How Toxic Is Your Nail Polish?

Breathe easy with these polish products

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Conventional nail polish can contain hundreds of toxic chemicals that can be absorbed by the nail and skin.

Not all nail polishes are created equally. Some polishes contain chemicals that can be more harmful than others. In choosing products, the big three ingredient offenders to avoid are:

  1. Formaldehyde (also listed as formalin or methylene glycol)
  2. Toluene
  3. Dibutyl phthalate

Some polishes are known as 3-free, meaning they do not use these chemicals in their formulas. Other polish makers state their formulas are 5-free, 7-free, 8-free and 10-free, based on which additional  chemicals in typical nail polish they have rejected. For example, a 5-free polish removes the first three chemicals but also formaldehyde resin and camphor.

Beyond safer ingredients, it is possible to purchase nail polishes that represent your values.

For vegans, some polish brands use no animal products in the formula. Examples of excluded ingredients include silk, guanine (fish scales), pearl dust, carmine (beetles) and keratin (derived from horn as well as other animal parts).

For those concerned about animal testing, some brands meet the cruelty-free conditions.

Here are a few examples of nail polish products that are 3-free or better, vegan and cruelty-free:

  • 365 LACQUER
  • A.Dorn
  • Deco Miami
  • Ella + Mila
  • Flora 1761
  • LVX
  • Nailmatic
  • NCLA
  • Pacifica
  • Stylush
  • Sundays
  • Tenoverten
  • Trust Fund Beauty
  • Zoya

Always paint your nails in a well-ventilated place.

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More to Explore

Consumer awareness

cruelty free badge

Polish users who are concerned about how their products are made should research the ingredients and manufacturing processes of each brand. Several consumer advisory websites include:


Free apps to check beauty product ingredients:

  • Think Dirty
  • Detox Me
  • Good Guide





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