Nail polish admittedly was one of the last beauty products I switched to safer. Even up until last year I was going to nail salons on a whim that I knew weren’t using the safest polishes… hint: if the nail technician is wearing a mask or the salon gives you a headache, run!
Even my conventional OBGYN during pregnancy advised me to avoid painting my nails while pregnant because the toxins like formaldehyde and phthalates can be so harmful to a growing fetus. It was hard to give up a good pedicure during pregnancy but now there are plenty of safer options on the market to choose from!
Some safer polishes are water-based (like Piggy Paint) & others are still alcohol-based like conventional polishes but still a much better choice (you’ll read why below). Alcohol-based nail polishes, even the safer ones, do perform better than water-based – they dry quicker and last longer.
If you’re looking for a long-lasting manicure without sacrificing color pay-off and chip-resistance, check out the below brands.
One more thing before we get to the fun stuff…
Before you close out this article, check out this BIG WIN in the salon industry that Beautycounter helped propel earlier this year. The Salon Safety Act was passed in California as a direct response to salon workers’ complaints that the products they were using in their salons was causing health harm to themselves and their growing babies. Check out this article by the NY Times“Perfect Nails, Poisoned Workers” for a closer look into the industry’s dirty not-so-secret secrets.
Generally, safer nail polishes are divided up into three categories:
5-FREE, 7-FREE (less common) AND 9-FREE.
Zoya is a 10-FREE brand!
5-FREE Polishes Do Not Contain:
Dibutyl phthalate (DBP) is on the California Prop 65 list and has been linked to birth defects and cancer. It’s a plasticizer that makes your polish bend and form to your nail so it’s in nearly every conventional polish.
Formaldehyde is a widely known carcinogen used to embalm humans and animals… so really it has no place in a living human being’s products.
Camphor in larger amounts is a neurotoxin but also is the ingredient that causes yellowing of nails as it prevents nail from getting the oxygen and nutrients they need
Formaldehyde Resin is a by-product of formaldehyde that doesn’t have the same carcinogenic effects but is linked to allergies and dermatitis
Toluene is particularly concerning for pregnant women as it is also linked to birth defects as well as respiratory irritation at chronic exposure (i.e. salon workers)
In addition, 9-FREE Polishes Do Not Contain:
Xylene is an eye, skin and respiratory irritant that is absorbed systemically
TPHP (triphenyl phosphate) is an endocrine disruptor linked to alterations in lipid metabolism (fat storage) and reproductive health harm
Ethyl Tosylamide is banned in Europe. It’s a plasticizer with antibiotic properties.
Here are some high-performing 7 & 9-free polishes to try:
tenoverten (I used to go to their salon in ATX!)
Cote (a small CA-based company Beautycounter’s founder supports)
Smith & Cult (just tried at a local salon & LOVE the packaging & neutral color selection)
Ella & Mila is a 7-free brand that eliminates those first 7 toxins in the above list (it’s a great choice for young girls too)
My favorite high-performing 10-free nail polish brand is Zoya (and it’s one of the longest-wearing I’ve found with the most varying color selection). They also include LEAD in their 10-free list. They have over 400 polish colors (most of them are 10-free but there are a couple lines that are 5-free), and I find they last a long time – especially as a pedicure. They even have nail repair products. I don’t recommend their hand lotion or hydrating body/nail products though.