Paint Your Toes Green

Chicks dig pedicures. There, I said it. Just to clarify, I am a feminist and I don’t subscribe to the notion that women need to paint and coif themselves to perfection to live up to some societal notion of beauty. But what can I say? I like getting my toes done, and if that makes me a little bit girlie then I guess I am guilty.

My guilt about this pampering ritual I engage in every couple of months (maybe more often in summertime) has nothing to do with feminism and everything to do with being green. If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you might remember the paraben purge I went through a while back, and know that while I don’t profess to be the queen of green by any stretch (I’ll leave that title to Annie), I am pretty conscious about what goes into my products and onto my body.

So surprise surprise, like many things, nail polish smells bad for a reason. It’s packed with chemicals that are not good for you. Imagine that. Ethyl and butyl acetate, dibutyl phthalate, isopropyl alcohol, and benzophenone-1–just a taste of what’s in your favorite candy apple red or barely-there pink. Some of these chemicals effects: Cancer, immune system toxicity, developmental and reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity, respiratory toxicity, bioaccumulation, and endocrine disruption. No thank you!

So last week I was at a mani-pedi baby shower with some women from work. There were cupcakes and champagne and rose petals in the glass bowls we were going to soak our feet in and it was all very girlie–and fabulous. But there was that niggling feeling, like is this pedicure habit going to kill me eventually? And what about that poor unborn baby gestating in the guest of honor? But then something sort of amazing happened: The mom-to-be pulled out a box of non-toxic nail polishes she brought to share! She had several shades to choose from, and we all made sure our technicians used the non-toxic base and top coat too.

Now the last time I tried non-toxic nail polish I remember it was 2001 and the stuff went on goopy and peeled off in less than 24 hours. There have apparently been some improvements since then.

So I have been on the hunt for my own collection of non-toxic nail polishes, which I plan to use each and every time I go to a salon for a pedicure. But here is the rub (and not the foot rub): After finding what were labeled non-toxic nail polishes at a number of different sites, a closer look at the ingredients found ethyl and butyl acetate, dibutyl phthalate, isopropyl alcohol, and benzophenone-1. Apparently calling a product non-toxic doesn’t guarantee that’s so.

Priti Polish, Earthly Delights, Zoya–all of these nail polishes claim to be non-toxic and Earth-friendly, but they are definitely NOT. The two brands I found that are truly free of petrochemicals are Honeybee Gardens and

Bringing my own nail polish will make me feel greener, and easy the safety concerns I have about getting pedicures, but it won’t make me any less girlie. I can live with that.


Kathryn B.
Kathryn B5 years ago

The only downside is that, while these nail polishes are certainly better for the earth and our body, they're much more expensive. Up to $16 a bottle! I wish a cheaper, non-toxic brand could be made.

Kathryn B.
Kathryn B5 years ago

I do my own nails, so I didn't think it was as bad, but I was wrong. I definitely need to purchase some of that non-toxic nail polish to really take care of the environment-and my nails.

Alicia N.
Alicia N6 years ago

Thanks for the info.

John C.
Past Member 6 years ago

Ugh! Whatever happened to "Malibu Pink"?

Leia P.
Leia P.7 years ago

i want to try those nail polishes

Stacey S.
Stacey S7 years ago

I checked their site, but doesn't look like spacio's sells the polish online.

Impruve Legalfund
Ayo Maat8 years ago

I have used No Miss at home, but great spa called Spacio's owned by two M.D.s. Spacio's uses a line of professional non-toxic vegan nail polishes for my manicures and pedicures. They are in Chicago.

Stacey S.
Stacey S8 years ago

Another great brand is No Miss nail polish. Fantastic colors especially the Bikini pink, there is also a light blue one that is so cool.

Caralien S.
Caralien S8 years ago

Well, I caved in and got both the clear and plasma from Acquarella and decided to do an experiment--on the right foot, acquarella clear, 2 plasma, 1 top. On the left foot, Honeybee base, 2 plasma, Honeybee top coat. I'll let all y'all know how it turns out.

BTW: Acquarella has great descriptions for their colours. Plasma is their blue-toned red. Since they're on Amazon, if you purchase over $25, it's free shipping (it's still pricey polish, though). I have to admit that Honeybee has far better customer service, but I really REALLY needed a red. It's not as opaque, so my still bruised baby toe looks more like Chanel's Vamp, but it's fine for me.

The polish will "cure" tonight (if you don't let it sit for at least 6 hours before bathing, it'll rub/peel/scrape off).

As far as I can tell, both Honeybee and Acquarella smell like the latex/acrylic paints one gets for the walls, that is, very little smell.

Acquarella has hotter (fashion wise) colours, including deep purple and black.

Honeybee has more natural colours, and doesn't use FD&C colours (hence no bright red).

If a "natural" source of blue comes out, I may make an experiment with mixing some pigment with the polish (last time, with the Honeybee Risque colour, which was too brown/orange, I added some black iron oxide, and it became streaky, so I'm still in the experimental stage).

My conclusion is that Honeybee is awesome, but they lack my colour--RED. Acquarella needs some better distri

Sam Torres
Sam Torres8 years ago

An awesome clear top coat that I have discovered is actually from a company called NailAid. It's only $6.50, so thats definately better then the $18 polish. You can order their products online at This company also prohibts the use of toxins or chemicals in their products!