcohol.

3. No-Miss, does not contain the three-to-avoid above, and also does not contain camphor.

4. Acquarella, water-based system of nail polish, conditioner, remover and moisturizer.

5. Suncoat, water-based nail polish that has been recognized and honored from the Canadian Health Food Association Expo.

6. Gaiam, Created by New York City’s first organic spa, our non toxic nail polish is free of known carcinogens.

7. Peacekeeper Cause-Metics, created by the Environmental Working Group as the safest paint-based natural nail polish.

8. Sante, created without the use of formaldehydes, toluene, and colophony rosin.

9. Nubar, carcinogen-free nail care products.

10. Safe Nail Polish, non-toxic, oderless, made in the USA.

11. Priti, non-toxic, made without the evil-three and all know carcinogenic ingredients.

12. Spa Ritual, vegan nail lacquers.

13. Diamond Cosmetics, free of toluene, formaldehyde, dibutyl, phthalate and camphor.

Having done my research, I was eager to try some out! I looked at several of the brands for the colors I wanted: fire-engine red; palest of pinks like you’d use for a french manicure; and dark purple-almost black, but not true black. I found what I thought I was looking for at Honeybee Gardens online, and ordered all three colors. Once delivered, the only one that was what I wanted was the light pink, but I saved the other two to give as gifts. I found the red I was looking for by No-Miss in the RWC Whole Foods, and am still on the lookout for the not-quite-black. I recommend buying polish you can see in the store, online photos and different computer screens make it difficult to tell what color you’re really getting.

So how well does the polish hold up and does it really come off with just rubbing alcohol? Fabulously well! And Yes! I gave myself a full mani-pedi on Sunday, and had to remove the last of the pink polish. I used plain old generic rubbing alcohol, probably from Walgreen’s, and cotton swabs (once my bag of swabs is done, I will switch to using cotton rags in stead of disposable cotton balls). I had to rub a little longer to remove all the polish, but there was no stink! Not from the remover or the polish – Honeybee Gardens and No-Miss both state they are fragrance-free and while they do have a slight odor, it is insignificant and doesn’t smell like toxic paint. No-Miss does require a stronger remover than plain alcohol. I chose their “Almost Natural Polish Remover”. It smells like the natural vanilla fragrance that’s in it, but otherwise is inoffensive and much better for people and planet than conventional remover.

As for the staying power, I have a chip on one nail, but I’ve done dishes, washed a car and moved some furniture since Sunday and I’m impressed with how great the paint looks and stays on. I’m a convert for sure.

-Jocelyn Broyles


Arpita S.
Arpita S.3 years ago

Thanx for giving us such a useful information on non toxic nail polishes. Also I want to add something that i recently wrote an article on Craziness for nail polish . If u r creazy for nail polish then I think this also will help you...

Laurita Walters
Laurita Walters4 years ago

There cannot be 'chemical-free' nail polish because EVERYTHING IS CHEMICAL!!! We are chemicals, and breathing is a chemical reaction process. You must mean no harmful added chemicals. I haven't found any polish like that yet. Sure would like to. Then want to know about manufacturing practices. Meanwhile, yes, I wear wild colors!

Veronica S.
Veronica S.4 years ago

Deep Cover Nail System is the best!!!!

Claudette Colbert

Thank you so much for the information and the healthful list.

Amanda Polley
Amanda Polley4 years ago

Actually, OPI changed their formula is 2006 to take out DBP and Toluene. But, yes they never used Formaldehyde in their polish. They do use it in other products. Check out their website for more information.

The FDA does not have to approve cosmetics. In fact, it doesn't have the authority. If you want more information check out the website for The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. There is also great information in books such as, "Toxic Beauty" or "Dying to be Beautiful."

Bonnie P.
Bonnie P.4 years ago

Oh, also... all cosmetics must be approved by the FDA, or they can't be sold in the United States.

Bonnie P.
Bonnie P.4 years ago

Just for the record, OPI actually is DBP, Formaldehyde, and Toluene free. It always has been. Read the bottle! Also, Suzi, the founder of OPI started the brand Nicole with her daughter (the brand's namesake), and Nicole makes donations to environmental causes with every purchase. The only reason I'd suggest going with a different brand is because OPI was bought out by a major corporation a year or two ago. Personally, I like China Glaze and Orly.

Mandi A.
Amanda A.4 years ago

Thank you

Samantha Digiorno

We have to ban all toxic nailpolish and make them all safer.
We need to start buying nail polish MADE IN the USA.
I love Deep Cover Nail System!!!!!

Victoria Pitchford
Vicky P.4 years ago

thanks, I always love wearing nail polish but hate the smell and the fact that it takes the whole day to dry